So, I know Keith posted an item about the protest against the US government's miserable response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, most glaringly around gay men, especially black gay men.
Talk about disparities - gay men make up, like what, 3% of the population? Include MSM and you got us up to maybe 5 or 6%...And yet we make up 53% of the US epidemic. About 73% of people in the US with HIV/AIDS are men, and the vast majority of those are GAY MEN, and the biggest percentage of those are black. Horrible. Four of 49 highly recommended interventions from the CDC target gay men. Guess how many target gay black men?
I am very, very pleased that this conference has highlighted the plight of gay/MSM globally - really making it the central theme of our time here - but it will be when we all get home, to the US and to the rest of the world that is undreserving and ignoring gay men (pretty much everywhere), when the rubber hits the road.
And I, for one, will NOT wait to be asked to the table to discuss the needs of gay men, or to advocate for them. Nor will I wait at the table for the rest of the players (organizational, governmental, policy, funders, etc) to come to me. WE MUST not be played for fools, we must not stand by while leaders dither and dally.
Feet to the fire time!
While we in the US are doing a terrible job, and need at least an infusion of $1 billion for targeted preventon work with gay/MSM, most of the 179 countries reporting to the United Nations on the epidemic make no mention of the virus in gay men. Yep, that´s right, not a peep. This, despite an AmfAR report released Monday in Mexico City proving that MSM are at an increased risk of HIV compared to the rest of the population. According to the report, althought there was a unanimous commitment (made in 2001) that all U.N. member countries would monitor HIV among high-risk groups, 71% of countries said they did not have any information on the percentage of MSM contacted by HIV prevention groups. Of 128 countries, 44% failed to provide HIV data on MSM.
Are we going to change this by sitting by quietly and patiently? By "playing the game" and not offending anyone? By making sure our message reaches the general public in a way that doesn´t upset?
According to the report, Benin, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya and Thailand are the countries with the highest reported HIV prevalence among MSM. Although data were scarce, the study found MSM were 33 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population in Latin America, 18 times more likely in Asia and at least four times more likely in Africa.
Not just the US, but the world gets a big fat F for its CRIMINAL response to HIV among gay men and MSM. We have been treated as expendable, we have been lost in bullshit rhetoric like "the face of AIDS has changed."
No, hons, the face of AIDS has not changed. Sure, we have added in a much higher proportion of women in the US (around 27% of the US epidemic is female, and in other parts of the world, it is half or more) - but the fact remains. Gay men and MSM - including those of color, and those in other countries, both developed and developing) have ALWAYS been the face of AIDS. The epidemic has not moved on - it has tragically picked up new passengers, for sure, but gay men have always had seats on that bus.
So again, while I am delighted our people have gotten such great visibility here in Mexico City, we CAN'T go back to our home countries and play nice any longer. For as we play patty cake, people are getting sick and dying.
We need to confront this deadly homophobia and homo-hatred with other high risk groups - IDUs, sex workers, and women of color. We must take this stand together. It grieves me when it becomes an us vs. them approach. As we confront the horrible inequities faced by gay/MSM - we must do so in tandem with pushing for better prevention, care and treatment for other vulnerable people everywhere.
Divided will no do.
So I mentioned on my previous post I got a pic of Annie [sorry I have not been posting more, gonna do better I promise!]
Anyhow, this pic of Annie Lennox was taken with my Kodak Brownie Instamatic Deluxe yesterday, or was it the day before, at a press conference she was doing with Oxfam.
The picture of the child in each picture is the same person - one is pre-ARV, and the other is post ARV.
[fact: for every person who went on ARV this year, 3 more got infected.]
To start – two.
One - Annie Lennox.
Turns out she is staying in the very hotel I am, yep, don't hate, in the Zona Rosa section of Mexico City, and is here attending the conference. Her latest CD has some HIV advocacy going on, particularly around mother-to-child transmission in South Africa. Listen to “Sing.” And she is all about supporting the HIV work of groups like OXFAM and Treatment Action Campaign... Anyhow, she is sitting there on a couch in the lobby Saturday evening, with two other women, chatting and drinking margaritas.
Your intrepid reporter stationed himself discretely on another banquette and eyeballed the group – Annie looks absolutely fantastic, in a very lesbionic AIDS activist way, super short white blonde shimmery hair (natch) and some kine of Guatemalan frock – too cute. When my friend and colleague David Munar came down to fetch me for our dinner plans in Condesa with CNN pal Matt, he was like, “Let’s go talk to her, let’s get her picture.” And I was like, “Oh, I don’t know, I feel funny, should we, shouldn’t we, should we…” He looked at me like, are you a fool? So he ran up to his room to grab a camera while I maintained my watch, ever so subtly.
So we gave her a National AIDS Strategy t-shirt and chatted her and her gal pals up about the fact that the United States doesn’t have one – a National AIDS Strategy – and that we should have one, especially since we ask donor countries to whom we give PEPFAR dollars to have one. We talked about the new CDC data and how the epidemic is taking its biggest toll on gay men in the United States. Ideological strings, George Bush, the Iraq war and related AIDS-y talk. No picture though. “Any other time I would say yes, but I really am too tired for pictures right now,” she said. ‘I’m going to be at the hotel all week…” (so now you know, that pic above was not taken by us...)
We aint mad. We got 15 minutes with Annie Lennox!
And we’re going to be lying in wait for you Missy! Kodak Brownie at the ready!!
Two - Elizabeth Pisani.
Author of one of my favorite books – "The Wisdom of Whores – Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS”. So the International Rectal Microbicide Advocates (IRMA – my little IRMA) and the Caucus for Evidence-Based Prevention are doing a little gig – tonight actually – called “A Conversation with Elizabeth Pisani.”
Her book is a kumbaya-free must read for anyone in the HIV/AIDS field. It openly challenges you to re-examine your turf in “AIDS.inc," wherever your spot on the trough may be, and seriously question the billions of dollars being spent in the service of… what, exactly? Pisani’s take is that prevention, specifically prevention among gay men, injection drug users, and sex workers, is horribly neglected due to the questionable global strategy of making AIDS “everyone’s problem.” This generalization doesn’t hold true in most of the world, she says, and governments and funders have used it to spend their largesse among those least at risk, conveniently ignoring the politically unpopular messiness of sex, gay sex and drugs. Pisani's blunt account spares no one and offers all of us a chance to reflect on the current state of funding priorities for HIV prevention.
We thought it would be cool to hook something up to talk about the issues explored in the book during the International AIDS Conference.
So, okay, yesterday my Caucus counterpart, the lovely Sonia Kandathil, and I were trying to connect with Elizabeth, for a planned din din the three of us were going to have Sunday night to talk about the event, and having NO, zero, NADA luck. The local phone number she gave us wasn’t working so well, and she had limited at best internet access, and horrors upon luddite horrors, she doth had no CrackBerry! So, with no foreseeable way to communicate with La Liz and with our event coming the next day, and wanting to make sure we all knew what we were doing, and lalalalala, Sonia and I were starting to do a slow freak out panic type of thing. “What are we gonna do? How are we going to find her?"
OMG. OMG. OMG.
Sonia had a meeting to go to, and I wanted to hit the Media Center to do some very important blogging, so we said, well, why don’t we just take a quick walk around and see if we find her? We have seen her picture several times, yeah, and so there are like 25,000 people here, but ya never know, we may just bump into her. Sonia had run into an old college roommate from 18-years past so it wasn’t TOTALLY insane to think we could bump into Epi-Diva Pisani just hanging out among tens of thousands of people in a space the size of O’Hare. Sure, why not.
Well, you've seen a movie like this, you know how this story ends. We did exactly that – we ran right into her. She was coming at us down a long hall the size of an airplane hangar and I was like, “She wouldn’t be down this hall” and Sonia was like, “Wait, look. Is that her, no that’s not her.” And I was all like, “Hmmm, wait, no, but maybe, wait, that kinda looks like her, I want to read her name badge.” We were two total weirdos, eyeballing and squinting and otherwise sizing up this very small woman bounding down the hall on a mission, and who does it turn out to be but La Liz. AMAZING. RANDOM. So, we made plans to meet for dinner, Sonia ran off to her meeting, and La Liz and I ran off to a fascinating session on the Swiss Declaration.
Interesting side note - at one point in her career, Elizabeth spent some time in East Timor. She had ONE compact disc to listen to, and it became her lifeline, the music that helped her survive. Guess who? ANNIE!
I will write more about that session - do your homework first and click the hotlink and read up about it on the gay, sexy, healthy LifeLube blog - and will tell you all about our little thingie tonight.
Oh, BTW, I made it to Mexico City!
Okay, real quick here kids.
I am a bit EVIL at the moment, as I was stranded in Dallas last night, trying to get to Mexico City.
My flight out of Chicago was delayed, so I missed my connection in Dallas and had to spend the night at a Super 8 on the highway to and from HELL. Did I mention that it is 103 degrees here?
I was especially stressed because I am presenting, with colleagues, a workshop at 12:30 today during the special MSM pre-conference called "The Invisible Men." Thankfully, the organizers were able to change the time to 3:30 this afternoon for our session - "Making Anal Sex Safer for MSM in the Developing World." Whew! Who would want to miss that??? You can check out the slides from this baby a bit later today on the International Rectal Microbicide Advocate's blog.
So, I am coming to you live, now, from Terminal D at the DFW airport - must say, it is a delightful terminal. Have you ever been? Quite lovely as far as airport terminals go. Of course, I'd rather be in the opening sessions at the pre-con - grrrrr....
Say your prayers to the Goddess that I get to the pre-conference venue in time. My flight now leaves here at 10:30, and I will land, praise Her name, at 12:30 - and will then, nam myoho renge kyo, be whisked effortlessly to the conference venue.
All I will need is another liter of coffee and a fresh, clean wig, and I will be good to go!
All together now - RECTAL MICROBICIDES!