Today is National HIV Testing Day 2011. Another opportunity for those who don't know your status to access free testing sites to become empowered with the knowledge about HIV/AIDS and it's impact in our lives. As a continuing public service, we offer a link to a testing site locator that will find the nearest outlet to your location. Click to http://locator.aids.gov/ To further call attention to this health issue, we would like to share a letter from Mr. Mike H. who wanted to share his insights, observations and opinion concerning AIDS in Arkansas. The words are his own, with a small edit by request .
I have not over the past couple of years given voice to my opinions as to how things are handled by ADH, or the CDC, other than make suggestions as to identifying issues, and possible ways to address issues and concerns of those of us that are living in the State of Arkansas with HIV disease. But, after submitting my application to the CPG and fully disclosing by choice and much thought, I know that now is the time to express not only my opinion, but hopefully give direction to the formation of a beneficial group for the State of Arkansas.
I've been reading and thinking on all that is going on with the CPG regarding offensive questions, bylaws, and meetings, I need to bring something to light.
While not trying to discount anyone, there is something more important than bylaws, and what the CDC requires, and that is the people of the State of Arkansas that are currently living with HIV/AIDS and know it, those that have it and DON'T know they have it and are farther spreading it, and those that will be exposed
I have lived with HIV disease for 26 years now, and know what it is like to live in fear, to be attacked by the press as part of a group of people, community at large, and by family members as well strictly based on two(2) points of contention. 1. My being openly Gay. 2. Having HIV Disease.
In the past I have held the hands of those that were thrown away like dirty diapers by their families, medical communities, and dismissed as being part of the disposable people by the Federal Government at large. I have made the phone calls to families of those that have passed and been told by a father " I'm glad that the little son of a bitch is dead, he got what he deserved."
I have sat in hospital emergency rooms with someone in distress, and been told that "You and your kind are not welcomed here and to leave or face arrest for trespassing.", and driven 4 hours to a hospital that would take "one of those people". While later having to physically defend myself from people that wanted me dead for assisting and caring for "one of those people".
I have seen others condition's worsen while someone was more interested in getting a form filled out for the CDC to collect information as to whom that person had sex with over the past 10 years.
I'm aware of circumstances where a "special" bathroom was used that had only cold running water, groceries and food was delivered and sat on the front porch, with the person looking through a window because their relative was standing in the front yard with a shotgun willing to shoot - if they came out of the house. These types of situations, as much as I would like to believe are a thing of the past, are still happening.
That said, We are now 30+ years into this disease, and the patterns the past are re-presenting themselves in the form of bureaucratic red tape and what to do if someone steps "out of line" in a meeting or says something off color, or thinks out of the cookie cutter model that officially "works" but in reality doesn't do anything but generate paperwork that is beneficial to no one other than the ones passing the paperwork.
I received notice last night that 1 out of 5 Americans is HIV positive and has no knowledge of their status, with the main reason for not getting tested is FEAR and STIGMA. At this time WE have the tools needed to educate the public at large as to testing, medical treatment, and how to live with this disease, yet are limited to "traditional" avenues of education and outreach.
This is the time for a Group to be formed that can allow itself to think outside the norm, and work toward getting rates of exposure under control as it is generally thought to be "under control" when it obviously is not the case.
Being that we are all adults and know how to act in a respectable manner, to waste time fretting over the finer points of what is to be considered proper points of rule, a stated mission of purpose should be the FIRST task accomplished as without this, there is not a goal that can be achieved in structuring any type of effective organization.
When rules and regulations, demographics, and paper shuffling take precedence over human lives, then I have to question the validity of any organization whether it be a local, state, or federal entity.
One final thought about the questionnaire with the disclosure questions attached. Granted that to be able to have a true cross section of the population represented, disclosure is a must, but being asked to disclose should be separated from the membership process, and done in such a way that no one knows who has been contacted.
It is my opinion that anyone and everyone that is involved with the CPG, or any other organization that is Govt. funded be tested to better understand what the process from testing, the waiting to get results, getting the results and post testing counseling is like for the person getting tested. As testing, I assume will become one of the priorities of this group.
I'll step down off my soapbox now, and let someone else have a chance.
God Bless each and everyone,