August 11, 2010
POZIAM bloggers Dab Garner, Robert Breining, Christopher Myron, Amy Bell May and Justin B. Terry-Smith. Credit: Robert Breining.
In a previous blog I spoke about becoming a board member of the ADAP Advocacy Association (aaa+). In July we held our ADAP Crisis Summit. I have to give props to Brandon Macsata for organizing this whole thing. He did a fantastic job.
With over 2,000 people who are not getting their life-saving medication, this year's summit was extremely important. The best part about the summit is that you meet people from all walks of life who are all about helping those with HIV/AIDS. The topics at the summit were all very interesting. They ranged from the waiting lists to housing to health care. With so much information, I was glad to hear we (aaa+) would provide a zip drive with all the slides from the speakers' presentations. It was a great to take home and review anything I may have missed or didn't understand.
I love going to these conferences because I learn so much and get to meet and hang with others who are in the same boat. When I hang out with other HIV-positive people, it reminds me that I am not alone. Sometimes when I am going through the motions of everyday life I forget that. Since I am the only HIV-positive person I see on a regular basis, the feeling of loneliness arrives often. My favorite part about the summit is when I actually meet fellow POZIAMers (members of POZIAM). I had a few awesome moments at the conference.
On the first day, I was outside smoking a cigarette and was speaking with a few attendees, who just happen to be long-term survivors. Some told me that they were members of POZIAM and how nice it was to see a new generation step up and start advocating. They joked about retiring and passing the torch on to me. It was a very special experience for me. This coming from members of the AIDS community who have over 20+ years living with the disease and advocating for the people it affects. I was honored and humbled by this conversation.
The second day I walked into a breakout session that was called "Why Housing Matters." The session included a speaker named Christine Campbell of Housing Works. I was blown away with what she said. She spoke with passion and purpose and it drew me to her. It was like she had some special powers that made me want to talk to her, want to hug her, and want to be her friend. She spoke about how important it is for people with HIV/AIDS to have a roof over their head. Stable housing is important to stable health. They go hand and hand. She inspired me to want to get involved with housing issues in the HIV/AIDS community.
The final day I got to hear Dr. Joseph Sonnabend participate in a debate over starting meds early. It was truly an honor. This man has so much knowledge and it was something I will never forget.
Robert with Dab the AIDS Bear. Credit: Dab Garner.
Going to the summit for the last 2 years, I've had the privilege to meet Dab Garner, who truly is a warrior in this fight. Many know Dab from his work with Dab the AIDS Bear Project. I am sure if you're on Facebook or POZIAM you have seen many photos of people with the little bear. He is one of my heroes and am honored to call him my friend. I left the conference with a bunch of new friends and many fond memories.
Here are the most recent number of Americans on the ADAP waiting list:
ADAPs With Waiting Lists (2,359 individuals, as of July 29, 2010)
This is such a disgrace to me. I don't understand how Americans are not receiving their life-saving medications, but the government can ship money and drugs to other countries and allow our own people to go without. How can we tell people to go get tested and to start meds right away, then when they do they get put on a waiting list?