WE NEED TO HAVE THE PASSION AS ACTIVISTS AND ADVOCATES THAT THOSE IN THE BEGINNING OF ACT UP DAYS DID!
ACT UP = ACTION AND PEOPLE FIGHTING FOR OUR RIGHTS TOGETHER AS ONE!
I want to start my blog talking about the story behind it for those that don't know what it is (from ACT UP's Wikipedia page):
AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) is an international direct action advocacy group working to impact the lives of people with AIDS (PWAs) and the AIDS pandemic to bring about legislation, medical research and treatment and policies to ultimately bring an end to the disease by mitigating loss of health and lives. ACT UP was effectively formed in March 1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York. Larry Kramer was asked to speak as part of a rotating speaker series, and his well-attended speech focused on action to fight AIDS. Kramer spoke out against the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), which he perceived as politically impotent. Kramer had co-founded the GMHC but had resigned from its board of directors in 1983. According to Douglas Crimp, Kramer posed a question to the audience: "Do we want to start a new organization devoted to political action?" The answer was "a resounding yes." Approximately 300 people met two days later to form ACT UP.
I am one of those who believe that we have to go back to basics, and back to the Larry Kramer times and throw ourselves to the streets and fight for our rights ... rights that are being taken little by little from us! So many new infections and not enough funding! So much we want to do ... but people are not dying as in the times when ACT UP started ... this is a good thing that we have new medications that are making us live longer. But this DOES NOT MEAN we have to just live, be silent and take our medicine and let others do the work for us! HIV/AIDS is still killing people all over the world.
Why are people getting infected every 9-1/2 minutes just here in the U.S. alone? Why are people not respecting the virus? Why if we have the knowledge do we continue to put ourselves at risk? WHEN WE KNOW BETTER, WE DO BETTER!
I know many of the answers that people tell me -- like HIV is not a death sentence anymore, there is medication and we can live long and productive lives! But AIDS IS A BITCH! And you have to live it to know it!
I always see the same people in the conferences and events here in South Florida where I am from. Where is everyone else that is infected? They are hiding because stigma and discrimination after 30 years still exist everywhere! This is a reality, but if we want a change the change starts with the man in the mirror! I know in the Larry Kramer times things were different and a direct threat was happening ... people were dropping like flies and people were dying over and over. So many of my friends are gone in these 23 years of me being infected with the virus.
In 1989 when I was infected, I was 16 and I didn't even know who Larry Kramer was. I was diagnosed in 1991, when Ryan White passed. This was someone that I saw on TV and saw as a great activist and a great inspiration that fought for our rights! I learned about ACT UP and Larry Kramer later on in my years living with the virus.
HIV activists are different now in the aspect that we have more resources like media. I myself use it all over the world to get my message across. The story never changes and I believe (for me) telling our testimonies and showing our different faces is the most effective way to change the stereotypes of people living with HIV/AIDS. We are no longer the people that were shown in the 1980s dying and looking very thin. I will always be grateful to people like Larry Kramer that fought for our rights and paved the way for us newer activists. They didn't have the Internet. They didn't have the information that is available now. All they knew is that something had to be done and people in their community were dying of GRID!
I also noticed they were very united and they didn't give a damn to say what they felt. The newer activists have to have that passion inside of us to fight for our RIGHTS! Every day I hear of another ASO being cut off. Why are we sitting back and letting things like this happen? Are we going to permit ACT UP and other activists to have worked so much in vain? Do we have to actually see people dying and dropping like flies to do something? I know many are in denial, feel shame, have fear and they just are dealing with life or protecting their families; so the ones that are available to do something must get together and FIGHT! FIGHT FIGHT! and never tear each other down.
The reality is you have to have a deep passion to be an activist, and you can get burned out! There is no money in this passion. No one wants to be a poster child for HIV/AIDS (at least I don't)! Please let's be one and follow the example of ACT UP before things get worse.
Thirty years and I feel the candle is burning out slowly! Why? Do we think nothing's going to happen to us ... and if it doesn't, who cares what happens to others?
Are we in denial of what is happening? I know many fierce activists all over the world! But we can't do it alone ... we have to leave all our differences aside if that is the problem and fight for our fellow man! If we don't do it, no one will do it for us! Believe that!
So yes many things have changed in HIV activism ... but the story is the same! We are human beings that need to make that change... and become one force. Only then we will be able to be listened to with respect and authority. I have hope that this will happen ... I see no other way.
UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL: real talk.
As always ...
Love and Light,
Maria T. Mejia