As an organizer of the HIV Forums on crystal meth discussed in your June 2004 cover story [“Can We Talk?”], I want to clear up an important point. My fellow organizers and I grew angry as more and more of our friends became infected with HIV or ravaged by crystal without a community response. Our goals for the forums—to raise awareness and educate gay men—are transparent and genuine. They do not include making a profit. Although actor/activist Harvey Fierstein took issue with our level of financial accountability to [HIV-focused health center] Callen-Lorde’s board of directors, I still hope he remains engaged with these issues—we need his voice, prominence, passion and concern for our community. Indeed, we need the voices of every gay man to talk to one another about HIV, crystal and overall health.
Cofounder, HIV Forum
New York City
While I appreciate the work being done in New York City to raise awareness about the link between crystal-meth use and HIV, I hope these rap sessions quickly expand into outreach programs. In Los Angeles, outreach workers trained in both HIV prevention and drug counseling go into sex clubs and bathhouses. They know how to have a meaningful discussion with someone on a three-day meth binge who just wants more. I applaud the fiery speeches, yet as a former member of ACT UP/New York, I’m a firm believer that talk is good, but action is better.
HIV and domestic violence are two health crises that need to be talked about together, and I’m glad POZ is shedding light on the topic [“Crimes of the Heart,” June 2004]. But Stacie Stukin repeatedly asserts that service providers are only now confronting the problem and beginning to respond to it in meaningful ways. Many of us active in the fight against domestic violence have been responding to this dangerous combo in meaningful ways for more than a decade. “Twin Epidemics,” my article cited in the story, was published eight years ago. Programs in New York City, Tucson, Boston, Los Angeles and other cities go back at least that far. So while the topic may be new to POZ, there is already a wealth of experience in confronting it in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
I am disgusted that the NAMES Project is refusing to tour the AIDS Quilt [“Loose Threads,” June 2004]—locking it up and showing only a few sections here and there, as if that will impact anything. With the idiots in the Bush administration not giving needed money to AIDS organizations and with gay men snorting crystal and banging away unsafely while infections rise, don’t the Quilt’s handlers think the loud statement and free press from a full display would be a wake-up call? They have decided to silence more than a million voices when these voices need to be heard. Someday, my name may end up as a patch on that Quilt, and I’ll be damned if it will be kept silent. Give us back our Quilt so we can make a difference.
After 14 years of volunteering for the NAMES Project, this is no longer the same Quilt I signed up to serve. The old Quilt had power—to educate, move and shove this epidemic into the faces of those who wanted to ignore it. It was the voice of the disenfranchised—those who suffer the most from AIDS. But the NAMES Project has abandoned them. The Quilt has become polite—not political—and all about money. The upcoming display—in Washington, DC, on National HIV Testing Day and then in the public eye touring national malls—may seem positive. However, its funding comes from a pharmaceutical company—the folks with overpriced products who lobby Republicans. The Quilt I knew came to DC in October of presidential election years. Where will it be this October? The Mall of America?
Surf City, New Jersey
On June 25–27, the NAMES Project displayed 1,000 Quilt blocks in Washington, DC—the largest section shown since 1996. NAMES Executive Director Julie Rhoad told POZ that the community pressure surrounding Cleve Jones’ departure had nothing to do with the showing.
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