Letters to the Editor

  • Tuesday June 6, 2006
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Looking back, moving forward

Thursday, June 1 was an overwhelming emotional day for me. My friend Malc and I went to the Herbst Theatre for the event commemorating 25 years of the AIDS epidemic. It was inspiring, heart felt, and moving. As I sat in the partially filled audience, looking at an array of empty seats filled with those that were gone physically, but there in spirit, I remained calm and sedated.

The event was put together by Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who did a great job. Bishop Yvette Flunder started off the event by offering us all a blessing of hope. Mayor Gavin Newsom, as always, was eloquent. Representative Nancy Pelosi was poignant and told of her personal journey of 25 years in dealing with the epidemic. Supervisor Tom Ammiano was brilliant and delivered instructions for all to seek and find that activist in us and make some noise. I got his message loud and clear. My first role as an activist came very early with the onset of AIDS. The only thing we knew at the beginning was that it might be spread sexually. With that news I was involved in providing condoms at cost to customers at the Headlines retail stores in San Francisco. This was even prior to AZT.

But it was when the non-politicians took to the stand that my heart began to break down and cry. For they told the story from the "troops" point of view. And I am one of the troops. In particular was the executive director from Positive Resource Center, Brett Andrews. He did a very important thing in his speech. He thanked those of us who made it to the event in spite of our enduring morning rituals of pills, injections, diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue. And for me, via his acknowledgment, it allowed me finally the chance to relive and "feel" my personal last 25 years. From the condoms at cost program in the early 1980s to my own personal two and a half year legal battle in the California court system over being terminated for HIV, I felt all the feelings all over again – struggle, survival, and fear. I then recalled my time educating high school students about living with HIV and am reminded of their faces as they heard of my life and how AIDS altered my bigger picture.

Education is so important in understanding AIDS, especially for our youth, but that program that helped so many, maybe even saved a few lives, is now a defunct program due to a lack of funding. I ended my mindful AIDS journey at the Herbst with what would be my last activism role, the co-creation of what became known as HIV Life True Stories on the Gay.com network.

While my personal 25 years of activism flashed before my eyes I also relived each death, from the friends and best friends to my loving husband in 2001.

I hope everyone can take a few minutes out of their day this week to recall those you once held close that are now lost to this horrible, debilitating disease.

The event was called "Looking Back, Moving Forward." For me, looking back, statistically I should have been dead a long time ago. Looking forward, I remain hopeful. But looking at the "now" I remain again humbled and outraged at this entire travesty called AIDS. Though my body does not work as it used to, and numerous medications and side effects make my life difficult, my brain still remains sharp, my focus intense, and my voice articulate. I look forward to finding my new place in line with those troops who still choose to continue to fight.

Tom Finan

San Francisco

A dissident's view

While I acknowledge 25 years of dealing with HIV/AIDS phenomenon, there is another story to be told. There is also a quarter century of HIV/AIDS dissidents. Here's a tribute to Professor Peter Duesberg (www.duesberg.com), Kary Mullis, David Rasnick, ACT UP/SF, Christine Maggiore (www.aliveandwell.org), and Alive and Well SF. It's hard to express your beliefs when their different from popular opinion and that of the pharmaceutical machine. But integrity is still valued by some in this society.

It was Duesberg, father of retrovirus, who had his federal funding taken away; Mullis, creator of the Polymerase Chain Reaction, was discredited; Rasnick, co-creator of protease inhibitors, was ignored; members of ACT UP/SF were arrested and jailed; Maggiore, who questioned the meds, was denied entry to an AIDS conference; and Alive and Well SF is rarely mentioned in the media. Are we afraid of opinions different than ours? We should remember that a majority of people once believed that slavery was okay. A majority belief doesn't mean it's right.

It has never been proven that HIV=AIDS. The AIDS test is actually an HIV antibody test and regularly gives out false positives. Both AZT and protease inhibitors are cytoxic (kill cells) and the side effects include sudden death. Many AIDS believers refuse to take the meds. Perhaps after a quarter of a century we should reconsider HIV/AIDS theory and focus on LGBT rights instead.

Denise Jameson

San Francisco

No tears for Natali

Les Natali has kept the Patio Cafe closed for six years, and we're supposed to feel sorry that his permits have expired ["Permit protest stalls Patio Cafe project," May 4]? Excuse us, but it doesn't take that long to renovate a restaurant. As far as we're concerned, the city Planning Department is just doing its job by denying him a permit. All they're doing is following their own codes.

Those codes exist for a reason. Do we really want city agencies to disregard their own codes? If you don't like the law, then there's an obvious solution: get the law changed. But business owners don't get to ignore Planning Department codes just because they don't like them. Is it too much to ask that the city enforce its own regulations and treat everyone the same under the law?

We think it's a crying shame that Natali has kept the Patio in an abandoned state for years, but we're not going to shed a tear over permit problems of his own making.


Greg Shaw, President

John Emery, Correspondent

Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club


ACT UP loses its nerve

John Iversen from ACT UP/East Bay [Mailstrom, May 25] believes that there is a "middle class religious jihad" at work insisting that marriage is the most important issue facing our community. He assumes that there are no working class people interested in the benefits that marriage legally provides. Working class people cannot afford to hire attorneys like middle class families can to ensure legal protection. Why should working class queer people be denied marriage?

In the same letter, Iversen embraces the formation of civil unions. This is the hollow solution promoted by the Democratic Party – if they say anything about marriage equality at all. Unfortunately, civil unions do not provide the same legal protections as marriage. They are separate and unequal institutions.

When civil unions (and/or domestic partnerships) are offered it is an attempt to obfuscate. Marriage is important because it is the word used in state and federal statutes.  Using a different term only fools the uninformed into believing that they are receiving equal protection.

The Human Rights Campaign Web site lists 21 nations that have addressed marriage equality. Eleven countries (including New Zealand) have enacted civil unions that are more limited than marriage law. These 11 countries also provide immigration rights for same-sex couples. There are four countries in the world that allow same-sex couples to be married – Belgium, Canada, South Africa and Spain. The U.S. federal government does not provide any recognition of same-sex couples for marriage or immigration. Settling for incremental social change is not acceptable. How much more incremental should it be, Mr. Iversen?

I remember ACT UP as an organization that stood at the front lines of the battle to gain recognition and fair treatment for AIDS patients. Members didn't compromise their beliefs. ACT UP caught the world's attention as they exposed the callousness of government bodies and the greed of drug companies. They taught us that silence equals death.

Accepting a segregationist solution makes us look like fools that aren't worthy of full American citizenship. When we accept illegitimate solutions, we appear selfish and self-centered. Instead of compromising our integrity, we should act up and unleash our power.  American history has taught us that equal protections are gained only when they are demanded. We should accept nothing short of what we deserve.

Patrick Connors

San Francisco

New Pride name?

The quality of "pride" isn't always positive. Fascist bigots feel proud of their ugly hate. Creationists take smug pride in their antique ignorance.

In the June 1 Bay Area Reporter , a Burlingame resident proposes renaming our annual LGBTIQQA "Pride" events, as "Equality" events.

That would be an improvement. But the best name is "Queer Freedom."

Tortuga Bi Liberty

San Francisco

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