Saturday, October 29, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

American Heritage caravan update # 8

By Vaughn Frick
American Heritage caravan rider

October 28, 2005
Iowa City,Iowa to Aurora, Illinois to Chicago, Illinois

Last evening we slept on the floor of a cold basement at Trinity Episcopalion Church in Iowa City after eating dinner at the local Salvation Army soup kitchen. After being together on the bus all day there was no facility for showering or cleaning up. For me this was a needed reality check as to why we are on this caravan. Imagine having to live this realty daily while saddled with a terminal illness. That is the realty and fate that many of the estimated one million people living with HIV/AIDS in this great United States will face if the Ryan White Care Act is not reauthorized and fully funded. This is why this caravan is bearing witness to the dire state HIV/AIDS services in the heartland of this country, why we will be participating in the four days of actions when all ten caravans converge in Washington, D.C. on November the fourth.
Imagine being denied access to the medications which you need to live, to face death alone on the streets of America. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and those poor Americans left to die was a brutal wake-up call for all in this country unable to afford health care, for the hundreds of thousands Americans living on the edge with no medical insurance.
Iowa city is a reflection of America; on the surface another college town that has the feel of a tourist trap with many bright and flashy bars and entertainment facilities. The children of those who can afford this lifestyle walk the streets in hundred dollar shoes partying with their friends at night, while the invisible of that community struggle to meet their basic needs. This morning I walked out onto the roof of the church where we stayed, my footsteps crunching into the sharp layer of frost formed from last night's freeze. Below and across from this church I saw where the homeless were sleeping, their bodies pulled into the landscape's shrubbery for warmth, for protection from the cold and the night.
Several American Heritage Caravan riders in their lives have also been homeless, and struggle daily from slipping on the bureaucratic ice back into this urban kind of hell. To see this breed of abuse, of deprivation for them was as the fear of being trapped in an abusive relationship, one that leads to the morgue.
Last night a community forum was called at Trinity Church for this caravan, where 16 people from the community attended. There was a banner made from a sheet and cloth paint with C2EA's logo on it, made by two local teen-aged girls. We have it with us now on our caravan bus. We promised to carry it with us on our journey to Washington, D.C.
One of the American Heritage caravan riders, Joe, told a part of his own very moving story and related a telling conversation he'd had with his mother. "My mother asked me, 'Do you always have to fight other peoples battles?' I said, 'Yes. But the only difference is that this this time it's MY battle too.'"
A local speaker, Tim, said that they get 10 newly diagnosed cases of HIV/AIDS each month. He told us that the majority of these people are going to need to access Ryan White funds and ADAP. Without those funds being available their futures shall be bleak.
Still on the subject of those funds Tim said, "When I think about how we came from a 'gay cancer' which killed in weeks (of diagnosis) to today...I'm grateful for today." But one of his most poignant observations was that "if you make a friend of a person with HIV, you shall have made friends with your greatest source of information about HIV." So now you know. If you want to learn about something, go make friends with someone who's living it every day of their lives!
Caravan counselor Jack spoke on a more global level. He spoke about the destabilization of whole countries in Africa due to the massive numbers of younger adults dying, leaving only the elderly and the children. Many of the children have no role models, parents to teach them cultural values and to give them a sense of belonging and place. With out that these children are ripe for being taken advantage of by terrorist recruiters and roving gangs.
American Heritage caravan rider Chris spoke about the difficulties of reaching the black community with AIDS prevention here at home. The first issue he spoke of was that there is a general and historic sense of disenfranchisement amongst African Americans. The second issue he spoke about was the cultural bias against homosexuality and the way HIV is still associated as a 'gay disease'.
When Joe spoke again he led us in a chant (the beat was 1-2-3 1-2-3 1-2), w w w end aids now dot com! It was fun and people learned a valuable resource at the same time!
our next stop was in Aurora, Illinois, the home district of Republican Speaker Of The House Denny Hastert. Inside the Fox River Community Center we arrived at the start of a meeting called with a representative from Denny Hastert's office to speak about the utter neccesity of reauthorizing and fully funding the Ryan White Care Act.
One speaker said: "I have seen in other parts of the country people waiting for someone to die so they can get on services. I don't want to see Chicago come to that."
A worker in the social services spoke about her experiences before the Ryan White Care act was created: "I met a homeless woman whom I could offer nothing but my friendship and business card. A week later I got a call from the morgue. They said 'We have a woman here with no I.D;just a card with your name and number on it.' I don't ever want to go back to that."
This next part is reprinted from a joint letter to Illinois members of Congress about the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act:
As individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS throughout the state of Illinois, and as organizations serving people living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS in rural, suburban, and urban communities, e write to express our deep concern regarding President Bush's Rtan White CARE Act reauthorization principles. The CARE act is the nation's flagship response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic, having provided comprehensive medical and social services to poor,uninsured people who have no other options for healthcare since 1990. We wish to see the CARE Act continue in it's role of "safety net" by providing these lifesaving services to all individuals in need, regardless of where they live.
HIV/AIDS remains a life threatening infectious disease and a significant public health emergency. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one million people in the United States are living with HIV, including more than 405,000
with AIDS. Approximately 211,000 individuals need antiretroviral treatment but have no means to access them. Over 1,900 people languish on AIDS drug assistance program waiting lists around the country. The Institute of Medicine estimates that over 314,000 people with HIV/AIDS in the United States lack consistent care and treatment. Meanwhile, the demand for services grows steadily. Each year, more than 40,000 new infections occur in the United States;1,600 of those in Illinois. More than 30,000 AIDS cases and over 16,400 deaths due to AIDS have been reported in Illinois since 1981.
After five years of flat funding and cuts for essential HIV/AIDS prevention and care services, and without a commitment for new funding, the Bush administration proposes to shift significant CARE resources away from hard-hit states to address HIV/AIDS in less populous and rural states.
Rural areas, especially in the South, are struggling against longstanding healthcare access problems, which are exacerbated by increasing rates of HIV in their communities. While all individuals living with HIV/AIDS should have the ability to access quality care and treatment,, disparities in healthcare experienced by poor people in one part of the country should not be addressed at the expense of poor people in another part of the country. Stealing from Peter to pay Paul- and dismantling lifesaving services for vulnerable populations with no other means to access health care- is unacceptable. Illinois will withstand significant cuts in funding and will suffer diminished infrastructure and service capacity should the Bush administration's principles be enacted. Thousands of Illinoisans with HIV/AIDS will face life-threatening gaps in care if the Bush administration's proposal is enacted.
We call on you to provide leadership necessary to ensure that geography does not determine access to essential medical and social services. We call on Congress to increase CARE Act funding by $594 million and to devise a plan to distribute the resources in a way that is fair and equitable to every American living with HIV/AIDS in need of healthcare, rejecting the Bush
administration's faulty principles. We also ask for the maintenance of local control to determine the appropriate mix of vital medical and supportive social services in every jurisdiction that receives funding.
Since it's inception in 1990, the CARE Act has enjoyed strong bipartisan support because of its ability to reach those in greatest need in both urban and rural communities. We look to you to continue the CARE Act legacy by reauthorizing the program, appropriating sufficient funding, and ensuring geographic equity so that Americans with HIV/AIDS-wherever they may live-can receive the rational and cost-effective out-patient services they need to survive.

We then blew into the Windy City.

3 Comments:

At 1:22 AM, Blogger RobChicago said...

I was glad to help play "hostess" the gang. With my museum passes, some of the Caravaners got to see 2 of Chicago's museums.

I also invited anyone in recovery to a meeting with me and two came.

One guy from another caravan (Chicago became a stop for 2 carvans) is afraid he wont find another meeting unti they are in DC.
I couldn't find any in Michican where they are off too and I'm a bit bummed.

Hopefully, he and others in recovery will find meeting along the route or know how to hold meetings with each other.

It just takes being bold enough to say it to others I guess.

 
At 7:39 AM, Blogger C2EA American Heritage Caravan said...

Thank you, Rob, for your help and consideration.
-Vaughn

 
At 6:13 AM, Blogger Addison said...

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