Thursday, October 27, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

Caravan update # 7

By Vaughn Frick
American Heritage caravan rider

October 27, 2005
Omaha, Nebraska to Des Moines, Iowa, and Iowa City, Iowa.

Last night American Heritage Caravan rider Lowen visited a Omaha bookstore near where we were staying at the offices of the Nebraska AIDS Project to attend a Poetry reading by local author Matt Mason. By coincidence the book was a collection of poems called "When the Bough Breaks," the bones and blood of this book is about the author's experiences from loosing his own father to AIDS. After the reading many of the attendees there came up to Lowen to share their own personal experiences and losses from 25 years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Matt Mason at the end of the evening chose to donate all of the money that he had raised that evening to the American Heritage caravan to support our goals and journey to Washington, D.C.
Here's one of Matt's poems titled "Spring Break."
What do I remember clearest?
I remember running
the electric razor along his cheekbones,
his chin, throat, under his nose. Seeing the bright capillaries weave around his pores,
smelling the light
sweat as I erased a few days of stubble,
leaving the individual whiskers which refused cutting.
There aren't words for me
to remember. My plane landed in Omaha
after his last coughing syllables,
after he'd fallen into a kind of sleep.
My friends burned
marshmallows on a beach in Oregon as
I sat
in a hospital, nervous,
guilty over wanting to be somewhere else,
farther away, miles from this skin,
these hairs, the red lines ripe with virus,
the pain dripping slow and constant.
His one, open eye, reflected me,
blue, and I don't know if the reflection
went all the way through; if he
sensed my hand in his;
heard my stumbling biography;
wept somewhere
as his youngest son was at last
close enough to touch his face.

Copyright 2005 by Matt Mason
from "When the bough breaks"
published by Lone Willow Press
P.O.Box 31647, Omaha, Nebraska 68131

We next drove through fall-painted swaths of trees lining a rolling landscape of cornfields and small rural communities. We were received in Des Moines by a few local HIV/AIDS activists at St. John's Lutheran church, and were fed a lunch of cornbread and chili. (Our last three meals were of chili, although all good, hazardously incendiary during a long bumpity bus ride of people already burdened with health concerns.)
Iowa only began tracking HIV infection in 1998, an estimated 1,600 Iowans are today living with HIV/AIDS.
The Iowa AIDS Project here in Des Moines last year serviced over 250 clients.Iowa AIDS project is staffed by 11 people, 3 in case management and 5 in HIV prevention programs. Case manager loads are severely stretched to nearly the breaking point. Nearly all funds allocated go to case management over other needs such as housing and health care.Simple things like getting transportation to doctors appointments are a concern, along with the big ticket vital necessities such as drug and emergency assistance and access to medical care. A large percentage of local infections are from recent immigrant communities, compounded by a lack of interpreters and cultural barriers.
I spoke with Jay who is a client of Iowa AIDS Project, he got his HIV diagnosis in 1989, and today is battling just to receive the basic services which he needs to live. Out of gratitude he volunteers where he's needed when he is able to because of his health limitations.
David Vitiritto is the Fiscal Manager/ IT Specialist for Iowa AIDS Project, and has been working to save lives here for 13 years. Sitting in the Church basement David told me his message to take with us to Washington is " Don't let us down, the need is greater than ever, there are still people dieing of this disease. We've held at least one funeral each month here. People think that HIV is manageable,that the available drugs have curbed this epidemic, and that is bullshit!"

To learn more about HIV/AIDS in Iowa, contact:
To learn more about The Campaign To End AIDS, the American Heritage Caravan, and how you can help, contact


At 8:27 PM, Blogger J.p. said...

Hello I really like your blog I will definitely bookmark it! I have a home business association site/blog. It pretty much covers home business association related stuff.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger ZEUS said...

Hey guys,

Travis from Laramie here. It is good to read about where you are going and what you are doing. Also that you are not forgetting the lessons you learn in your travels. My heart goes out to you, please keep me posted on how things are going - even though I can't answer my phone when I am in class.

Take care!


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