Monday, October 24, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

American Heritage caravan update # 2

By Vaughn Frick
American Heritage caravan rider
October 22, 2005
Boise, Idaho to Salt Lake city.

This morning we awoke in Boise, Idaho and dined from a wonderful breakfast spread prepared for us by our hosts Duane and Kevin and their support crew created for this caravan. All of the caravan riders felt energized and enthused for the road ahead of us leading to Washington, D.C., thankful for all of the love and support given us by our supporters in Boise. We drove through the vast expanse of the Snake river plain, a lot more flatness than this Oregon boy is used to seeing. Marches of rolling pastel hued hills and canyons ringed the horizon, from desert earth tones of tans and reds leading to deep purple/blue ridgelines hazing out far in the distance away from us. These hills took on an almost sensuous mode smoothed by millinia of erosion, great sleeping forms curled into themselves.
We drove through this plain at speeds of up to 90 miles an hour, as other vehicles sped past probably doing 100.
Welcome to Utah, the reddest of the red states so colored from this last election. We got curious looks from other drivers on the road, no doubt reading the large "END AIDS NOW" magnetic signs on the sides of both the caravan vehicles. No honks or yells, pro or con. The strength of the Portland caravan I feel is it's diversity of background and experience. Though mostly gay and male, our caravan riders all come from a diverse cultural background: Black, white, Native American, HIV positive and negative, full onset AIDS, newly diagnosed and long-term survivors, new and seasoned activists, and three of our riders have worked directly with the very social service agencies that provide the vital safety nets that those living with HIV/AIDS need to survive, so we do not drop dead in the streets from neglect as were the victims of hurricane Katrina in George Bush's America.
In the next couple of weeks during the life of these blogs I'll tell each of the American Heritage caravan's riders stories.
We arrived in Salt Lake City to a memorial and rally in the plaza at Library Square in the historic part of town. As was on the steps of the Boise capitol building the day before, thousands of empty shoes were lined up in rows covering a sizeable chunk of courtyard to remind everyone there of just how many people in Utah have died of AIDS. Since 1985, an estemated 4,000 people have been infected with the HIV virus in Utah. Over 1,000 of these people have died. One in four people infected with the HIV virus don't even know that they are infected, exposing yet more people to the grave risk of contracting this disease through unknown exposure.
I spoke with Seanna who is one of the many volunteers who stepped forward to work on this action. The volunteers would engage people passing by in dialogue about the Campaign To End AIDS and it's goals in finally ending this global pandemic that each day kills over 8,500 men, women, and children. Where Seanna was stationed were dozens of pairs of children's shoes neatly laid out to symbolize that it's not just adults engaging in high-risk behaviors that contract and die from this disease as is the common stereotype. When a baby is born infected with HIV, it's chances to reach adulthood are slim at best. She told of young children with hearts aged as if they were fifty from the constant medications needed to keep them alive, but rob them of their childhoods. She told of grandmothers who would start to weep when she told them what all of those little empty shoes represent. "These are not adults, they are children, and they are dieing every single day because our elected officials refuse to keep the funds desperately needed for research and services."
At the rally Salt lake city Mayor Caroon spoke about how breakthroughs can also come through education and anonymous testing, that in America over one million people are estemated to have HIV/AIDS, of these 250-300 thousand can not afford healthcare or medicine.
HIV/AIDS advocate Stuart Merril spoke that if the Ryan White care act is not re-authorized, the only thing that will be left to cut will be people's lives.
Ricky, Chris, and Lowen spoke from the American Heritage caravan.
Openly gay Utah state Senator Scott McCoy promised to bring the message to the legislators on capitol hill and educate them that these vital services need continued funding to keep those affected alive, and to end this pandemic.
Several hundred people walked through the Library Plaza today and saw this message, and many filled out cards supporting the goals and mission of this caravan, cards that we will deliver to their elected officials in Washington, D.C. during the first week of November.
After the rally the American Heritage caravan riders and their local support crew were treated to a catered feast at the Jubilee Center by Lavendar Catering and Construction. Dinner was Chicken En Croute, Caprese Bruschetta, Fall Pear and Gorganzola Salad, Garlic Smashed Potatoes, and Sauteed Fall Vegetables.
And you don't have to be over 21 to drink coffee in Utah.

For more information log onto: www.c2ea.org

To learn more about HIV/AIDS in Utah please contact Stuart Merrill,HIV/AIDSadvocateat:
stuartamerrill@hotmail.com

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