Today I had my first visit with my new doctor here in Madison. His name is Frank Grazziano, and he comes highly recommended from PA friend and contributor, Heidi Nass. (hey heidi!!!)
I must say that this was the most thorough doctor's visit that I have ever had in my life!
Before I actually met with the doctor, and after the medical assistant took my vitals, I met with a Pharmacist to go over my med history, and a social worker to discuss any needs outside of HIV (she actually graduated last year from the same program that I am in). When the doc finally came in he had a physicians assistant WITH him (whom he jokingly introduces by a name that is not her own), and they spent about 45 minutes examining me and gathering any/all relevant medical history. Then, when he starts to review my labs and realizes that everything is normal -- kidney and liver are functioning properly, viral load is undetectable, immune system is perfect -- he commences to tell me that I have just wasted his time and that he could have used my slot to see someone who is really sick! I FELL OUT OF MY CHAIR!!! LOL
Is this what healthcare is really suppose to look like?! Is it normal for me to leave the doctor's office feeling like I am really in the hands of people who are genuinely concerned about my well-being, and not just how I am going to pay for their time?!
If it isn't then tough, because the bar has now officially been raised and I will NEVER again settle for anything less!
soooo...i've been gone for a minute. i know.
i've been taking some time to get settled into madison and, to be truthful, suffering from a bit of HIV burnout.
i don't know if you can imagine what it feels like to be so involved in something, as i was with HIV back home in chicago, and then suddenly have the intensity of it decrease by about 75%.
let me tell you, it feels wonderful. it's very refreshing, and it gives you an opportunity to take inventory of your battles won and lost, check your ego, and approach the work from a fresh perspective (or with a new strategy to apply to a previous one).
when i decided to come to uw-madison, i also made a conscious choice to take a step away from HIV. my focus shifted to an area of social work that i have said over and over again that i was not interested in -- mental health.
though, i was very nervous about it at first (i'm actually interning at the state mental health institution), i now believe that this was one of the wisest choices that i have made in my life.
the most important thing that i learned from my work with TPAN and in Chicago is that today's HIV epidemic is a far different beast than the one that we saw in the early 80's. then, it was fueled by a simple lack of knowledge.
that's not necessarily the case today. we live in the information age, for god's sake. information is always at our fingertips.
the epidemic today is fueled by a lack of community mental well being, which drives many of us to not make the healthiest choices with regards to our lives and/or to take the power away from other people that allows them to make such choices for themselves.
either way, a mentally and physically unhealthy human race is the result.
with that said, i now realize that the natural next step for me was mental health, and that my contribution to ending AIDS is to convince the world (or at least my local community) of the necessity of routine community-based mental health care.
that type of model of care for people with severe and persistent mental illness, which is currently used worldwide, was perfected here in madison!
i'm hoping to figure out how to integrate it into HIV prevention and care.
satire at it's BEST!!! she is truly brilliant!!! once our women's forum is up, i will post this there. IT IS, I BELIEVE, DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE RISING RATE OF HIV INFECTION AMONG BLACK WOMEN IN PARTICULAR. take a look-see...
Recently, as you may have read, I had a conversation with Phill Wilson regarding accusations from the gay and bisexual community that the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) has neglected Black men who have sex with men (MSM) in the organizations efforts to raise both domestic and international awareness about the HIV/AIDS crisis that exists among Blacks in America.
In his response, Phill mentioned that BAI intends to produce a unique report due out December 1, 2008 (World AIDS Day) that will specifically speak to the issues facing Black MSM as it relates to this epidemic.
I am pleased to report that BAI has convened an advisory committee of Black gay and bisexual men (which includes journalist Kai Wright, activist Cornelius Baker, myself and others) who will meet regularly via tele-conference to provide input into the process as it unfolds.
Our introductory conference call was today and, I must say, that it was rather productive and that I am very pleased with the direction that this report will take. I'll keep you all posted as it continues to develop, but would really appreciate you input and suggestions with regards to it, which I can then relay to the committee as a whole.
What approach do you think the report should take?! In what format should it be created?! Who should it speak to?!
so i'm flipping between the DNC coverage on BET and CNN and as the camera pans the audience following Michelle Obama's heartfelt speech, guess who gets an extended cameo as he's dancing to "living in america" wearing a National AIDS Strategy t-shirt?!?! the one and only David Munar, Director of Policy and Communication at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago!!! I'M SOOOOO VERY PROUD RIGHT NOW!!!
it feels really good to know that folks like David are taking our issues all the way to the DNC. and he didn't sell us out by wearing a suit and tie, which would have actually been both understandable and appropriate considering the occasion, rather he LITERALLY wore our concerns on his chest! a true man of the people and my hero of the day!
thank you, david, for representing us well!
i have returned safely to the united states and i'm still processing my overall experience at the conference. i will post as i have the opportunity, as i will have only minimal access to the web as i begin the process of getting settled in madison.
thanx for tuning in and, please, continue the dialogue and get to know each other.
i'd also like to call your attention to the PA Forums, and encourage you all to start and continue other dialogues there.
will touch back soon.
So, after a nearly 3 hour shuttle ride to my hotel last nite , I finally decided that I had had enough of this city and all of it's congestion. I'd been invited to a party and to dinner with Bonnie Goldman and the folks from thebody.com, both of which I ended up having to turn down because I didn't even get to my hotel until after 10pm.
As I lay down for the nite, I came to the conclusion that I was calling it a week and that the Centro Banamex would not see me today. I planned to watch the opening and closing plenary's via podcast from the bar in the hotel!
But, seeing as how I've never been a quitter, I woke up this morning with a renewed sense of stick-to-it-ness. At breakfast, I inquired about public transportation and realized that I was just blocks from the subway that could connect me to a bus that would take me directly in front of the conference center.
And, after convincing myself that I could do it without getting lost, despite my ability to speak only minimal Spanish, I made it! AND IN JUST 45 MINUTES!!! It really wasn't difficult at all, and it allowed me an opportunity to see a little bit of everyday life in Mexico City. Not much different than any other big city that I've been in really. Lots of interesting people on the train, selling things that nobody really needs and giving their spills about why you should unload your spare pesos on them.
There was this one brother who was originally from Chile but had recently been deported from the U.S. He caught my attention, not just because he was gorgeous, but because he was wearing a Chicago White Sox cap. The Sox were my grandfather's favorite baseball team and, inherently, mine as well.
Initially, of course, he assumed that I was a Jamaican Rasta (which, in my best Jamaican accent, I'm beginning to just tell people 'yea mon' since I get that SOOOOO much here... ). When I told him that I was actually from the Chi, we ended up engaging in some interesting political dialogue about life in the states and, of course, the upcoming presidential election. He's trying his best to get back to there, but things really aren't looking good for him at this point.
As my stop approached, I wished him well and threw a couple of pesos his way, hoping that his life's journey would get a little better soon.
So now...I'm here in the media center (the wireless internet here is still crappy, but thanks to my buddy Kenyon Farrow and some of the folks from CHAMP, I've even found a way around that), awaiting the closing ceremonies and anticipating a free day and a half to explore Mexico City. ZONA ROSA HERE I COME!!!
Don't worry, I will be safe. But you better believe I plan to have a really good time.
Oh...and I'll touch down with more conference info soon. I just got word that Housing Works is planning a protest during the "passing the keys" portion of the closing plenary. OOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
I'd never really thought about this as a risk factor for HIV transmission, but it makes perfect sense. Personally, I don't have this problem. LifeStyle Tuxedos work wonders for me . But, very seriously, I know SEVERAL people who do.
Any ideas on how to tackle it?!
Believe it or not, I was up at 5am again this morning to make it to the conference center in time enough to attend the BAI breakfast updates. And, once again, I’m glad that I did.
I got an opportunity to speak with Phill Wilson about the general perception among Black gay men that BAI, in spite of their Left Behind report, have left Black gay and bisexual men…well…behind.
“We have a variety of programming that addresses Black gay men,” he said. “I think that it just depends on at what point you intersect with us.”
“It is a challenge though,” he admits. “Our core mission is to address HIV/AIDS health disparities in Black America regardless of gender, sexual orientation or what have you. So it is a challenge to craft messages that will resonate with the lager Black population. Therefore, we have to be strategic with both our message as well as our messengers.”
He references both the Left Behind report and BAIs Call to Action, which both make strong recommendations for addressing the HIV epidemic among Black MSM. He also says that BAI is preparing a special report that specifically speaks to the issues facing this population, which will be released in December of this year.
While I had him within my reach (cause clearly he is a man on the move), I also asked him about his take on the CNN Black in America special. He says that the problem, as he sees it, is that it was ambitious from the start on the part of CNN, to think that they could cover all facets of the Black experience in America in a four hour special. He feels that the take home message, in spite of the shows inherent flaws, is that racism in America still exists and that it severely impacts the everyday reality of Blacks in America.
And, as it relates to CNN never mentioning Black gay men even in reference to him, as I suspected, well…that part of the conversation was left on the cutting room floor. He says that they interviewed him for 2 hours and insists that his sexual orientation was absolutely a part of that conversation.
He also says that he pitched them three different stories for the segment of the special on AIDS in Black America: one dealing with Black gay men, one dealing with older Black women, and one dealing with youth. Clearly, they chose what they were most comfortable with.
And, as far as the Election Center segment that aired the following week (which most people I know didn’t see or know anything about) goes, as I suspected again, it was thrown together as a result of the statement he released the day after Black in America aired (in conjunction with the announcement of the Left Behind report). Phill’s statement praised CNN for their efforts, while criticizing it for its incomplete portrayal of the AIDS epidemic among Black Americans.
He says that BAI plans to make that footage available online in the immediate future. I promise to keep you posted as soon as it’s up, because there were sooooooo many different things wrong with it that I am itching to have dialogue about it with somebody who has seen it.
Okay, gotta get back to the conference for now. Thank you, Phill, for setting the record straight. I feel like Anderson Cooper right now. “I’m Keith Green with Positively Aware and we’re keeping them honest.”