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AT LAST

| 3 Comments

Needless to say, I'm quite pleased with the outcome of our election. I have renewed faith in our Constitution, the very essence of our "civilized" society and our democracy. This is the first week of the semester, so I've been crazed with "red tape"; driving back and forth to campus (NJ roads are infamous for congestion, endless construction and bumper to bumper traffic), finding my way through campus, locating classrooms, buying my parking pass, textbooks, ID, getting lost, getting frazzled - you know, the usual stuff. I was late for my first class, "Civil Rights and Civil Liberties", (which, in case anyone has been paying attention, have been slowly eroding) because I needed to watch the Inauguration of our 44th President. We're not used to much "pomp and circumstance" here in the U.S. Our government is not supposed to be a repressive dictatorship or oligarchy. But let's face it, we got pretty damn close to it lately. The damage is done and needs to be corrected. I have renewed faith our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to our precious Constitution and the bedrock of our society.

I was late for my first class, which was on January 20th, "Inauguration Day". I needed to watch history being made. At this point in my life, I'm trying to make sense of the past while simultaneously dealing with an uncertain future. I'm starting to understand that the past needs to be honored and respected, but the future cannot be ignored any longer. I must look towards the future with hope and optimism, rather than dwell and remain in the past with its mistakes and regrets.

I stormed into the packed classroom, sat down in a huff, apologized to the class and just admitted that I was late because I had to watch history take place. I made it in time to face the future, as well as my irritated professor. I needed to make a choice, but it wasn't too difficult.

I'm quite sure I made the right choice, at last.

Goodbye, Farewell, Sayonara, Arriverderci, Au Revoir

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I'm counting the hours, minutes and seconds until the end of the "Dubbya" Presidency. It was a painful eight years for me, a woman living on the "verge of a nervous breakdown". If you've been living with HIV for as long as I have, you're either passionate about what's going on in politics, wonderfully clueless (as they say "ignorance is bliss"), genuinely out of touch with reality, in a protective bubble of illusion or a narcissist.

My friends tell me that I read and watch too much world news. They can't understand why I'm horrified about the suffering in Gaza (Does anyone else see the connection of how Israel stopped bombing right before "W" leaves office?), the water-boarding and torture of prisoners at Guantanamo, rendition, illegal wiretapping and other atrocities when I have my own issues to think about. I try to explain that I believe we're all connected. If we're spending billions of dollars a day on war, encourage excessive pay for incompetent CEO's who run companies and entire industries into the ground, cut taxes for the top 2% of the population (trickle down economics), the rest of society (including people with disabilities such as AIDS) will suffer the consequences.

The policies of the past eight years have tarnished our reputation around the world. There has been a large distribution of wealth, shifting it upwards, towards the higher echelons of society. It has created economic turmoil comparable to the "Great Depression" and increased the number of people living without health care. But one of the most devastating effects of this administration was the slashing of federal funding for science and research - and allowing religious ideology to trump both. The Federal ban on stem cell research has set back the hands of precious time. The Federal syringe exchange ban has most certainly resulted in a plethora of new HIV infections. The abstinence based HIV policy is unrealistic and has done more harm than good.

I've been weathering the violent storm of the past eight years of this administration, trying to bide precious time by tirelessly treading water. At this moment in time, I'm barely keeping my head above the surface, gasping for air, clinging to my life raft until this tempest passes. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself to make sure that I'm still alive. (Yes, I sure as hell am) Were the past eight years of diminishing health care, lower income, lowering of the FPL, increased unemployment, outsourcing of jobs, the eradication of Pell Grants for higher education, stagnation, inflation, recession and incomprehensible deficits just a really, really, bad dream? Will I survive long enough to see a policy change that will ignite a stealth resolve to FINALLY cure this damn disease? I fantasize about waking up one day to breaking news and headlines in all the papers that reads, "PRESIDENT CREATES MANHATTAN PROJECT FOR AIDS. BIG PHARMA ADMITS COLLUSION TO HOLD BACK CURE" Ah, just the thought gives me goose bumps.

I'll breathe a little easier when our next President is officially sworn into office. I'll be watching and I'm sure crying tears of joy. The world will be watching this historical moment in our nation's history. I watched the We Are One celebration and cried watching Springsteen sing "The Rising" accompanied by a Gospel Choir. I felt my spirits finally lifting out of a recent extended bout of depression after seeing the real face of America I know still exists. It's an America that is inclusive of all races, colors, creeds and persuasions. People have travelled from all over the country and the world to take part in this historic celebration.

"President Obama" has a monumental task. He's got to try to undue the mess we're in. The President sets the agenda, Congress must approve it and "We, The People" need to pay attention and be involved in the process. I know he won't be able to solve all of our problems, but if anyone has the capacity, intellect (a refreshing quality not seen in eight years) and demeanor to get things done, he's got it. I trust that he will "protect and defend" the Constitution, since he actually read the document, studied and taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago.

As I watched President Bush give his "Farewell" speech to the nation the other night, my emotions were torn between euphoria and disgust. I'm so tired of empty promises and ideological words such as "freedom", "justice", "democracy", "truth", "terror", "evil-doers" and "compassionate conservatism". I don't hate the man. I actually have empathy for him, but now I just want to see him wave goodbye, leave and never come back. I wish him and his family the best of health.

Goodbye President Bush. Farewell. Sayonara. Arriverderci. Au revoir. Please go back to your ranch, enjoy life and clear brush... Just don't take any more calls from Cheney or Rumsfeld.

Happy "Few" Days After Thanksgiving

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I hope everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving. I know that I haven't posted in a while and since my Italian genetics are subject to to severe "guilt" mutations, I sincerely apologize. I assure you that my absence (in case anyone has noticed) is NOT because I didn't have anything to say. In fact, I've had a LOT to say. So much, in fact, that I went into overdrive and had to power down.

So, "Happy Thanksgiving" to all. I'm very grateful for my wonderful family and friends. I'm grateful for so many things, including the years living, surviving and learning HOW to live with this little virus called HIV.

The campaign and election, of course, took up a good deal of my time and energy. I'm very happy about the outcome and hope that President elect Obama will help heal our nation. I'm now suffering from P.T.E.D. (Post Traumatic Election Disorder). The campaign was a very nasty one and showed a side of America that isn't pretty. The racism, sexism, gender bias and class divisions were put right out there for all of us to see. It was ugly. But, I believe that we need to look directly into the ugly eyes of "America The Beautiful", so that we can finally see the hard truths that are holding us hostage to ourselves and look into our own nation's soul. We can't go on believing in a fantasy. Our nation has many problems and I hope that the healing process will begin.

I truly believe that we, as a "nation" have elected a leader that will FINALLY implement a "National AIDS Policy" in the United States. It's actually surreal to fathom that after 25 grueling years of an AIDS epidemic within our own borders, the United States has not reconciled itself to the fact that AIDS is still infecting its citizens at an alarming rate, a rate that has been underestimated by well over 15,000 per year. I also find it deeply disturbing and hypocritical that the United States will not send emergency funds to hard hit nations if they don't have a National AIDS Strategy in place when we don't have one ourselves!

Please, as a nation, let us finally face the ugly facts that the policy of our departing President was a NATIONAL DISGRACE. Although I do give kudos to President Bush for signing the PEPFAR bill, I'm disgusted with his failed "abstinence" based policy to stop the spread of HIV in the U.S.A (and abroad!), the slashing of critical funds for scientific research, the flat funding and cuts in the Ryan White Care Act and his complete sellout of our outdated healthcare system to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. I believe that the hands of time and progress were set back. We'll never know how many lives could have been saved if this administration addressed the epidemic scientifically instead of succumbing to the pressures of the religious ideologues. Many of those same ideologues were given high government appointments that set our current abstinence based (ABC) AIDS policies. Sadly, the ABC policy increased infection rates in the US and abroad. Instead of declaring war on AIDS, our President declared war on "terror", a figurative word that has no real rhyme or reason. We attacked entire countries, bombed villages and killed innocent people all in the name of "preemption". History will reveal the results of the rest of these preemptive policies. I wish Bush and other administrations before him would have preempted an attack on the AIDS virus. I can't help but wonder how many more lives would have been saved if just a portion of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was spent towards research, care and prevention of HIV/AIDS. I wonder if bombing entire villages in Afghanistan and Iraq, killing thousands of lives helps us more than saving millions of lives infected with HIV/AIDS?

And that is the basis of my argument with this administration and with those who don't want to address the real issue of HIV/AIDS. "Are some lives worth more than others?" If so, whose lives are considered worth investing in and whose lives should be discarded or ignored?

Do we as a nation really believe in "equality and justice for all"? Perhaps we're so brainwashed that we really want to believe, as we've been told, that America has the best healthcare system in the world? Do we care that many of our own citizens do not have access to care and cannot afford the high cost of HIV medications? Do we really treat all people equally and with justice, as our Constitution guarantees? Can we ignore that some populations are disproportionately infected, such as African Americans, hispanic, Latina and black women, MSM, IV drug users and their partners? Does our government really care about these populations, as they claim? Does society really care? These are the questions that I would like our leaders to answer and our society to address. And this is exactly why I am studying and am trying to understand "political science". It's not "politics" that I'm after, it's the "science" behind it. I want to know the facts, the history of our government, how and why policies are made and what needs to be done to change them.

This semester at Rutgers has been pretty tough. I'm only taking two classes, but there's so much reading involved - and I'm having difficulty retaining all the information. I'm noticing problems with short term memory and concentration. Sure, It could be my age (gasp!), but I'm most concerned that it's HIV related. I don't want to admit the fact that although my blood work has improved, my brain may be "impaired". I try to laugh it off, stay busy, make excuses and keep a positive attitude, but I know that I'm forgetting things too often. Although it's frightening, I try to look on the bright side. Some things are definitely best forgotten! I've been reading a few new clinical trials and know that this could apply to me. I'm certainly no dummy and prefer to face my illness rather than pretend everything is fine. If there's something I can do to improve my cognition, then I'll do it dammit! So, I've asked my doctor if he thought a lobotomy would be the best course of action at this point in time. He told me to wait a few years and we'd discuss it.

I just celebrated my 47th birthday on November 20th. I'm usually pretty upbeat, but this year was a bit different. Maybe it's because I realized that I've crossed the point in my life where I'm living with HIV more than I've lived without it? It all came crashing down on me at once. For some reason, it hit harder this year than others.

In the midst of all this, I'm waiting for the results of my latest labs. You'd think that after so many years I would just relax, not worry or think about the replication or mutation of my T-cells, viral load and T4/T8 ratio every damn day. I went to New York City last week to see my doctor and get my blood drawn. I try to make the day an adventure instead of a chore. Since I hate to drive into the city (I have no patience with slow drivers and enjoy cursing at them too much), I decided to take a bus, which is less expensive and less stressful than driving. Besides, I absolutely love "people watching" and I think that "bus people" are just fascinating. Once I got into "Port Authority", I felt the adrenaline rushing through my veins. I felt fear, anxiety, excitement... I was unsure, lost, confused ... but confident and secure at the same time. And that's how I feel about living with AIDS.

Sometimes, usually most of the time, I don't know where the hell I'm going. I'm lost, confused and terrified. But at the same time, I'm secure in that chaos. I trust my instincts and know that I will somehow find my way. I'm not ashamed to ask for directions. For the past 23 years I've been living with AIDS this way. I don't know where I'm going with this virus. According to my first doctor (who "broke up" with me), I'm supposed to be dead now. But I'm not, so I have to keep moving forward, even if I don't know exactly where I'm going. I just try to stay on course and keep following my "North Star".

After my appointment, while walking back to Port Authority, I found myself in front of a beautiful house, a mansion in the middle of New York City. I just knew it was special. So, I walked inside the gates and sure enough, it was the Frick Museum, which was opened that day to show a special Goya exhibition to the public. Goya is not one of my favorites, but viewing his paintings that day helped me understand my own state of mind. Over the course of his career, Francisco Goya changed his style from lighthearted, upbeat and bright to deeply dark and pessimistic. Looking at art is always subjective. I believe that we relate to art by finding something of ourselves in each expression, color, movement, background or style. Goya's darker, violent work disturbed me so much that I had to leave. I decided to walk back into the bright, clear, crisp day, leave Goya to his darkness and get back to a brighter life. I choose to see and paint my life with brighter, not darker colors.

The semester is ending in a few weeks, thank God. I'll be able to breathe a little easier. The Innaugaration of our 44th President will take place in a little over a month. I hope we'll all be able to breathe, and live, a little easier. I hope we can stop the ugly, dark and destructive policies of our past and start looking towards a brighter, more peaceful future. And I hope that our future will include a policy that will mark the beginning of the end of AIDS


VOTE!

| 1 Comment

Has everyone been watching the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates? I hope so. As expected, the gloves have come off and it's getting pretty nasty. One side is accusing the other of being a "terrorist". Yeah, the old guy and his VP side kick, Mrs. Soccer Marm (who, by the way was chosen by the far right wing of the Republican Party because of her solid Christian credentials) are trying to "insinuate" that Barack Obama is a "terrorist". When they couldn't make that label stick, they dug up a story when he briefly associated with this guy Bill Ayers, who was a radical in the 60's. They lived in the same neighborhood in Chicago. They also tried to tie him to another wacko, the Reverend Wright. Mrs. Palin (another wacko) mocked his "community service". For the record, Obama is actually a Harvard gradate and "Constitutional" Lawyer. (Remember that old document called our Constitution?) The President of the United States is supposed to be bound by law to "Protect and Defend" the Constitution. If you have time, read it. It's a pretty awesome document. It's slowly being eroded, article by article, right in front of our eyes.

I expect the McCain camp to come out swinging really hard in the next few weeks before the election. My bet is that they'll probably try to associate Obama with "Satan" himself. That's all they've got left.

The thought of Sarah Palin as Vice President disturbs me. As a woman, I have no doubt that "a woman" is capable of being Vice President of the United States, or, for that matter, President of the United States. Just not THIS WOMAN! The Vice President has 3 official duties. One is to get the Presidential nominee elected. The second is to break a tie vote in congress. The third is to take over the duties of the Office of the President in the event that the President should become unable to carry out his duties. (Translation: Death or serious disability) The very thought that Sarah Palin could become President in a heartbeat scares the HELL out of me. Her credentials? Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Other credentials: Evangelical Christian. Hobbies: Flute playing, baby making, assault weapon collecting, wolf killing, moose hunting, ALASKAN INDEPENDENCE member and supporter.

Roe v Wade? Only one more Supreme Court Justice is needed to reverse the decision. A national AIDS strategy? McCain and Palin support "abstinence". Obama supports comprehensive education and scientifically backed evidence of how to slow the spread of HIV. Just investigate how their policies DIFFER.

Our economy is in the tank. I doubt that "trickle down" economics (giving tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy so that they will "trickle it down" to the worker) will solve our problems. I don't believe that "deregulation" will help much either.

Perhaps the mantra of deregulation should be readdressed? After all, it was the DEREGULATION of the banking industry that got us into this mess!

We've got to look at the reality of our situation and do our best to avert this train wreck.

The reality is that stocks are falling. The reality is that America has gone bankrupt. Markets are crashing all over the world. But McCain insists that the economy is "fundamentally sound".

The party on Wall Street and in Corporate America is over. We're broke. The "deregulation mantra" of the Republicans has backfired.

We should have learned our lesson with Ronald Reagan. Does anyone remember his "Reaganomics"? It left us with one of the largest deficits in history. Until now. Sound familiar? There is a saying, "Those who don't study history are destined to repeat it." We're repeating it now. The administration of George W. Bush is leaving us with a deficit of over 10 TRILLION DOLLARS, two wars, a recession and over 70 million people without healthcare.

I know most people have been trained not to like "politics". But it's our life blood. For people with HIV/AIDS, it's LITERALLY our life blood. So, stop complaining, stop whining, get involved and VOTE!

The most important election of our lives will take place in less than 30 days. We need a President that helps the middle class. We need affordable healthcare that doesn't discriminate against people with AIDS or shut out people with "pre-existing conditions".

I urge you to vote. In order to vote, you MUST BE REGISTERED! It's easy, it doesn't take much time and it's one of the most important things you can do.

If you agree with McCain, then vote for him. If you agree with Obama, then vote for him. McCain and Obama are not the only candidates running for President. But they are the two who were able to raise the most money. And it takes a hell of a lot of money to run for President of the United States.

We all must decide for ourselves who is the best candidate. It is our choice. We are "free" to make that decision. I've made up my mind, but you need to make up your own. Read everything. Of course, I readily admit that my blog is biased. Most mainstream media won't admit that. But, I've studied history. In fact, I'm fascinated with it. I've changed my mind and (I admit) political party in accordance with the changes that I witness from year to year. I believe that an open mind and freedom of speech is essential for a democracy to exist. So you have to look and think for yourselves. Read EVERYTHING and not just what's linked in this blog, written in the major newspaper or on the national network news. Look on the internet, look at the International newspapers, go to different websites. Make an informed decision. Use you head. Use your heart. Use your right to VOTE!. Remember, silence = DEATH.

Have We Lost Our Minds?

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Sorry I haven't blogged in a few days... The Fall semester at Rutgers has started and I've been busy getting totally lost on campus. I'm taking two classes this semester, which is just enough for my aging brain to handle. The old "ticker" doesn't work like it used to! Sometimes, I feel as if I'm losing my mind.

But this week, I feel a lot better about the state of my mental health. I watched the Republican Convention and realized that there are many more people who have truly lost their FREEKIN' marbles!. Those people are the ones who were cheering on John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and the most insane of them all, the Vice Presidential nominee, Mrs. Sarah Palin; Mother of six, moose hunter, mayor of "Wasilla" Alaska, (town of 7.025, not including the moose), "maverick" and Evangelical Christian.

I'm going to get political here, so those of you who can't stand the heat better get out of this blog's preverbal kitchen. I'm fighting for my life (as I assume you are), so I hope everyone is paying close attention to what is unfolding before our eyes!

Whoever is elected President of the United States will set the AIDS agenda, healthcare policy and their funding for the next four years. (or longer!)

What I watched and what I'm witnessing is so disturbing to me as an American. And as a person with AIDS, it's infuriating. I felt as if I was watching a dark comedy about "Fascism", disguised as "Democracy" and cheered on by an "Evangelical" pep rally!

I've got no problem with Jesus. In fact "Jesus is just alright with me"!

Being born and raised a "Roman Catholic", I know that one of the first things to look for and reject are "false prophets". To tell the world that "Jesus Christ" has "ordained" them to lead is blasphemy! Anyone who tells you that they are doing the work of God, while they take from the poor, give to the rich, rape the earth of its resources and claim that it's "God's will" to go to war is dangerous. And anyone who claims that they are the only ones who can protect the United States is certainly delusional.

I'm offended that I'm being lied to by anyone who tells me that if I don't "vote Republican" our country will be attacked. I'm offended that the Republican Convention was filled with propaganda depicting images of September 11th, the US Cole, Khobar Towers and the "big kahoona" Osama bin Laden. I feel as if I'm watching the Reichstag burn!

We have extremists in our OWN country. They use the bible as a shield and as a weapon.

Extremists, in ALL religions are dangerous. This is the extreme right of our political system. It is just what our founding fathers were so careful to address in our Constitution. And so careful to do their utmost to restrict their power. The separation of "Church and State", the "limits of the Executive Branch" and the "checks and balances" of the three branches of government are falling to pieces before our very eyes. Where the hell are the protests?

They are there, but our "regular" media is not covering them. Just like they're not televising the coffins of our soldiers landing at Andrews Air Force Base. But if you watch "Democracy Now", "Frontline", "European" news or search the "blogsphere", you'll see it. We're being censured and most of us have no clue.

Sister "Margaret-Mary-Joseph" and all the others made sure to emphasize that Jesus had no interest in politics. Regarding taxes, Jesus "opted out" of the discussion. He said "Give to Cesear what is Cesear's. And give to God what is God's". He didn't say "cut taxes for the wealthy" and then screw the middle class and let the "poor" go it on their own. That's what the Roman's wanted to do, for God's sake! Jesus Christ was against that!

This scares the "be-JESUS" out of me!

Was there any mention of the fact that our nation has fallen into "stagnation", if not an official "recession"? No, things were "rosy" in Michigan at the convention. Cindy McCain's outfit was reported to have cost $300,000.00. (that includes the $280,000.00 diamond ring, of course) Laura Bush was a bit more "conservative". Her "Oscar De Larenta" suit was said to have cost between $3,400.00 and $4,000.00 (jewelry and shoes not included).

Was there any mention that over 80 million people in the U.S. are living without healthcare? Was there any mention that the #1 reason that people claim bankruptcy is due to medical bills, even when they have insurance? Was there any mention that the U.S. lost 84 million jobs last month and unemployment rose to 6%, the highest jump since 2003? No, the economy is "thriving"! We're a nation of "whiners"!

Was I dreaming or did I see signs and hear chants of "DRILL, BABY, DRILL!"

Am I in the middle of a really, really BAD dream? Did I actually see that on TV? Did the campaign actually spin Sarah Palin's vitriol against her opponent into a "sexist attack" by the media? Even "Emily's List" denounces her candidacy and fears that it will be setback for women's rights! Is she REALLY on the cover of five magazines as the symbol of "feminism"?

Somebody get me a "Pepsid", two aspirins and wake me up in the morning.

AND LIFE GOES ON

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Summer is over. I was ready. I had enough of the beach, parties and barbecues. Since I live at the Jersey Shore, it's always nice when the summer ends, the vacationers go home and I can finally sit on the beach and read a book in peace. As always, the summer flew by and I'm sort of sad that it's over. But I also look forward to Fall, my favorite season. A bittersweet season that symbolizes a "transition" of life. The trees will change color, leaves will fall and the weather will get colder. It's time to get serious again. School starts today. I'm taking a couple of classes at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Last semester, I declared my major - "Political Science". It was inevitable. I've always been interested in what's going on in the world, different cultures and types of governments. I'm also looking forward to watching the final fight for the Presidency. This is when the gloves come off, skeletons come out of the closet and the respective campaigns either fight dirty or clean. I'm quite impressed with Barack Obama's decision not to make an issue out of Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy. I wonder what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot? I'm pretty sure that the "family values" ideologues would be pouncing on this. Cause we all know that only liberals have pre-marital sex, are gay, do drugs and get AIDS. Conservatives don't do anything like that. If they do, they publicly flog themselves (only if they get "caught"), confess to God and county, go into rehab and reemerge as "reborn".

Hey, I think it's poetic justice - and I really wish the girl well. Sarah Palin (The Republican Vice Presidential nominee), it seems, is a baby factory, so I guess the torch is now passed to her daughter. And that's her choice. I don't condemn her for that. But don't condemn anyone who does not want to have six children, because they are poor, lack access to birth control, or do not have a stable family to support the high cost of raising a child. All the while, the Federal Poverty level has been reduced by the Republican Congress, making it more difficult for children and families to get healthcare, or SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Plan), more difficult to pay for food, gas, electricity, heat, medicine, tuition and mortgages (for those fortunate enough to own their own homes.)

And all John McCain talks about is lowering taxes. "My friends" (as he often begins his speeches) the taxes he's talking about are not for you and me. They are for the wealthiest Americans (2% of our population) and large corporations. In the meantime, we have an amassing deficit, which must be paid somehow. Ah, that "somehow" is the key word. Either it will be passed to the next generation, reduced by revoking the tax cuts for those wealthiest 2% of Americans or large corporations.

Choose your poison.

But life goes on. For me, today I'll probably get lost on campus, get my parking pass, books and sit in my first class "Women and Politics".

I'll try to stay silent for the first class.

The Ties That Bind

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I'm still recuperating from the Springsteen concert at Giant's stadium a couple of weeks ago. I swear to you, there's nothing like a Springsteen concert, especially in New Jersey - his home State and mine. I regress into adolescence every time Springsteen comes to town. It feels really, really good. And I haven't felt really, really good in a long time. I play a good game and put on my "happy face" most of the time. I do have a wicked sense of humor which gets me through the day. But underneath that, I'm in prison. I want something more. I want to work, but can't. My doc doesn't want me to work, period. I want to break free of the "ties that are binding" me. I'm pissed off at the pharmaceutical industry. They've got a real racket going on. Keep tweaking drugs and merging companies to extend patents. Why should they want a cure for AIDS? The money is too good. These companies are protected by this administration and most of the Republican politicians whose main goal is to keep their stock options high, protecting their own profits. I'm pissed off at this administration and their shameful HIV policies that have fueled this disease for far too long. I want a new government and a new President who sets the policy for the next four years. I want a President and a congress that puts healthcare at the top of the agenda. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired!

Living with AIDS for 23 years has taken its toll on me. But let me tell you, when I do feel good, I enjoy every moment of it. I love Springsteen's music for many reasons. First of all, his performances are phenomenal. He gives his entire self to the audience. And I mean ALL of it... heart, body and soul. You can feel the electricity of his guitar piercing your heart, feel pain when he moans and feel joy when he jokes and plays around. Sometimes, he explains the meaning of his songs and how they pertain to current times. I forget all my troubles for those three and a half hours. (no breaks - he just rams right through the show and never stops) I'm living in the moment and not "Living in The Future" (another great song!)

There's always a message hidden in his lyrics. His songs are metaphors of life. A recurring theme is the "struggle" that his "characters" must go through in life and the self-reflection that must take place in order to conquer their fears. "Fear's a powerful thing, baby. It'll turn your heart black you can trust. It'll take your God filled soul. Fill it with devils and dust."

His message is also very political. He doesn't like what's happened to our country in the past eight years and he uses his music to express his rage and shame of our government. Protest is not "unpatriotic", as we are led to believe. It's protected in our "Constitution". Sometimes he comes right out and says how disgusted he is with the "policies" of this administration and what's happened to our common sense. Sometimes, you have to "read between the lines". And I like that very much. The fact is, I'm mad as hell, too. Except I can't carry a tune, so I try to express myself by writing. And, by going back to school for a degree in Political Science. I need to channel my anger to make things better. I don't want to hurt anyone, or hurt myself. I want to make this world a better place for the next generation.

A friend came with me to the concert. He's really more than a friend. I like him very much, but I was so scared to open my heart. I did and I'm OK. It's good to finally feel "something" than "nothing at all". I don't want heartache in my life anymore, but I guess that's inevitable. I realized that I've been "Walking tough, but walking blind" I want to break free of these "ties" that are binding me to my past. But I can't. There is no cure for AIDS - and I (and you) have to live with this disease for the rest of our lives.

The message I get from most of Bruce's music is that you can stay where you are, live in fear and take no chances. You can remain stagnant, walk down the same path, and live a lie. Of course, the sad fact is that we're all going to eventually die. But if you take a chance, live your life truthfully and with dignity, you might be able to escape the darkness of your own despair. All of us with HIV/AIDS (and without it) should live truthfully, face our demons head on and be ready for the inevitable consequences. It's not easy and we all have "ties that bind" us to our past.

I've come to believe that confronting my demons is the only way to get rid of them. Demons only exist in our minds. Once they are exposed, they dissipate. This is a constant theme in philosophy. (I'm still traumatized by that philosophy class I took last semester! It was so painful, but definitely enlightening) Demons are weak and cannot have any power over us unless we allow them to.

"Fear" creates the "Ties That Bind Us". In order to break free, we've got to face our fears and acknowledge our faults. Then, do what it takes to change. It takes courage. It takes honesty. It takes an open heart and good friend to help you get through each day.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

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The dichotomy I observe between the two candidates is ultimately between the concepts of WAR and PEACE. One thinks that a STRONG military (or illusion of it without a mandatory draft) is the best way to solve the word's problems and the other thinks that there can be a peaceful, multilateral solution. One thinks that the "free market", dominated by private corporations with the ultimate reward of a magnanimous profit (for a select few) is the only way to achieve a stable society. The other thinks that dialogue, negotiation and a distribution of wealth is possible and the best way to resolve our country's problems. These are the basic concepts that tend go beyond the realm of ordinary people who do not care about the real reasons we go to war or remain "at peace" with nations. Most of us are too busy paying our credit card bills and don't have much at stake except our rising interest rates. That's at shame. I won't get into the politics of war or peace right now or how it disgusts me to realize how we have become a nation of narcissists. I only must say that the more we spend on war, the less we will have to spend on healthcare. In our country, and in our political system, the President sets his agenda in the "State of the Union" speech. That's how it works. Whoever is elected will set the tone and spending priorities for the next four years. One of our candidates thinks military spending is the best way to achieve peace and create a better, safer society. The other candidate believes that dialogue, negotiation for peace and better healthcare for U.S. citizens will lead to a more viable solution and a better, safer society and world. Whoever is elected will direct our budget to those priorities. We can't afford both. It's doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. It only takes a few minutes to pay attention to the issues. In simple terms, war is expensive. It is also very lucrative to the industries that fund war. Healthcare is also very lucrative. The pharmaceutical industry, private insurance industry and AMA (American Medical Association) invest large amounts of "resources" (campaign contributions) to influence legislation that will benefit their interests.

"War", whether it be between the U.S. and another country or between the U.S. industries and the citizens who they rely on for profit is GOOD BUSINESS. But will we ever resolve our problems or be at peace with our adversaries without the commitment and resolve of all of us? Are we too busy and self absorbed to care, vote, read, write or voice our opinions?

It seems that we've gotten used to war. War has been an acceptable means of resolving problems. There is no real sacrifice for most Americans. We don't have a draft, so it's relatively easy to "support our troops". But, where is the discussion about HIV/AiDS between the candidates? I've heard that there is finally going to be a public debate between the two candidates in August.

I regret to admit that I sincerely believe that there won't be too much time spent on the issues or policies of HIV/AIDS. I hope there is. I hope they will discuss the past eight years of flat funding, the increase of infections and the complete failure of "abstinence" programs. I anticipate that most of the debate will be spent talking about "war". I want our leaders to finally talk about making healthcare affordable to all Americans, "peace" for our country and the world and how we can achieve it.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God". Have any of these war mongers and profiteers really read the bible as they profess to have done?" I have serious doubts that they --- or our country --- really cares about anything else but war and its funding. I hope to God I'm wrong.

"SEND LAWYERS, GUNS AND MONEY"

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I don't know about you, but I've been watching the big "show" on TV. I admit that I'm fascinated with politics. It doesn't scare me at all. In fact, it gets me "PUMPED UP LIKE A MACY'S BALLOON". I love a good fight - I like good theater and I REALLY like intrigue. And this "theater" that we call our "free democratic" system is a really, REALLY good show. We've all been told not to talk about religion or politics in order to get along in society. But, in my humble opinion, that's a bunch of HOOEY! I've come to realize that, in fact, it's what we ALL should be talking about.

In order to survive, those with HIV/AIDS MUST think about and discuss "POLITICS" and vote according to "POLICY". There is a big difference between the two. Now that the race for the SUPREME rule of our country and the "free world" is at stake (and maybe because it's all that's dominating the news), perhaps we should really tune in and stop watching "American Idol", "Lost" and "Gray's Anatomy" for a while. OUR LIVES ARE AT STAKE! The next president will set the policy and determine if HEALTHCARE is as just as important as "terrorism", spending on defense (the largest portion of our budget) and tax cuts to protect corporations and the wealthiest and smallest (but very powerful) percentage of Americans. This has been the policy for the past eight grueling years. Social programs to help the low income and middle class have been cut. Corporations have profited from tax cuts, war, military contracts and the protection of the unbalanced scales of justice.

The United States policy for AIDS has been put on the back burner and threatened to be taken over by ideologues that tried to push "abstinence" and religion in front of sound evidence and scientific fact. Will the next President think that people with HIV/AIDS lives are "valuable"? Will he continue the ideology of "abstinence" as the best way to slow the spread of HIV? What about the cost of healthcare and discrimination of people with HIV/AIDS? Will that matter? Do WE still matter? Are we being dismissed as "old news" and is HIV/AIDS now just a regular "manageable" disease like diabetes? Where is the debate? I haven't heard much discussion about HIV or AIDS by these candidates. It's as if this disease has vanished and is no longer a problem. Have our candidates heard the news that infection rates are soaring, as much as the cost of healthcare?

I was watching CNN and saw McCain traveling in the jungles of Columbia (in a canoe, wearing combat fatigues) to show his might, youth, strength and resolve to stop the cocaine drug cartels and continue the U.S.A.'s "War on drugs". It was good political theater. Except, it wasn't real.

The night before, I had watched the incredible story of "Ingrid Bentacourt", who was taken hostage by the FARC (the leftist rebel group which permeates the Columbian government, recognized and accepted by the US). If you get a chance, please watch this story. She and three other hostages were rescued a few weeks ago. She dared to speak out against the corrupt and very powerful government of Columbia and was running for President when she was kidnapped. The drug cartels have infiltrated the government at the highest levels. I couldn't help but think of our own legal drug cartels, the "pharmaceutical" industry - and other cartels like oil and the NRA who fund our own government by contributing to campaigns and have incredible influence on how laws are made and how prices are set. Just think about the Medicare/Medicaid Prescription Act that was rammed through congress. The pharmaceutical and private insurance industry had the most to gain. We are all held hostage, as Ingrid Bentacourt was. How helpless are we at the hands of the powerful? If we speak up, will we be silenced?

I can only say that when it comes to politics - and policy - all it takes is "Lawyers, Guns and Money".

Let me be frank. Those of us with HIV/AIDS better DAMN talk, think, breathe, and SCREAM about POLITICS and try to understand the POLICY behind the curtain. But, since we're taught that it's not polite, civil or correct to talk about "politics", let's think and talk of it as "POLICY". It's not about "D", "R" or "I". For those with HIV, it's about WHO has the best POLICY for healthcare and WHO will think that people with HIV/AIDS should not be forgotten and written off as dead, worthless, not productive or voiceless. The longer we are kept alive, the more money the industries make on the cost of our expensive medicine and healthcare.

While we are still alive, we matter. All of us have a chance to make a difference.

Whether we are a "D", "R" or "I", we must make our voices heard about the POLICY of healthcare, HIV and AIDS. Have we heard any mention in the debates about the TRAVEL BAN of HIV positive people entering our country? They are FINALLY trying to END this ban in the PEPFAR bill, that is currently being debated. It finally passed in the Senate, but has still not been signed into law. It was passed in the Senate this past week, even though six ideologues tried to hijack it and put restrictions on spending according to their out of touch ideology. It's now being negotiated between the two chambers and hopefully, will be signed into law. Does anyone care? Does anyone call their representatives in congress, write letters or send, at the very least, an e-mail? Do we even know who our representatives are? (Go to www.VoteSmart.org)

OK - I admit that I'm fascinated with all things political. I obsessed with politics, read the New York Times, Washington Post and any other paper I can get my hands on every day. I do my best to watch CNN, MSNBC, Democracy Now, EuroNews, The BBC, PBS and yeah, sometimes even FOX for a good laugh or two.

Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that we watch and listen to what is happening in our county and in the world and try to take back some control of our lives. A "democracy" means that we ALL have the opportunity to participate.

Sure, it's disheartening to know that only those with incredible funding will be able to compete, or enter the game of US politics. It's easy to say "my vote doesn't count". But it really does. Our voices do matter, but only if enough people participate. There is strength in numbers.

Here are the last stats from the 2004 Presidential race on campaign spending:
Bush: 500 million
Gore: 480 million

Who won? How was the race won? What was the outcome?

"Send lawyers, guns and money. The shit has hit the fan."
Thanks Warren Zevon, for writing a great song.

INDEPENDENCE DAY, JULY 4th, 2008

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I wish you all a very happy 4th of July. It's cloudy and drizzling here at the New Jersey shore, so I don't have to endure the crowds at the beach. The bars will be packed, I assure you. I live close to the beaches and traffic is usually horrendous. But this year people are staying closer to home due to the high cost of gas. I can't remember a year when there was no traffic on the "Garden State Parkway". This year is different. There's a strange aura in the air. People from northern New Jersey and New York are staying closer to home. I'm spending the day planting flowers on my pitiful balcony and trying to tidy up my apartment (a never ending saga...) I've been invited to several parties, but I really don't want to drive too far tonight. Yeah, the cost of gas has affected my social life and I'm more conscious of my driving habits. Hey, a girl's got to cut corners somewhere.

I can't help but think that this is just another ploy by the oil companies (in collusion, of course, with this administration) to instill fear in all of us, make us "sweat it out" and rob us of any last remaining bit of loose change left in our pockets. How convenient. Just in time for the summer driving season. I'm old enough to remember the gas lines of the 70's, where gas was rationed according to our license plates. Plates ending in odd numbers were permitted to buy gas on certain days, even numbers on others. Sundays were allowed for all, of course, in the good spirit and grace of "God". It seems that some things never change. Since my local Starbucks has closed, I have a few more dollars in my pocketbook. I need it for the extra cost of gas. Isn't it strange how this comes at a time right before election season?

I'm no "conspiracy" theorist, but it seems that "there's something fishy in Denmark."

In any case, I plan on going over a friend's house tonight to watch the fireworks over the bay. The fireworks will coincide with the music from the local radio station, broadcasting patriotic songs in sync with the colorful explosions of "bombs bursting in air".

July 4th, 1776 was the day that the "Declaration of Independence" was signed. But, we must and need to remember that it was a very contentious and brutal time for the original 13 colonies. The fight for independence was hardly over. We were at war with each other and trying to break the bonds of tyranny from Great Britain. We were also not as "united" as we are lead to believe. There were many battles that were fought amongst the original colonies, each loosely divided with separate bonds to countries in Europe, ideologies of exactly "how" to govern and a VERY large debt to pay. July 4th, 1776 was just the start of the "unity" that we allude to today.

Sure, it's OK to be patriotic and nationalistic (very dangerous) for a day. But we should and must remember that "tyranny" still exits. We have many problems that need to be addressed and resolved. We have an amassing deficit that must be paid. We have people living in poverty right here in the United States. Millions of Americans do not have health insurance and cannot afford medication. We have a war in Iraq with limited and dwindling troops on the ground. We have a simultaneous war taking place in Afghanistan that is getting worse. We don't have enough troops ready for combat. We don't want a draft or mandatory military service, don't want to pay higher taxes or give up our Starbuck's double mocha latte. But, we're OK with putting a bumper sticker on our SUV's claiming to "Support Our Troops". We argue about a timetable for pulling out the troops and look to see who's "tougher" on defense in the Presidential race. We examine adnauseam, who is "more" patriotic, or far worse, "less" patriotic .. Who is wearing an American flag lapel pin and who is not.

Our country was based and formed on conflict and rebellion. Not only with our adversaries in Europe, but amongst ourselves. We paid a heavy price throughout history, in subsequent wars and subsequent conflicts of ideology. (Think "Civil War", "Civil Rights", "Women's Rights", "Communism". etc.) And, let's not forget the "War on Drugs" (Pah-leeze, don't get me started on what a total distractive scam that is....)

But for today, I will drink a beer, watch the "Red, White and Blue" and glorious fireworks over the bay, sing patriotic songs and try to pretend, for a few hours at least, that all is fine. I won't think about AIDS. I won't think about radical Islam, terrorism, communism, the high cost of health insurance, my delicious lost, aromatic and seductive $5.00 cup of coffee, the recession or the next new class of HIV drugs that may or may not save my life.

No, I won't think of those things today. I'll just sing "God Bless America", hug my friends and thank God I'm still alive to see another 4th of July.

I'll end this with some lyrics from the song "Disorder In The House" by Warren Zevon in his final album "The Wind" (Vocals and guitar accompanied by who else but ... Bruce Springsteen!)

"It's the home of the brave and the land of the free. Where the less you know, the better off you'll be."

Happy "Independence Day". May God Bless America.



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