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Scare the S*** Out of You: More Musings by Paul Kawata

By Paul A. Kawata

September 7, 2010

This article was provided by the National Minority AIDS Council; Paul Kawata is the organization's executive director.

It was 1983 and I was just a little queen from Seattle when I read an article in the New York Native by Larry Kramer that began my path as an AIDS activist.

1,112 and Counting
By Larry Kramer
March 14, 1983

"If this article doesn't scare the shit out of you, we're in real trouble. If this article doesn't rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men may have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on just how angry you can get." He went further to say ...

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"There are now 1,112 cases of serious Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. When we first became worried, there were only 41. In only twenty-eight days, from January 13th to February 9th [1983], there were 164 new cases -- and 73 more dead. The total death tally is now 418. Twenty percent of all cases were registered this January alone. There have been 195 dead in New York City from among 526 victims. Of all serious AIDS cases, 47.3 percent are in the New York metropolitan area.

These are the serious cases of AIDS, which means Kaposi's sarcoma, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and other deadly infections. These numbers do not include the thousands of us walking around with what is also being called AIDS: various forms of swollen lymph glands and fatigues that doctors don't know what to label or what they might portend.

The rise in these numbers is terrifying. Whatever is spreading is now spreading faster as more and more people come down with AIDS.

And, for the first time in this epidemic, leading doctors and researchers are finally admitting they don't know what's going on. I find this terrifying too -- as terrifying as the alarming rise in numbers. For the first time, doctors are saying out loud and up front, 'I don't know.'" Later in the article he notes ...

"After almost two years of an epidemic, there still are no answers. After almost two years of an epidemic, the cause of AIDS remains unknown. After almost two years of an epidemic, there is no cure.

Hospitals are now so filled with AIDS patients that there is often a waiting period of up to a month before admission, no matter how sick you are. And, once in, patients are now more and more being treated like lepers as hospital staffs become increasingly worried that AIDS is infectious.

Suicides are now being reported of men who would rather die than face such medical uncertainty, such uncertain therapies, such hospital treatment, and the appalling statistic that 86 percent of all serious AIDS cases die after three years' time.

If all of this had been happening to any other community for two long years, there would have been, long ago, such an outcry from that community and all its members that the government of this city and this country would not know what had hit them.

Why isn't every gay man in this city so scared shitless that he is screaming for action? Does every gay man in New York want to die?"

He closed the article by saying "I am going to close by doing what Dr. Ron Grossman did at GMHC's second Open Forum last November at Julia Richman High School. He listed the names of the patients he had lost to AIDS. Here is a list of twenty dead men I knew:

Nick Rock
Rick Wellikoff
Jack Nau
Shelly
Donald Krintzman
Jerry Green
Michael Maletta
Paul Graham
Toby
Harry Blumenthal
Stephen Sperry
Brian O'Hara
Barry
David
Jeffrey Croland
Z.
David Jackson
Tony Rappa
Robert Christian
Ron Doud

And one more, who will be dead by the time these words appear in print. If we don't act immediately, then we face our approaching doom."

To read the article, please go to: http://tinyurl.com/27nxs9j.

I share Larry's words with you because we've moved pass 3000* people on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting lists.

3,558 and counting ...

I wonder why we aren't more angry? Why it doesn't scare the s*** out of us that we have this many Americas on waiting lists. When did this become OK? What is the number that is going to wake us up? Just tell me that number and I will stop writing until we reach it. We will reach it soon.

I am hardly a radical activist. I've always believed that we need to work within the system, I still do. But sometimes you need to speak up and speak out. Join me at this year's United States Conference on AIDS so we can learn the latest issues, discuss options and a plan how to move forward.

Larry closed his article by listing his 20 friends who had died. I used to keep a list, but when it passed 300 friends, it became unbearable. I don't want to start another list with my friends who are on an ADAP waiting list. It's just too unbearable.

* From National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors: ADAPs with Waiting Lists (3,558 individuals in 11 states*, as of September 2, 2010):

Florida: 1,506 individuals; Georgia: 508 individuals; Hawaii: 12 individuals; Iowa: 125 individuals; Kentucky: 265 individuals; Louisiana: 339 individuals** Montana: 10 individuals; North Carolina: 202 individuals; Ohio: 156 individuals; South Carolina: 290 individuals; Utah: 145 individuals.

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