HIV services agencies need us as much as ever
Last week I wrote about how the city of Dallas is planning to eliminate $325,000 in decades-old funding for HIV/AIDS services because of a huge budget shortfall.
A few weeks before, I’d written about how one local HIV/AIDS service provider is facing a 30 percent reduction in its budget next year as a direct result of the bad economy.
The other day, the Associated Press reported that charitable giving was down in 2008 for only the second time in more than a half-century of record-keeping.
This all goes to show that in 2009, perhaps more than ever, local HIV/AIDS service providers are in need of the LGBT community’s support. Which is why it seems so appropriate that Dallas Voice has chosen to sponsor a Lone Star Ride Team as a way to commemorate the newspaper’s 25th anniversary.
That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that I got involved for selfish reasons beyond just kissing my boss’ butt — something I’m not very good at anyway.
You see, I’ve been struggling for the last year or so with a chronic condition known as plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the tendons that run along the bottom of the feet.
This condition has prevented me from engaging in almost any physical activity that involves running or even prolonged standing.
So when Publisher Robert Moore asked if I wanted to join the Voice’s LSR team, it occurred to me that bicycling may be one of the few activities that wouldn’t result in excruciating pain.
I bought an inexpensive hybrid bike, and after a handful of preliminary "training rides," my feet seem relatively OK. To make a long story short, LSR has been a good excuse for this pack-a-day smoker to try to get in shape.
At the same time, though, it’s doubtful anyone in the LGBT community hasn’t been touched by HIV/AIDS in some way.
My first experience with the disease came when I was about 15. A good friend of my aunt’s, along with his partner, had contracted AIDS. In the days before anti-retroviral drugs, Harold and Travis quickly wasted away and died, and I remember the horror stories my aunt told about caring for them in their final days.
But what’s had an even greater impact on me have been the stories I’ve heard and written about in almost 2 Â½ years at the Voice— stories from legendary activists like William Waybourn and Deb Elder about Dallas’ response to the AIDS crisis.
The one thing that’s crystal clear from these stories is that if it hadn’t been for people like Waybourn, Elder and countless others who stepped up, there wouldn’t have been any response.
And 25 years later, it seems relatively little has changed.
HIV/AIDS service organizations still rely heavily on us, and some may even be in danger of going away.
If caught early and treated properly, HIV has become a manageable disease, but those are two huge "ifs." And the demographics have shifted to where an increasing number of minorities are affected by the disease, but does this really mean we should be any less concerned?
Lest you forget, we still live in a county where two current members of the Commissioners Court once argued in favor of a ban on condom distribution because they said the practice promoted immoral sexual behavior. Need I say more?
There’s still a lot of work ahead, and it doesn’t just involve marriage equality.
In the grand scheme of things, the Lone Star Ride seems like the least one could do, so I hope you’ll consider joining us.
For more information on the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, go to www.lonestarride.org. Team Dallas Voice is recruiting new members and accepting donations.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 12, 2009.