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Women Lead Renewed Uprising

Winter 1995

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

WORLD AIDS DAY, Dec. 1, 1994. Roxy Ventola had died a couple weeks before. Wade Richards died several days before. Two courageous activists lost. Two more incredible people lost to the world. Sean Kinney, Lori Levine, Dave Johnson - all lost to that dreadful thing called AIDS. Prop 187 passed with it's lethal ramifications for people with AIDS. It's 1994, There Is No CURE.

It was time to release some pain and anger. Time for a "demo". A Republican Congress was on it's way into power- a Congress that definitely does not have people with AIDS at the top of it's agenda (not that the Democrats do either).

ACT UP/LA chose to hold a "Political Funeral" for Roxy and Wade and all the others on World AIDS Day. We gathered at the Federal Building in Westwood. AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Being Alive, Clean Needles Now, AltaMed, La Red, Women Alive, Prototypes/WomensLink, ACT UP/Santa Barbara, and other groups took part in a coalition effort. A large contingent of AIDS Healthcare Foundation staff participated in the protest. Being Alive members (People with AIDS themselves) were there in significant numbers. We recruited estranged AIDS activists and an astounding number showed up for the event! AIDS ACTIVISM IS ALIVE!

The rally began with Connie Norman giving an introduction to why we were there, followed by J.T. Anderson's powerful, crowd-rousing speech. Soon, 300 protesters moved into the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. & Veteran. Demonstrators began crossing the intersection from all directions, chanting, "We will not rest in peace - AIDS Cure NOW!". With signs, torches, banners, and coffins held high, the 5:00 rush-hour traffic quickly jammed to an abrupt halt. One protester shouted to commuters: "If you think this is and inconvenience, try living with AIDS".

Seizing the moment, six women activists (Stephanie Boggs, Mary Nalick, Terri Ford, Mary Lucey, Nancy MacNeil, and Seh Welch) piled the coffins in the middle of the intersection and threw lit torches in. Soon an enormous blaze was lighting the sky and stopping all traffic! The LAPD came out in force, with over thirty squad cars. Seven helicopters were circling overhead. A fire engine came roaring up Veteran and nearly smashed into the women circling the fire. AIDS was the message! The blazing fire was a tribute to our friends, now dead from AIDS. It's our version of a candlelight memorial. We were mad about losing our friends. We were angry that more will die.

The LAPD moved in on the six women with batons swinging and jabbing. The women were hit, pulled by the hair, knocked to the pavement, wrists twisted, jabbed in the back.

Each time they were met with billy clubs instead of hand cuffs. Other protesters got caught in the "cross fire" and were also hit. The LAPD were unquestionably threatened by SIX Angry Women! Hundreds of protesters circling all four sides of the intersection were loud and supportive of the women risking arrest. The crowd confronted police on their brutality, pointing & shouting at them to stop hitting us.

It was World AIDS Day. We wanted to send a message to the new Republican Congress that we will not be silent. We will not go away. Roxy & Wade fought until they could fight no more, and so will we. They deserved a rousing exit from this world and they got it.

Our message did get out - there was footage on every news broadcast in Los Angeles, as well as on CNN nationally. America saw that L.A. is not silent about AIDS. The L.A. Times did not bother to report a word on the event which received tremendous television coverage. (Many of us agree that the LA Times does a inadequate job of reporting on AIDS or local political events.)

In remembering World AIDS Day 1994, let us remember that Clinton has failed every person with AIDS in this country. We need to hold him accountable to that. We need to fight any further proposed funding cuts for AIDS research and services. We need to fight any implementation of Prop 187 in this state - especially healthcare denial for people with AIDS. We need to demand the inclusion of women in all clinical trials. We need to force the FDA to end the "drug lag" and produce a faster approval process. (Where are the protease inhibitors, anyway?) We need to oppose any policy that could lead to the mandatory testing of any populations at risk: gay men, IDU's, and PREGNANT Women! We need to demand that Congress pass the AIDS Cure Act and FIND A CURE For AIDS, NOW! As our friend, Walt, says: "What part of NOW don't you understand?".

We all need to get involved in whatever ways we can. Remember every woman, man, and child we have lost to AIDS and turn that grief into action.

Editors note: Locking arms with five other women, circling a raging bonfire of coffins, blocking traffic on the busiest intersection in the nation, inspired to boisterous chanting, while police dressed in riot gear charged us repeatedly, I couldn't help but think of an old folk song about women's leadership in political struggles:

Bread and Roses

As we go marching - marching
We battle, too, for men
For they are women's children
And we mother them again

Our lives shall not be sweated
From birth until life closes
Hearts starve as well as bodies
Give us bread but, give us roses.

As we go marching - marching
Un-numbered women dead
Are crying thru our "chanting"
Their ancient call for bread

Through our hearts, & love, and beauty
Their drudging spirits become new
And yes, it's bread we fight for
But, we fight for roses too!

As we go marching - marching
We bring the brighter days
For the rising of the women
Means the rising of the race

No more the drudge and idler
Those that toil while one reposes
But a sharing of life's glories
Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.

...And THE FDA Played On
Women Activists Persist in FDA Struggle

From the original list of demands outlined in our first meeting with the FDA, we now focus on six issues. These have a direct impact on the safety & efficacy of therapies for women with AIDS.

  • The FDA must secure funding for 50 women with AIDS to attend a 2 day meeting prior to the national HIV Infection in Women Conference.
  • The FDA must require a black box warning for the labeling for Retrovir. The warning must state; the long term safety of zidovudine in women & infants given during the perinatal period is unknown, & that viral burden, vitamin A , vaginal cleansing, prenatal care & other factors known from published trials may also impact perinatal transmission. FDA must advise Burroughs Wellcome of this requirement.
  • FDA must require that completed Phase III trial results for Zerit (stavudine) be analyzed by gender. This by-gender data should be included in the final labeling. If no such data exist, the final labeling for stavudine must contain a Female Category C warning. The FDA must advise Bristol Myers Squibb of this requirement, in writing.
  • All vaginal microbicides not containing a warning statement on the association between recurrent vaginal infections & immunosuppression must be removed immediately. FDA must inform all pharmaceutical sponsors of such microbicides. Products must be removed from shelves immediately.
  • Prior to approval of all IND applications, FDA must ensure that clinical plans outlined in the IND will provide data to show by-gender safety & efficacy. A statement to this effect must be published in the Federal Register.
  • FDA must amend the 1993 "Guidelines for the Study & Evaluation of Gender Differences in Clinical Evaluation of Drugs". Current "should" language must be replaced with "must" to ensure pharmaceutical sponsor compliance with by-gender safety&efficacy research of all unapproved therapies.

We expect that the FDA will comply with the above issues. Once they have been addressed, we will agree to a follow-up meeting. Future meetings should be published in the Federal Register so as to make them "public" in accordance with your regulations.

These issues have been brought to the forefront by the national ACT UP Women's Network.

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
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