December / January #5 : My View: Shifting Gears - by Niles A. Merton

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Newsletters
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join
Username:
Password:

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues




Table of Contents

Lisa Tiger Shows Her Claws

S.O.S.

Judith Light, Hollywood Activist

Spokes Model

Medical Marijuana

Where We Are, Where We're Going

WORLD's Champion

It Can't Happen Here

Tom Villard's Fall Season

Hollywood & AIDS

Going South

Dancing On Your Grave: Donna Minkowitz Gets Close To Fred Phelps, AIDS Funeral Picketer

It Pays To Advertise

Liquid Lunch

AIDS In America

Family Portrait

The Living End

AIDS Zen: A Visit to the Hospital

Hollywood's AIDS Moguls

Sex: Love Among the Ruins

Life: Hospitals Are Our Jails

Media: I Want My HIV

The Arts: A View with a Room

My View: Shifting Gears

POZ Insider

Call To Arms: Why Activism Matters

Checking In: Caro Diario

How Do You Really Feel?



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


email print

December 1994 / January 1995

My View: Shifting Gears

by Niles A. Merton

How '80s-style AIDS activism fails us in the '90s

Larry Kramer should shut up. His brashest child, ACT UP, would do well to GROW UP and calm down. They have pushed a permanent state of anger, desperation and selfishness as the most appropriate response to the AIDS crisis. While anger, desperation and selfishness are each utterly valid parts of our response to AIDS, they fall far short of what it takes to end the pandemic. Anger is indispensable as the bridge between despair and action, but it must remain a bridge and not a dwelling place.

The tactics of ACT UP have chalked up some notable successes -- creating public awareness of AIDS, watch-dogging drug companies and kick-starting the government and medicine in the 1980s -- but I believe those successes are outweighed by their failures in the '90s.

Taken together, anger, desperation and selfishness are called a tantrum: The strategy of choice for three-year-olds of all ages. Tantrum-throwing is marvelous for gaining attention, and in the short term, well-played tantrums can shock or coerce targets into capitulation. But as a way of life, tantrums and their component emotions are slowly destructive. Tantrums destroy credibility, so in time few or none care what tantrum-throwers have to say. Tantrums also erode civility and compassion, so a target's impulse to give way is lost in a growing disgust and impatience with the nastiness of the tantrums. By far, the worst drawbacks of indulging ourselves in these emotions are the victimhood in which they trap us and the blinders they put on our good sense.

The demand "make a cure for AIDS available now!" sets an example of the blindness of the tantrum-throwing mindset. Anger, desperation and selfishness have led many of us to call for a Manhattan Project to cure AIDS.

Upon further consideration, however, the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb in the 1940s, is not at all analogous to the study and cure of AIDS. Finding a cure for HIV and its destruction of the immune system is vastly more complex than the development of the atomic bomb.

The depth and breadth of our knowledge of atomic energy was relatively advanced as World War II raged on. Thus it was possible to assemble the best scientists in the field and focus their attentions on what they already knew was possible: Building an atomic bomb.

Before HIV, however, bio-scientists had barely scratched the surface of the immune system. Without such knowledge, it's unlikely there can be a cure for a disease as complex and multifactorial as AIDS. As with leprosy, physicians are becoming more adept at extending life and quality of life for people with AIDS through management of opportunistic infections. Nevertheless, science is hobbled in its search to cure the underlying process of HIV disease.

Why do we still know so little about the immune system after 12 years of intense study? Because researchers must compete for what little funding exists and, as one might expect, they tend to study whatever they can get funded. As angry activists and their allies have grown in political power to press the "instant cure" demand, scientists have increasingly structured their research proposals around various slim possibilities of finding a cure. This has gone on for more than a decade with little real progress. It's equivalent to a 17th-century patron offering a prize to the person who first invents a flying machine: Everyone immediately gets to work on random gizmos, but the guy who begins studying aeronautics will most likely eventually win the prize.

In 1994, we're left with a trashbag of failed "cures" and years of basic research on the immune system still to do. ACT UP's demand for a quick fix and the concomitant diversion of funds has led to bad science and, most cruel of all, a collapse of hope we've begun to see after the recent Yokohama International AIDS Conference. Anger and desperation blinded us, and the costs are counted in opportunities and lives lost.

Rage, selfishness and panic are all natural feelings that occur when the doctor looks one in the eye and says "You have AIDS, a terminal illness." We affluent Americans too often (and easily) have indulged ourselves in the vain hope that death, whatever its cause, can be diverted. But ACT UP and other tantrum-throwers such as Larry Kramer should take a deep breath, roll up their sleeves and face the fact that we're long overdue for a change of strategy.

Scroll down to comment on this story.





Name:

(will display; 2-50 characters)

Email:

(will NOT display)

City:

(will display; optional)

Comment (500 characters left):

(Note: The POZ team reviews all comments before they are posted. Please do not include either ":" or "@" in your comment. The opinions expressed by people providing comments are theirs alone. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Smart + Strong, which is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by people providing comments.)

Comments require captcha.
Please enter this number for verification:

| Posting Rules



Show comments (0 total)

 
[Go to top]

Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr Instagram
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar
POZ on Twitter

Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Poll
Should the U.S. gay blood ban end?
Yes
No

Survey
Smoke Signals

more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2014 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.