In my first blog, I gave you a little of my background, which I thought was important to understand why I feel the need to get involved in the policy of AIDS.
Now, it's time to take off my gloves and get to some real issues that get my blood boiling. And that is the IDEOLOGY that continues to fuel the spread of HIV/AIDS.
First of all, I can see by a "particular" response to my first blog that there may be some people out there that still think that our government has no responsibility in providing affordable health care to its citizens, or care about anything or anyone but ourselves. According to this rant, I can see that "somebody" needs to take his Seroquil regularly .... Please dear, don't skip your doses!
But, being that I am a big fan of the First Amendment (you know, that little thing called the "Bill of Rights"in our "Constitution" that this administration has tried to circumvent?), even ranting lunatics are entitled to their opinion. Rant on, my friend, rant on. Just don't scream "FIRE!" in a crowed room, or you'll be in serious trouble. And, take your meds like a good boy.
I just saw an article in AIDS Treatment News and Kaiser daily HIV/AIDS Reports about the current fight for reauthorization for PEPFAR (The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). A group of "conservative" ideologs in Congress, spearheaded by Senator Coburn (R-Oklahoma) are trying to block the legislation because they believe that the bill will spend money on "family planning" - a nasty word for right wingers - and one they insist is a "code word" for abortion. You know, like how the "fist pump" is a really a terrorist code.... Coburn and company do not think that teaching women to use condoms or empowering them is worth spending "taxpayer's money". No, Mr. Coburn and six other Senators are blocking the passage of this very important legislation. They want the bill reworded to specifically restrict that the money be used for "care and treatment" of people infected with AIDS. So, let's try to understand the logic... We'll help them AFTER they are infected with HIV, but won't dare try to stop (or spend money) to teach them about "safer" sex. Condoms are BAD, but medication (without breaking US patents, of course) once someone is infected is GOOD. This kind of logic makes me want to SPIT NAILS!
To set the record straight - there is NO mention of abortion in this bill, or intention to promote it. What the bill does do is use a portion of the money to provide condoms and teach women to empower themselves. This, of course, would eliminate the need to spend money on treatment and very expensive medication for the rest of their infected lives. I will repeat this in case it didn't sink in ... rather than trusting proven medical science and evidence that condoms slows the spread of HIV/AIDS, six "fearless" Senators are inflicting their IDEOLOGY and BLOCKING one of (and perhaps the only) good piece of legislation that came out of this administration!
Haven't we had enough IDEOLOGY in the past eight years? Hasn't it gotten us and the world into enough trouble? Hasn't it tarnished our reputation in the world enough?
I remember when I testified at the HHS (Health and Human Services) committee in Trenton, NJ during the hearings for syringe exchange. New Jersey was the only State that did not have some form of syringe exchange. Year after year, it was knocked down in committee, where it died, along with many people who were subsequently infected via dirty needles or was the partner of someone who did. I was asked to testify because of my personal experience. I was infected by my fiance, who unbeknownst to me, was an IV drug user. (surprise!) I normally don't like to play the "innocent victim" role, because in my opinion, breaking down people living with AIDS into categories of "innocent" vs. "guilty" only adds to the already horrible stigma and fuels ignorance and intolerance. As AMFAR so poignantly expresses in their ad "WE ALL HAVE AIDS".
I sat through that hearing having to endure the testimony of a "prosecutor" who was pissed off that he would not be able to lock anyone up if they were caught with paraphernalia (syringes), an African-American state senator who represented an area of New Jersey (Newark) whose infection rate rivals that of some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. He compared syringe exchange to the Tuskegee experiment and Hitler's gassing of the Jews in the holocaust! He said that it was a typical racist plot to kill the black community. He was ranting and screaming like the fool that he is - and the racist that HE was, as I saw it. I told him that HE, in fact was the racist because HE didn't think that his constituents were capable of learning how to exchange a dirty syringe for a clean one, how HIV was transmitted and how to protect themselves and others. But the most sickening testimony to me was of the "Christian Coalition". They got up there, faces glowing with the self-righteous glory of God and said, "We'll take care of the sick and dying because that's what Jesus teaches us to do. But we won't give them syringes because Jesus would not want us to do that!' By this time, I was about to blow a freekin' gasket! It was my turn to testify. I had spent the previous night painfully writing a twelve-page testimony, which would be on public record and considered by the committee chairs who had rejected this bill for umpteen years. I had been very nervous and hadn't slept much the night before. But this was the straw that broke the camel's back. After hearing this disgusting testimony, I lost all fear. It was replaced by rage. The first thing I did was rip up my written testimony in front of the room and threw it on the floor. (a spontaneous dramatic effect) I explained that I had been nervous going public with my testimony, but after sitting though hours of ideological nonsense, I could not stand another minute. I would not listen to any more illogical reasoning and I was mad as hell! But, before I gave my testimony from the heart, I looked each and every one of the of them - the Senator, the prosecutor and the Christian Coalition - directly in their eyes and as I spoke, I pointed at each one separately, quoting the bible passage where those self-righteous men were stoning a woman for committing adultery and Jesus stopped them by writing their own sins in the sand. One by one, I pointed my finger at them and said, "Adulterer", "Blasphemer", "Thief", "Liar", "Murderer". "Let those without sin cast the first stone!" (Thank you, sister Margaret Mary Joseph for making me read that passage until I cried. But, I'm still a little perturbed that you beat the living hell out of me with that bloody ruler!) I tearfully gave my testimony and pleaded with the committee not to judge drug addicts for their behavior and think ideologically, but to use reason and and listen to the facts instead. I asked them to think about the lives that could be saved instead. I begged them to listen to the experts and look at the facts. Others testified on behalf of syringe exchange and reason prevailed. For the first time in many years, the bill made it out of committee. The bill was eventually passed into law, but the fight still continues.
My point is that PEPFAR must be passed into law and fully funded without strings attached. Six Senators cannot and MUST not stop this important piece of legislation due to IDEOLOGY! If it is stopped, the United States will lose the chance to make a real difference in stopping the spread of AIDS around the world. This will probably be the first piece of good legislation and the only good thing that came out of this ideological administration. We have this chance to regain some of our reputation as leaders in stopping the spread of AIDS.
We can all be a part of history by getting involved. Make your voices heard by calling Senator Coburn's office AND by calling your own Senators. Tell them to fully fund PEPFAR without strings attached and STOP THE INSANITY of IDEOLOGY!
We are all connected, and as Americans, we can help those in Africa and third world countries who are not as fortunate as we are. It's so easy to make a difference or at least try. Just call the congressional switchboard at 1-800-828-0498 and ask to be be connected to Senator Coburn's office. You can also call and connect with your own Senator and House Representatives and make your voices heard. You can also call Senator Coburn's office directly at 202-224-5754. Tell him to stop blocking this bill and stop the ideological nonsense. Six Senators cannot be the reason that this bill is killed. The bill numbers are S2731 in the Senate and HR 5501 in the House.
We need to wake up and smell the ideology! United we stand. Divided we fall. And, GOD BLESS AMERICA!