National AIDS Plan a Tragic Anticlimax

1991 ACT UP Philadelphia poster

For more than 2 decades, activists have fought for a coherent, human response to the devastating losses of our communities to HIV/AIDS. As of last Tuesday, the United States finally has a national plan to fight the epidemic. This is such a non-event in terms of what it means for us in reality that I won’t blather on about it here.

Please read the insightful commentary from community members on, the Huffington Post, Housing Works AIDS Issues Update, and LifeLube.

OK, I will say that Obama’s plan is a relief after W’s anti-science administration brought the Christian Right in to run the country’s HIV prevention efforts. In 2002, Republicans threatened PBS funding at the mere thought that South Africa’s HIV positive muppet Kami might come to the U.S. (see this brilliant scathing critique in POZ magazine). After all, the Obama administration actually lets members of the AIDS community physically enter the White House.

Kami, the South African HIV-positive Muppet on the November 2002 cover of POZ magazine (before ICE, there was INS)

But if this plan is the best we can get when we have Democrats running the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, it’s time to look at the bigger picture. Why is the best we can ever get from Obama all talk and no action? We are so happy with the talk that we forgive the fact that we are not getting any tangible resources. We need to look deeper than party politics for the answer to that.

The economy is tanking, but also, the economic system we are part of has gone through some crazy changes that mean we are up shit’s creek for ever getting our social safety net back. The New Deal is gone forever. So is this country’s economic base as a producer of real products that you can use — our factories are gone, and most of our jobs exist because of some financial bubble or another that is bound to burst. I can’t explain this stuff very well, so please check out this reader-friendly analysis from Midnight Notes.

Basically, the budget cuts we have received as body blows for the past 10+ years are the new reality, but only if we let corporations continue to control the government. We know this is what’s happening. But we are at a loss for an alternative, so we are kind of scared to say it out loud.

I think our big AIDS advocacy organizations have worked for so many years, for such long hours — and I mean the kind of long hours when activists get so sick and tired that having a “life” is not an option but they keep fighting because they believe in a better world — to make this National AIDS Plan finally happen, to rebuild the bridges and claw a way back to the table, that we have painted ourselves into a corner (yes, this is way too many mixed metaphors, but hey, I am a blogger and I don’t have an editor!). We are so desperate to keep the shreds of funding we still have that we are afraid to walk out of the room when Obama says he is doing his best, he doesn’t hate us, but there are no resources to actually fight AIDS the way we need to as human beings organized under a system of government to meet this nation’s basic survival needs.

I think our community can do this better than the government can. But we’ll have to take the time to really use our imaginations. We have the creative minds. We just need to develop new strategies for meeting our collective human needs in a future when we will not be able to win any resources from the government no matter what we do. Once we have our own plan, we will have to do more than fight — we’ll have to take the resources and put them into action ourselves. I’m serious, and I am talking about working alongside other social movements and workers everywhere to end capitalism and create a new economic system that serves us as communities and as people. I think you all know where I am coming from with my politics, and we may not agree, but just give it a thought. I think we can do it.

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Filed under Alternatives to 501c3, economic justice, revolutionary strategies, stigma, Uncategorized

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