March 21, 2009

March 21, 2009
DC Activists Fight Back


Welcome to another blog entry and the middle of my weekend. I hope you are having a safe and great one.

Even though my travel and appearance schedule is very booked for the next month or so, I am still trying to get in my workouts. After my morning protein shake, I did an early bicep and back workout. Really seeing the difference after ramping things up in the workout area for the past three months.

Talking about ramping up, did you hear about the recent demonstration? The following was sent to me by Larry Bryant, the co-chair of co-chair of DC Fights Back.

Outraged DC AIDS Activists Demand Emergency Plan & Doubled Funding

HIV+ DC Residents in Civil Disobedience Demand More Attention the Potholes!

Responding to new data that shows that 3%—and likely much more—of the District of Columbia’s population is living with HIV, AIDS activists today risked arrest to confront District officials. In front of the Wilson Building, District residents living with HIV and their allies demanded that DC double the budget for HIV/AIDS related programs and create an emergency plan to tackle the epidemic. Carrying coffins the activists then shut down traffic demanding that the mayor take people living with AIDS as seriously as he has taken pot holes in the last week.

“As someone living with HIV in the District I am appalled that year after year we hear worsening statistics and yet the many ‘wake up calls’ from the Mayor and the City Council haven’t translated. We need an emergency plan and at least twice as much money for programs to really address the epidemic,” said George Kerr, co-chair of the AIDS activist group DC Fights Back.

Activists demanded a clear emergency plan that identifies the gaps in the DC HIV/AIDS response, sets firm goals and timelines, and sets out the budget needed for a full response. They taped these demands to the front of the Wilson Building and gave the district 40 days to prepare the plan—until April 29th—promising they would return with larger, bolder actions beginning that day until the plan becomes reality.

“We will not wait any longer—we will not be silent any longer—while people in our communities continue to die from AIDS,” said DC Fights Back Co-Chair Larry Bryant. “We need a full emergency response: from testing to substance abuse treatment to housing. If the Mayor can get every pot hole filled within 24 hours we do not accept people on waiting lists for housing or DC children being needlessly born with HIV decades after this became completely avoidable.”

They noted that mayor Fenty this month announced an emergency pothole plan. "Potholepalooza. Nine trucks, going around D.C.," Fenty said announcing a new hotline and 48 hour turn around. Activists note that people living with HIV/AIDS are waiting months on waiting lists for services they need including over 300 waiting for housing. As trucks roll out to fill pot holes, outreach efforts and HIV/AIDS programs are being cut at the Whitman-Walker clinic.

This week the District released data showing that DC clearly has the highest HIV rates in the nation and, were it a country, the District would rank 23rd in the world between Nigeria and Rwanda in HIV rates. Rates for Black men now reach 7%. “This report shows yet again that decades of racism and discrimination have resulted in racial disparities in the HIV epidemic,” noted Bryant who himself tested HIV positive in 1986. “We have to fight the racism, sexism and homophobia that continue in DC and stigma in our media, churches, clinics, and communities that blame people for their illness.”

DC Fights Back members commended the work of Dr. Shannon Hader of the HIV/AIDS administration but noted that no public health official could succeed in the face of this kind of epidemic without relentlessly strong political leadership and sufficient resources.

“AIDS is not a just a health crisis—it is a political crisis,” said Kerr. “DC is the capital of the wealthiest nation in the world: we will no longer stand by while bureaucracies get in the way of care and politicians make statements of outrage that aren’t backed by emergency action and money.”

DC Fights Back (DCFB) is an all-volunteer network of activist network people living with HIV/AIDS and allies in DC. More info: www.dcfightsback.org.

So pay their website a visit. I commend Larry and the rest of his group for fighting back. They are following their hearts and their passion just like we are doing in Florida.

Wishing you health, hope and happiness.

big bear hug,



Daddy Dab