Five people from Georgia joined their colleagues from around the country to take the message directly to Congress that the AIDS crisis is far from over and in many places, is only getting worse.
The message delivered to Capitol Hill included the following points:
While our message was well received, members of Congress will need to hear from more people before they begin to take action on these issues. In both Democratic and Republican offices, we were told that if they hear from their constituents, they will find ways of supporting these requests. You can always find the contact information for your member of Congress on the AIDS Survival Project web site.
|Rep. Barbara Lee (left) was introduced by Atlanta Interfaith AIDS Network's Bob Gibeling (center) at the AIDSWatch prayer breakfast. Photo: Tracy Bruce.|
"There was once a time when we did not have the capacity to end AIDS. We did not know how it was transmitted, we did not have any idea how to treat it, and we had no inclination of the widespread pandemic it would become. But even when we had no capacity to end AIDS, we knew we had to fight AIDS.
"Back in 1983, before we even knew what HIV was, people gathered together in Denver and put together a statement of principles that still speaks to us today as we continue to fight AIDS. They gathered together and wrote, 'We condemn attempts to label us as victims, a term which implies defeat, and we are only occasionally patients, a term which implies passivity, helplessness and dependence upon the care of others. We are People with AIDS.'
"The authors of the Denver Principles invented themselves as people with AIDS, and helped invent the movement that allowed many of us to be here today. This movement has forever changed the relationship between doctors and patients, between researchers and subjects, between governments and people facing a life-threatening illness the government would rather ignore ... and is working to change the relationship between the wealthy world and the rest of the world where 95% of people with HIV today live, most without access to treatment or prevention tools.
"We can no longer say we do not have the capacity to end AIDS. We do not have a cure. We cannot prevent every single case of infection. But we have the capacity to end the epidemic that is raging out of control. We have the knowledge of how to treat HIV. We know how to bring effective prevention information and tools to people so they can protect themselves. We have the ability to house people so they can stay healthy and give them the support in our communities so they can stay whole.
"What we are lacking is a vision. Because we know we can end the epidemic, we know that we will. If we develop a road map to end AIDS, and commit ourselves to taking it on the road until we reach our destination, we can find the vision. It is a journey that was started before Denver in 1983, and that will go far past Washington, D.C., in 2005. And together with a vision and capacity, we will end AIDS."
|AIDS Survival Project Executive Director Jeff Graham at AIDSWatch 2005. Photo: Tracy Bruce.|
Graduates of the Positive Action Network are already working to raise the funds necessary for people living with HIV to participate in the caravans. You can donate directly to this scholarship fund through AIDS Survival Project, or provide general support to the campaign on their web site: www.endaidsnow.org.
For those unable to make it to Washington for all or part of the week, the caravans themselves will offer an opportunity to create local events that raise awareness of the ongoing needs of people living with HIV and those at risk of contracting HIV in local communities.
If you would like to join these efforts, please sign up with the campaign by visiting their Web site and then contact Georgia state coordinator Jeff Graham at JGraham@aidssurvivalproject.org.