Posts Tagged ‘AIDS’

I recall with perfect clarity the moment I heard the news the San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk had been murdered.

From Diane Feinstein, at the time a SF Supervisor:

“Today San Francisco has experienced a double tragedy of immense proportions. As President of the Board of Supervisors, it is my duty to inform you that both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed”, then adding after being drowned out by shouts of disbelief, “and the suspect is Supervisor Dan White.”

Shaken to my core, like so many at the time, I watched reports of the killings … developing great respect that continues to this day for Diane Feinstein who held a bleeding head as life poured out … and the subsequent joke of the Dan White trial.

Years later, my brother starred in “Philadelphia”, the first mainstream film to feature a gay lead character, and about popped with pride as a legion of movie fans learned lessons in compassion.

(An aside … This was also the most difficult role for me to see Tom in, and I still can’t watch the film without falling to bits. In fact, I’ve only seen it 3 times even though it lives in my DVD library. The first time was with my best friend, Robbie, who has AIDS, setting me thinking that from then on I wouldn’t see a film about an illness without doing so while sitting beside someone living with said dreaded disease. “Sybil” would be hard, though, since, as far as I know I don’t have any friends that are multiples … but, then again, may I do … )

Robbie sent me a link today from the Courage Campaign about the film “Milk” and the acceptance speech given by Dustin Lance Black when winning the Oscar.

I’m passing this along …

“When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married.” — Dustin Lance Black, accepting an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, February 22

One speech can change the lives of millions.

For Dustin Lance Black and millions of gays and lesbians, it was Harvey Milk’s “Hope” speech and the life of the man who gave it.

And, for millions of people watching the Academy Awards last night, it was Dustin Lance Black’s Oscar acceptance speech, channeling the spirit of Milk with a universal message of hope and determination in the aftermath of the passage of Prop 8.

Last night, Black and Sean Penn won Academy Awards for their wonderful work in the creation of “Milk” — the film chronicling the life and times of Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in American history. Cleve Jones, who worked with Milk in the 1970’s and pushed for many years to get this beautiful film made, smiled proudly from the audience.

If you have not seen Dustin Lance Black’s short, but moving acceptance speech — broadcast to over 30 million Americans Sunday night — please take a moment to watch it now. Then sign our note of congratulations to Dustin, Sean, and Cleve and thank them for their life-changing film. If you feel so inspired, please write a short note letting them know how “Milk” has touched your life:


As Dustin put it backstage in an interview after his acceptance speech, he felt that this appearance on the Oscar stage was an opportunity to “pay it forward” to millions of people — especially teenagers living in fear of what might happen if they come out:

“For me, the whole thing was always to… pay it forward. You know, Harvey gave me his story… Oh, I’m going to cry [pauses to compose himself]… Harvey gave me his story and it saved my life. And I just thought it’s time to pass it on… The only thing I really knew I wanted to say was to tell those kids out there that they’re going to be alright.”

They are going to be OK, but only if we all follow in the footsteps of Harvey Milk and continue fighting for equality for all Americans.

You can help Dustin Lance Black pay it forward now by sending this email to your friends and family — especially the people who most need to watch his inspiring acceptance speech. Then sign our congratulatory note to Dustin, Sean Penn, and Cleve Jones and consider adding a few words of your own about what “Milk” means to you:


Thank you for sharing this momentous speech with the people you care about the most and giving them the opportunity to share it with their loved ones as well.

Rick Jacobs

P.S. In addition to being the driving forces behind making “Milk” a reality, Dustin Lance Black and Cleve Jones were both active in working to defeat Prop 8 before the election. And they were both in the streets in the aftermath of Prop 8’s passage, protesting the enshrinement of discrimination into California’s state constitution. Cleve also gave the keynote speech at the first Camp Courage in Los Angeles and plans to attend the Fresno training on March 7-8.

Please thank Dustin and Cleve now for bringing Harvey Milk’s life to millions of people and for their ongoing activism in the movement to restore marriage equality to California:



Courage Campaign Issues is part of the Courage Campaign’s online organizing network that empowers over 600,000 grassroots and netroots activists to push for progressive change in California.

I have not seen the film … and am hoping someone sends me a DVD when it’s out in that format. I did, however, live the history.

How far have we come? A long way, no doubt, but there is still far to go.

My friends are no longer dropping like flies and funerals don’t happen monthly as they seemed to some years ago, but as long as anyone considers a person’s choices in love a reason to reduce the value, restrict the rights or condemn in any way, the fight is still on.

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Wear YOUR Red Ribbon

Wear YOUR Red Ribbon

Red ribbons abound in BlogLand today, and well they should. It’s World AIDS Day, which simply begs attention … and deserves every word written, every thought thunk, and every effort made on behalf of the millions of people who live with, and have died from, this miserable, rotten disease.

I’m from California, as longtime readers know, and one thing we Californians have experienced is the devastation AIDS has brought to families, friends, communities … the love lost, the hearts broken, the bonds torn.

I don’t know anyone from home who hasn’t been personally touched by this disease. Not one.

I lost a cousin and dozens of dear, dear friends over the years, and to this day not only miss all, I still have with me … although halfway around the world … my darling Robbie, who has been living with AIDS for 26 years.

Robbie is one of my oldest friends. We worked together at a zoo in California where we both loved the same chimps and orang utans, and where we did almost everything together.

After his partner of 17 years died of the disease, he moved in across the street from me, and every night we would watch movies and talk and eat and have a beer or two, and every Sunday during football season we would hang out on his bed and watch every game we could. (He’s a big Dallas fan … I was hot for the 49ers)

I did my first AIDS Day march with him, then every year after, and he was sitting next to me the first time I saw “Philadelphia” … made me wonder if when I went to see Syble if I shouldn’t have done that with someone with a multiple personality.

Through my work writing in the adoption world, I have had the good fortune of knowing families who have adopted HIV+ children, intentionally, and since the disease in Western nations no longer conveys an immediate death sentence have had the wonderful experience of adding these little wonders to their lives.

AIDS. Learn about it. Do something about it. Support efforts to do what can be done to rid the world of this illness. Speak up when issues come up. Encourage those you bring into office to take on the challenges and support research, education and treatment programs.

Here are some links to follow for more info on how to be proactive in this fight:


The Respect Project

The myspace site Drug+HIV … learn the link

Metro Teen Aids

HIV/AIDS Awareness Days

Children With AIDS Project

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I’ve just read the most confounding bit of news I’ve seen in a while, and in a source that usually delivers it straight up, making it even more confusing.

It’s this article in the Washington Post that sent me scurrying all over the Internet in search of corroboration and reason.

The story is about George W. Bush’s Africa trip from the angle of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, where it has succeeded and where it has fallen short. It makes sense, for the most part, as it explains how $15 billion has increased the availability of treatment, but with the rate of infections going up faster than meds can be handed out, that the big picture is not rosy.

The statement that “nearly half of today’s 15-year-olds in South Africa, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the program, will contract the virus in their lifetimes at current infection rates,” jars gratingly against the claim of 157,000 cases of pediatric HIV prevented through providing antiretrovirals to pregnant women, and research that says 40% of those given the lifesaving drugs drop out of the loop, stop taking their meds and most likely die takes some of the gloss off the 1.3 million PEPFAR supports treatment for.

The political motivation combining with whatever portion of the PEPFAR dollar comes from pure benevolence puts an interesting point on the quill, as well:

Studies have shown that family planning could avert far more infections than antiretroviral drugs because many women, especially those with HIV, want fewer children. Critics say the restriction, along with PEPFAR’s emphasis on untested abstinence programs, exists mainly to win support from conservative congressional Republicans, undermining the full potential of a program that the White House bills as one of the biggest humanitarian ventures in history.

Yes, that’s confounding to me, as medical issues should not be cross-contaminated by moral judgement as far as I’m concerned.

Not nearly as confounding, however, as what wraps up the piece:

Yet the past five years have also shown that the AIDS epidemic can be contained by forces other than U.S. money and political will. Africa’s biggest declines in HIV rates during Bush’s AIDS initiative have come in Zimbabwe, where economic collapse has coincided with fundamental social change, including a shift toward monogamy and away from more-costly multiple relationships, research there shows.

Yep … Sandra reads those words, and goes scuttering in search of something that has THAT make any sense.

Zimbabwe put forth as an example of something going right? Hmmmmm. Me thinks there’s something rotten in Harare.

A quick search of “AIDS in Zimbabwe” comes up with 604,000 links on Google and not one I opened made any grand statements about a drop in the HIV infection rates.


AidsPortal.Org has something about an increase in the number of people on antiretrovirals, but also mentions the “daunting task of breaking the vicious cycle of new infections,” which doesn’t sound like a big drop in infections is happening.

HIVInSite, a project of the University of California, doesn’t give any indication of a letup in infections, either. It does, however, give one tiny clue that moved me along … under “New HIV infections, 2005” the entry was “nd”: no data.


Eventually coming across Avert.org’s page on AIDS in Zimbabwe, the true picture emerged.

In many cases, as one Zimbabwean doctor explained to reporters, the reality is that AIDS can now be counted amongst such concerns: “Put simply, people are dying of AIDS before they can starve to death.”

The situation in Zimbabwe is now so bad that:

Between 2002 and 2006, the population is estimated to have decreased by four million people.

Infant mortality has doubled since 1990.

Average life expectancy for women, who are particularly affected by Zimbabwe’s AIDS epidemic, is 34 – the lowest anywhere in the world. Officials from the World Health Organisation have admitted that since this figure is based on data collected two years ago, the real number may be as low as 30.

Zimbabwe has a higher number of orphans, in proportion to its population, than any other country in the world, according to UNICEF. Most of these cases are a result of parents dying from AIDS.

So, there’s the reason AIDS numbers are down in Zimbabwe … more people are already dead than they were last year and the year before, and the deaths are happening just that much faster than new infections are being reported. (We don’t even need to start in on the accuracy of reporting in the country.)

For the WaPo to suggest that Mugabe’s masterwork of horror that is modern-day Zimbabwe proves that “the AIDS epidemic can be contained by forces other than U.S. money and political will,” but rather through, “fundamental social change, including a shift toward monogamy and away from more-costly multiple relationships,” is irresponsible at best, and shows an inclination to accept “research” generated by tyranny in attempts to provide positive spin to genocidal maniacs.

I have come to expect much better from the publication.

Confounding, indeed.

This is x-posted to Adoption Under One Roof because it fits in both places.

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How many mornings start off with a sense of despair as I open my computer to learn what has happened around the planet as I slept the night away peacefully in the bosom of my beautiful little family? Far too many.

The world is for more people than not a terrible place of unimaginable pain and suffering where each day brings yet another hurdle to jump or cross to bear … one after the other until there is no more jumping or bearing to do.

The headlines give indication of misery enough, but my mind always wanders a bit further down the road and often ends up dwelling on whatever impact the attention-grabbing event that leads a report has on the children caught somewhere way down the story and living the consequences of religious fanaticism, ethnic intolerance, political unrest, greed, corruption and all the other horrors self-imposed by the human race upon itself.

Occasionally, a news item addresses the effects on innocents directly, as was the case in this article. Although designed by the United Nations propaganda machine for self-perpetuation and circulated through IRIN, the UN’s “humanitarian news and analysis” branch of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the report does manage to pass along information without too blatant a tooting of its own horn … mainly because there is absolutely NO reason to credit the organization with anything positive under this circumstance … or make a begging plea for additions to its bulging coffers.

The story is on how the unrest in Kenya is impacting the vulnerable in the country, widows and orphans.

When the violence broke out immediately after the election, at least two of the people we support were killed by rowdy youths in their homes. One of our widows was attacked and her home was torn down to the ground; she was very lucky to escape alive. One child-headed household had their home invaded – they were chased away and when they came back everything had been stolen.

This, of course, is one tiny example in a country where millions are at risk any time the boat is even slightly rocked, so precarious is the semblance of stability.

Kenya has long been held up as a positive example of democracy in Africa, a model for other countries more obviously in danger of a rapid downward spiral into chaos. But Kenya has been corrupt as hell for years, and no one with the slightest knowledge of the place could pretend not to notice that the average Kenyan has been getting screwed by their government for decades while the powerful are creaming off the top and living like royalty.

With Zimbabwe just down the road a piece getting a complete pass from the “global community” on everything from its flagrant violations of human rights to blatant corruption, where could impetus possibly come for rising above?

Does the world care? Face it, folks, the answer to that is: Not really.

Pretending otherwise appears to be an unhelpful practice that works pretty well to keep the levels of hell stable for the majority while the minority takes expensive vacations.

Think about this …

At the moment, the population of the USA is somewhere around just over 300 million. Although numbers are hard to come by, USAID estimates that by 2010 25 million children in the world will have been orphaned by AIDS alone (Some suspect this number is a low guess, with estimates up to 200 million circulating.), and although that pandemic does take a hefty toll, added to numbers of children losing parents to other diseases, alcoholism and drug abuse, grinding poverty, famine, violent conflict, the total global population of children forced to fend for themselves could easily approach the number of people living in the United States in any given year.

Orphans, of course, aren’t the only people suffering … billions of children with parents suffer alongside their mothers and fathers … yet no small number of humans blithely go through their lives under the illusion that life is relatively fair … and is meant to be so … and that for the most part justice somehow prevails. Decisions on everything from product purchases to elected official to laws addressing adoption tend to be based on the false sense that happiness is a logical consequence of life for everyone finding the wherewithal their own bootstraps should provide, so consequences are slow to come to those living off the backs of the downtrodden … and that is often not only an expression, but a reality … and remedies too often have more to do with alleviating the little guilt that comes with plenty than actually addressing the real issues others face every day.

Forcing ourselves to wake up and smell the toast is a first step to taking the problems on full frontally, as we will never come to grips with something we have refused to see in all its naked ugliness.

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I’ve been working today on an article about the reduced number of international adoptions in the world in 2007, so when this from the BBC popped up, it demanded some attention.

Powerful visuals were created when kids orphaned by AIDS in Mozambique were given cameras and asked to photograph their lives. Subject choices are always so interesting when children are given a chance to pick representational bits of their world, and these shots prove that all over again.

As is far too often the case, there is so little possibility of the option of international adoption ever reaching kids in Maputo or any part of Mozambique that hope of such a cicumstance must never trickle down to kids like the ones involved in this project.

According to the US State Department’s site on international adoption, there have been only eight children from Mozambique adopted by Americans in the last five years. This is, no doubt, at least partially due to the residency requirements the country imposes that rule out any family that can’t relocate and become residents for the duration of the adoption process.

That’s one way to make sure the children remain trapped.

For more on the drop in adoption numbers, this story from the Daily Herald of Chicago sums things up, as does this AP story that ads quotes from one of my personal heros, Dr. Elizabeth Bartholet, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) at Harvard Law School.

And speaking of international adoption, Ethica has released a pdf of their comments on DHS’s regulations for the Hague. It’s well worth a read, and I’ll be most interested in thoughts you might have on their take.

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