Monday, October 24, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

American Heritage caravan update # 3

By Vaughn Frick
American Heritage caravan rider
October 23, 2005
Laramie, Wyoming

This morning I awoke to the bustle of rush hour traffic around 6:30 a.m.
Traffic so early on a Sunday morning?
Oh. Still in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Last night our field representative Katee who had flown out to Portland to help get us started for our first two days flew back home to Washington, D.C. to further prepare on-site for the days of action once all of the caravans arrive in Washington, D.C. on November the 4th. We all loved having Katee on board, her tireless organizing and dedication, overcoming many obstacles from this nationwide series of actions and events to raise awareness of the critical state of HIV/AIDS services in this country and beyond.
We traded in our two cramped mini-vans for a delux Trailways tour bus, upholstered in a rainbow pattern and equiped with television, dvd player and a toilet.
We all found Salt Lake City to be a friendly and welcoming place; a liberal blue bubble popping up in the reddest of states. Our caravan is thankful for all of the dedicated work by our Salt Lake City support crew. Special thanks to Stuart Merril, David Ward, Missy Larsen, Jennifer Nuttall, Carl Bateman, Toni Johnson, Heather Bush, Becky Porter, Juan Lopez, and a big hippy hug for Aaron Garrett. In Salt Lake City our caravan was joined by Lonnie from Chicago, and Darrell, Glenn, Bruce, and Jef from Salt Lake city, bringing our caravan number of riders up to 13. As waves of smartly dressed Mormons filed into Temple Square, our bus departed for the long road to Laramie, Wyoming.
Hunting season also began this weekend. Alongside the freeway we saw dots of day-glo orange vests stalking the red-ochre hillsides hunting for game. More wide open grasslands spread out in all directions, stretches of sculpted hills and ranges mostly far away in the distance. Cows, Antelopes, and year-round fireworks markets.
Oh yes, we were quite nervous entering the land where seven years back Matthew Shepard had his body broken by monsters who left his bleeding remains to die in the cold tied to a fence. When we stopped in a Wal-Mart (so sorry) to buy sleeping bags for several of our riders, empty shotgun shells layed in the parking lot like old bones.
At about sunset we arrived at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where we were greeted by our host Travis. Since January of this year, eight students here have tested positive for HIV, a spike that has kicked up old ghosts of fear.
There are only two doctors dealing specifically with infectious diseases in the whole state of Wyoming. There are about two hundred HIV positive people living in this stae, but considering the dodgy way these statistics are collected, the numbers very well may be much higher. Wyoming and South Dakota recieve the lowest amounts of HIV/AIDS funding in all of the United States. Wyoming has the lowest rate of new infections in the nation at 15% of the national rate.
Part of the purpose of these caravans is to pick up new people and new perspectives from all across the land. Unfortunately the people dealing with HIV/AIDS in Wyoming are spread so thin that they couldn't spare the time to come on the caravan with us without neglecting those who depend upon them. But they did teach us some valuable lessons about the different needs of the rural communities as opposed to the urban ones which most of us come from. While Travis did point out one of his concerns was "Not letting people forget the differences between urban and rural (needs)" Bob also pointed out that "(an) advantage of being a small state is that we don't have a large bureaucracy to weigh us down." Considerations are thins like the distance between poz individuals (which inhibits networking and peer support) to lack of confidentiality when there's only one or two doctors in your town. And so many other similar issues we rarely think about except when thinking of sub-Saharan Africa or South America with their isolated populations.
Wyoming, due to it's population being so spread out and lacking in needed medical providers must send new HIV/AIDS cases to neighboring states for basic care! This is outrageous! Can you imagine a pandemic as AIDS has become and there are whole counties and even states which are not able to take care of their ill for lack of medical providers with the basic needed skills for ending so much needless and preventable death. And we are over twenty years into this pandemic now.
Last night in Laramie was held the first "Homegrown Drag Show" in a bona-fide cowboy bar (THE redneck cowboy hick bar in town, we were told) to benefit the Rainbow Resource Center. $1,150 dollars was raised, with a standing room only crowd. Only one crusty patron complained to the bartender, who told him to go sit back down, as the drag queens and their friends were far better tippers!

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At 8:35 AM, Blogger Adrian Creffield said...

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