With all due respect, I disagree with you on three fronts.
First, I disagree that the Democrats are our allies, and that the Republicans are the enemy. Over the years, both parties, at all levels of government have been lackluster in their response to the AIDS epidemic, and both parties have had folk who have risen to the occasion in one way or another to advance prevention and treatment. The Ryan White Care Act would not have passed without Senator Orrin Hatch. And PEPFAR was initiated by a Republican named Bush. Meanwhile, both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have in turn paid lip services to the things we care about (needle exchange; a robust National AIDS Strategy; global AIDS funding) -- and then failed to follow through.
Second, I disagree with the idea that we need to tackle the recession before we can save the lives of millions of people with AIDS and HIV. The real question is the value of a life and whether we believe that saving lives of people with AIDS is just as important as saving banks, saving GM, or waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not the Republicans that have been making those choices over the last two years, and as people living with AIDS and HIV, we shouldn't buy into the false dichotomy of people with AIDS versus the economy. I would be crying tears for the Democrats if they were going down for saving peoples lives. But they are going down for saving Wall Street!
Third, I disagree that there is something wrong with disrupting the President, whether at the White House or at a pep rally. Regan, it's naive and just plain wrong to suggest that I should have spoken to one of the members of the President's toothless AIDS Advisory Council (not that I don't interact with many of them on a regular basis). I had a chance to speak directly to the President, and I did. That's democracy. Sorry it soured folks' beautiful moment at the White House, but should we really be giddy that someone was paying attention to us when there are 4,000 people on waitlists for drugs, and the president is doing nothing about it? The same for the students. Presidential rallies are one of the few occasions college students have an opportunity to speak directly to their President. Why shouldn't they take advantage of that opportunity to voice their dissent?
Regan, you often pay homage to the activists who have launched controversial protests during the last 25 years. So I have to ask you: Would you have stood beside us when we disrupted mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral, or carried a coffin with a dead person to the White House? Would it have been too impolitic for you when we shouted Secretary Sullivan down at the International AIDS Conference in San Francisco in 1990? POZ's own blogger Eric Sawyer shouted down Vice President Al Gore during his campaign for president that led the U.S. to support generics in developing countries.
The truth is that the activism that has saved millions of lives around the globe has always been unpopular and controversial. But it has laid the issues squarely on the table and forced elected officials to respond. As long as there are pretty receptions and happy pep rallies, some of us are going to keep on being the skunk at the party.
Charles King is the President and CEO of Housing Works, Inc.
To read the blog entry by Regan Hofmann, POZ editor-in-chief, that prompted this response, click here.
To read Gregg Gonsalves' blog entry on the same subject, click here.