Sunday, July 09, 2006

2006 AIDS Walk San Francisco, Sunday, July 16

The AIDS virus has been around too long for African people to be the highest reported numbers of new infections. The funds raised here for organizations like Black Coalition on AIDS (BCA) will do much to address the health disparities which continue to exist in this country where health and well-being is not a given for all.

I remember in the early years of the AIDS Walk when African Americans didn't necessarily see the impact of the HIV virus on their lives and the potential devastation of our communities. I remember when Muslim friends further alienated the sick with fingers pointing blame -- we've come a long way in certain respects, yet, with the increasing number of infections in the heterosexual community, especially among pre-menopausal women (newly divorced and dating), well much is left to be done.

I was there on those frontlines with Gary Harmon, Dr. Slaughter, both deceased, Supervisor Keith Carson, and others, advocating for services for African Americans, especially in the East Bay, where there wasn’t even an AIDS Office at the Department of Public Health. I set up the AIDS Volunteer Clearinghouse at the Volunteer Centers of Alameda County with the support of Nisa Kali and Nora Silver at the Volunteerism Project, in collaboration with Volunteer Center and AIDS Service Providers throughout the greater bay area: San Francisco, Contra Costa Country, Marin, Solano, San Mateo, and of course Alameda County, even within the county, state and federal prisons: adult and juvenile.

This is when I met Gerald Lenoir, former executive director at Black Coalition on AIDS, where I received emotional and practical support training; Gloria Lockett, director of Cal-PEP AIDS Research where I learned about how to take the prevention message to the street; and Rebecca at WORLD whose magazine showed us how the epidemic was global long before the first World AIDS Conference and appropriate treatment protocols for women were given the serious consideration they deserved.

I remember when Rebecca and her HIV-negative husband became the proud parents of twin HIV-negative girls.

I recall AIDS Volunteer Clearinghouse trainings and recruitment efforts for AIDS Project of the East Bay, The Center for AIDS Services, Project Open Hand (where I volunteered for a long time delivering meals to clients in my West Oakland community).

At that time there was the AIDS Walk, an AIDS Dance-a-thon, an AIDS Exerciser-a-thon, and other fundraisers. One year, I think I participated in them all.

The AIDS Volunteer Clearinghouse was the answer to culturally sensitive service provider recruitment and training, so that the volunteer pool would reflect those infected with the disease, both in sexual orientation and race. The funding ended in 1995 and with it the program.

I remember before taking the job at the Volunteer Center, my cousin Roland Lewis died in a New Orleans hospital emergency room because my auntie had to drive him to Charity after the Mississippi hospital near home in Picayune told her they wouldn’t treat him.

I recall going out of business…hoping the larger organization -- The Volunteer Center, would absorb the mission and continue to provide professional services to these grassroots organizations. I don’t know if this has happened.

But 10 years later, 15 years later these mom and pop HIV/AIDS prevention shops are huge institutions with big budgets, evidence that instead of working themselves out of a job, for some reason the need is steadily growing.

Friends like John Iverson, ACT-UP East Bay, are in their 15-plus year with the AIDS infection, t-cell count good. It really is possible to live with AIDS, not that anyone wants to.

Prevention is best, not necessarily abstinence…a stupid policy this government under George W. is attaching to funding where prevention education is working, places like Uganda.

You can join us Sunday if you like: Black Collective Walk - 1332. Visit my personal page at

I didn’t mean to be so long-winded, but hey after 25 years…one has a lot to say. Thank you for supporting AIDS Walk San Francisco with your tax deductible donation.


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