Crossposted from http://www.lgbtpov.com:
After months of training and raising more than $13 million dollars for HIV/AIDS services at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, 2,350 pumped up and emotional bicyclists and 600 volunteer “roadies” from almost every state and 11 countries left the Cow Palace in San Francisco to trek the 545 mile journey to Los Angeles for AIDS LifeCycle 10.
LAGLC CEO Lorri Jean and SFAF CEO Neil Giuliano gave rousing speeches with Giuliano reading a message from President Barack Obama:
I send greetings to all those attending AIDS/LifeCycle 10 Opening Ceremonies. Thirty years after the AIDS epidemic began in America, we remain vigilant in our fight against this domestic and global scourge. Committed men and women across our country continue to take up this cause, working to raise awareness and provide resources to those living with HIV/AIDS. Their work helps ensure those affected get the care and support they need, lifting up countless lives and communities nationwide.
Events like AIDS/LifeCycle engage the public in this ongoing struggle and remind us of the role we all can play in defeating this disease. As you ride in honor of the lives impacted by HIV/AIDS, I wish you all the best for a memorable and successful event.
Lorri Jean told me:
“I feel like today I’m experiencing the highest of highs and the lowest of lows – the low of remembering 30 years of fight AIDS and the loss b- ut the highs of this group making history by raising the most money ever for any single fundraiser – $13, 060,000.
On President Obama not doing or saying more about AIDS on this historic day, Jean said:
There is absolutely no excuse for an African American president not to be more focused on AIDS today. The African American community is being decimated by this disease and it’s very sad to me that he’s not doing more than issuing a statement.”
Indeed, on the front page of the Office of National AIDS Policy is a quote from President Obama from National HIV Testing Day, June 27, 2009:
“When one of our fellow citizens becomes infected with HIV every nine-and-a-half minutes, the epidemic affects all Americans. That is why I have pledged to develop and implement a comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy….Working together, I am confident that we can stop the spread of HIV and ensure that those affected get the care and support they need.”
Recently, I asked Occidental Associate Math Professor Ron Buckmire to help me figure out how many people had become infected with HIV since President Obama made that statement. Ron said:
“Since June 27, 2009, using President Obama’s own figures of one infection every 9 1/2 minutes (and assuming no change in the infection rate since then) 106,560 have become infected with HIV as of May 30, 2011 and by the date of the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS on June 5, 2011, that number will have grown to 107,470. That’s 152 people a day, every day and 1061 every week.”
To visualize this: 152 people infected with HIV per day since June 27, 2009 is 15 more people than a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-300 holds per flight.
Here’s more from the LA Gay & Lesbian Center, co-hosting the AIDS LifeCycle 10 with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation:
While the HIV infection rate has dropped among all other risk groups in the US, it continues to climb for gay/bi men (of all races and ethnicities).
• A recent CDC study of gay and bi men in major cities indicates that a shocking 20% are HIV-positive—that’s 1 in 5.
• Nationally, more than 50% of those living with HIV are gay/bi men
• In Los Angeles County, 82% of those living with HIV are gay/bi men
• In San Francisco, gay /bi men comprise 87% of new HIV infections
When did that rate of HIV infection become acceptable?
Additionally, as far as I can determine, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy posted on the Office of National AIDS Policy website calls for increased HIV testing, cutting new infection rates and ensuring that people who are HIV positives have access to care — HOWEVER all of this is to be accomplished at the current levels of funding. And, as Charles Blow noted in his May 13 New York Times column H.I.V. S.O.S:
the recent “striking and incredibly encouraging new finding that found that H.I.V.-infected people who took antiretroviral drugs were 96 percent less likely to pass on the disease than those who didn’t” and called attention to the “cruelty-creep and passion-drift by federal and state governments whose lack of financing and fealty in the fight against AIDS has had the effect of either starving or restricting support, services and prevention efforts for people with H.I.V. and those at risk of contracting it.”
Of critical importance is the “urgent need” to reconsider the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP). Blow reported that:
in 2000, 68 percent of ADAP budgets came from federal money. Last year, that had dropped to 45 percent. And the state-level lawmakers are making unconscionable choices.
According to data from the ADAP Advocacy Association: as of last week, the number of people on ADAP waiting lists had risen to 7,873; between April 2009 and April 2011, 14 states reduced the number and types of drugs they would pay for. A number of states have stiffened financial eligibility requirements, capped enrollment or removed some people already enrolled. Other states are considering doing so.
This is particularly problematic since the National ADAP Monitoring Project’s annual report, released in March, showed that those most dependent on the program are some of society’s most vulnerable. About a third of all people diagnosed with AIDS are enrolled in ADAPs, three-quarters of them had incomes of less than 200 percent of the national poverty level, 61 percent were uninsured, and 55 percent were black or Hispanic.
But as the recession put more patients in need, federal and state aid didn’t keep track. From 2007 to 2010, the number of people using ADAPs jumped by a third, but federal and state funds specifically appropriated for it grew by just 3 percent and 18 percent, respectively.”
Complicating an already complicated problem – the CDC – which issued the first report on AIDS on this day, June 5, 1981 – published a new report on Friday June 3, in the Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report finding that a number of gay and bisexual men who had been tested in the previous 12 months and believed they were negative were in fact HIV positive. In a major policy change, the CDC is recommending testing every 3-6 months for gay and bisexual men who have sex with men.
Although men who have sex with men (MSM) comprise an estimated 2% of the overall U.S. population aged ≥13 years (1), 59% of persons with diagnoses of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in the United States in 2009 were MSM, including MSM who inject drugs (2). CDC recommends HIV testing at least annually for sexually active MSM to identify HIV infections and prevent ongoing transmission (3). Results of HIV testing conducted as part of the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System (NHBS) in 21 cities indicated that 19% of MSM who were tested in 2008 were HIV-positive; of these, 44% were unaware that they were infected (4). To assess whether MSM were tested as recommended and whether more frequent testing might be indicated, CDC analyzed NHBS data for 2008. This report describes the results of that analysis, which indicated that, of 7,271 MSM interviewed and tested who did not report a previous positive HIV test, 61% had been tested for HIV infection during the past 12 months; among these, 7% had a new, positive HIV test result when tested as part of NHBS. Given the high prevalence of new HIV infection among MSM who had been tested during the past year, sexually active MSM might benefit from more frequent HIV testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months).
Meanwhile, on the AIDS LifeCycle ride – each of the 3,000+ participants – roughly half LGBt and half straight – has their own story, their own reason for embracing the monumental challenge to do the training, to raise the funds, to taking a week off to ride single file down the coastline and creating a tent city each night. Each is committed to creating a community of compassion that exists in a world seemingly apart from but parallel to the incivility of common politics. They realize, feel and want to be part of a society, a community where helping another person is the norm, not an effort or political expediency. This is today’s Silent Majority – everyday heroes whose feats of nobility are simple acts of kindness, compassion and non-violent resistance to ignorance, apathy and benign neglect.
Here are some heroes, your spiritual neighbors (all photos by me):
Carol Hyman and Jerry Hinshaw used to ride tandem, but this year Carol will serve as a roadie. “We want to see our HIV positive friends die of old age,” they say.
Preston Ong, 35, left his wife and child home in LA but brought two friends. “I love riding and it’s for a good cause, so why not learn everything I can and have exposure to this group of people,” says Ong.
For Brendan Patrick, 40, who’s been participating in AIDS rides for 10 years, this is a family affair. His father Gerald, 73, a Ph.D who is President of The Museum in the San Fernando Valley, works as a volunteer at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center and as a roadie at the ALC store. This is his 5th ride. Mom Janne, 70, is a supporter and Tom, 42, is also a rider.
Jordan Wood, 32, is a swim coach (who plans on swimming the English Channel in September) with a doctor client whose HIV positive partner was saved from death by AIDS medications in the mid-90s. He’s riding for them. James Santiago, another of Wood’s clients, had an uncle pass away from AIDS 23 years ago and has always wanted to sign up and commit to doing the ride. Both are excited to meet so many new people and help raise funds to fight AIDS. This is the first ride for both straight men.
This is Ani Tra Soreano’s first ride. “I saw it (a story about AIDS LifeCyle) on TV 8 years ago and I thought it was a cool thing to do,” Soreano says. Her aunt Mercy Perez was hanging out with her one Day Zero to be of support.
Joshua Shere just finished his MBA and David LaJess, who flew in from Madrid, Spain, is celebrating his 40th birthday. They both wanted to ride to commemorate the 30th anniversary of AIDS. They raised $9,000 for ALC.
Kerry and Dienne Kelly are one of the 18,000 same sex couples married in California. “By the time we were married legally, our kids were old enough to be our witnesses – which is kind of crazy,” Kerry says. She’s riding; Dienne is staying home with 14-month old TiKa.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have long had the reputation for raising money for LGBT and AIDS organizations and efforts. Sister Tootsie from LA, Sister Agnetha Maria R. in the Silk Garment of Eternal Lust, from Cologne, Germany and Sister Tuna from San Francisco greeted each other warmly and determined that the Sister from Germany was officially representing their group, the epitome of Freedom of Expression.