POZ Exclusives : Sean Strub: What's Wrong With Our Movement

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December 5, 2005

Sean Strub: What's Wrong With Our Movement

A few weeks ago, I joined the Campaign to End AIDS events in Washington, DC.  It was organized mainly by people with HIV and two groups—Housing Works and the National Association of People with HIV—whose boards of directors comprise a majority living with HIV, as well as other groups likes the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and CHAMP.

The C2EA events—rallies, a march, civil disobedience actions and lobbying on Capitol Hill—were inspiring. But attendance was shamefully sparse because most major AIDS service organizations did not provide organizational or promotional support, let alone bodies.

In the 1980’s, many major AIDS service organizations, like AIDS Project Los Angeles, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and others, would have been central to organizing such an event. 

Back then, their groups’ board members and executive directors were getting arrested in civil disobedience actions in front of the Reagan’s White House, which, believe me, wasn’t any worse than the one we’ve got now.

So why have  our leading AIDS organizations mostly abandoned grassroots activism?

One big reason is that back in the 1980’s, most AIDS service groups were controlled by people with HIV and by those who were terrified they might have HIV. That gave those agencies a sense of urgency, anger and, yes, desperation that is absent today. The stakes felt higher to the board members themselves.

But the crisis is not absent. In fact, it is more urgent and desperate than ever.  Worsened by a presidential theocracy that is pushing its morality on America.  Anti-science, Anti-condom. Abstinence-only. Criminalizing people with HIV. None of this is about promoting public health.

It is about their campaign against sex. Bush’s implied message is that only immoral people get HIV. That's because, to them, the only "proper" sex, the only “good” sex, the only “permissible” sex, is the sex that only two heterosexually married people can have.

Did you read a few weeks ago about a new vaccine to fight the cervical cancers caused by the Human papilloma virus (HPV)? It’s 100 percent effective when   given to girls before they are sexually active.  But the abstinence-only crowd opposes it because it would , quote: “send the wrong message.” In their Orwellian logic, letting women die , whether from HIV or cervical cancer, sends a better message, one they think will frighten people  into the Bush-defined morality. 

Same with condoms. To them, condoms are dangerous because they protect against unwanted pregnancy and harmful infections and therefore decrease the fear of sex that makes abstinence possible.  That is why—bizarrely—we must warn our youth against them. As for HIV and those of us who have it, we are being used in the same way—as a weapon in their war on sex.

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