Monday, October 31, 2005

C2EA American Heritage Caravan

On the road with C2EA

By Vaughn frick
American Heritage caravan rider.

Indianapolis, Indiana to Dayton, Ohio.

The events that had been planned for our caravan arrival in Indianapolis fell through at the last moment for a variety of reasons and excuses. We often don't know what to expect, when or if we will be able to eat, or even where we will sleep till our big bus rolls into the latest city on our long road to Washington, D.C.
In Indianapolis we were able to get a brief clip on the local FOX news television station only after we called them while on the road and within hours of arriving there.
A few days back in Iowa City the local media totally snubbed us and the community forum about the Campaign To End AIDS. After this event, we heard that people who had attended this forum where so outraged that they went and barricaded the parking lot of the local television station till they gave some coverage to the issues and goals of this caravan.
Our next stop in Dayton, Ohio, progressed very well. Dayton is rich in history yet declining in population as it's job base shifts mostly overseas. It is here where those metal pop-tabs on soda cans were created, as well as those plastic twist-rings on bottled water. The Wright brothers had their bicycle shop here where the first airplane was built. Ten stories down in a secret bunker inside of Wright/Patterson Air force Base supposedly lie the bodies of aliens salvaged from Roswell, New Mexico.
There was a large rally downtown at noontime at Dayton's Courthouse Square to receive us and bring our message to the people of Dayton, and for us to hear their concerns about HIV/AIDS to take with us to Washington, D.C.
openly Lesbian Dayton Mayor Rhine Mclin spoke about the importance of education and HIV prevention programs in stopping this pandemic.
People also spoke of their personal experiences living with HIV in this community where the specter of stigma haunts their lives.
Keith Matthews said "I've been living with AIDS for 16 years, I lost my first friend to this epidemic 20 years ago last month, and I lost another friend just last month,and countless friends in-between. One day I hope to stand here and say that I've been cured of AIDS."
Donald Woodward spoke as a heterosexual African American, and the message that he wanted us to take from him to Washington, D.C.," People here who are living with this, we have a lot of issues-including denial. Apathy is a joke, it's a normal human function to have sex. That is the reality of the world that we live in."
According to the centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 15,000 people in Ohio are known to be infected with HIV, with an additional 5,000 who are infected yet do not know it. In the Miami Valley, where Dayton is located, 1,300 people are known to be living with HIV/AIDS,and approximately 500 here are infected and also do not know it. There are an additional 900 to 1,000 newly diagnosed (reported) cases added to these numbers each year. 22% of these cases are women.
Bill Hardy is the Executive Director of AIDS Resource Center of Ohio, and is a strong advocate for HIV/AIDS services in an area covering 35 counties.
Bill Hardy spoke of his battle in a recent ARC Ohio newsletter: " Earlier this year we learned that severe and disproportionate cuts to Ohio's HIV/AIDS programs were being considered. Our rapid and unprecedented combined efforts seem to have been successful in heading off the State's cuts, at least for now. But we continue to be told that there are no promises. For two decades we advocated for increased resources to address the "new" pandemic of HIV/AIDS. Now we're fighting with all our might just to make sure we don't slide backwards."
When I asked Bill what it would mean to Ohio if the Ryan White CARE Act was not reauthorized and fully funded, and he said that vital programs such as emergency assistance,primary services, and basic medical care will go away.
Dayton is a part of the "rust belt" of America where many manufacturing jobs have closed down or moved their production overseas. As these jobs and there workers leave this area or are unable to find new work, this also takes away the needed tax base for social services, including HIV/AIDS care and prevention.
I was told of a former client of the AIDS Resource Center who recently committed suicide by jumping off a ten story building, where his body laid till found by a security guard.
This is indicative of what will happen if we fail.


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