Dispatches from the fight against homelessness and AIDS
Posted by Sunny Bjerk , July 27, 2012
Before the start of the 19th International AIDS Conference this week in DC, many AIDS activists and allies began to wonder if AIDS activism was dwindling and being replaced with a quieter, more complacent involvement with the disease.
Clearly, the We Can End AIDS mobilization on the 24th turned that question on its head, but as one of the largest and most memorable AIDS street protests in the last decade, it does beg the question: Is AIDS activism on its way out?
This question was front and center in a session yesterday titled, “AIDS Activism Today: Reigniting the Spark.” Facilitated by Terry McGovern from the Ford Foundation, McGovern argued, “The AIDS activists from the 80s and the 90s have turned into AIDS professionals, running non-profits and AIDS programs, potentially altering the power and passion that used to mark our engagement with the disease.” McGovern and her fellow panelists discussed ways in which to reinvigorate the AIDS activist environment at home and abroad.
But I have to ask, is AIDS activism really dead? Some may argue it has lessened, and others simply posit that AIDS activism has changed from street mobilizations to online mobilizations conducted through Twitter, Facebook, and so forth. While calling Twitter and tweeting as forms of activism seems superficial and is an argument have previously refuted, it is undeniable that most, if not all, of the actions that took place this week at IAC completely saturated Twitter and reached allies and activists in an immediacy that would have been unthinkable a decade—nay, even five—years ago.
Movements, like all communities, are often required to adapt to new ways of communicating as new generations of activists and social progressives begin to see through the antics of the global political theatre and begin to involve themselves in resisting the status quo.
But maybe you are still asking, is bona-fide AIDS street activism dead?
I would answer that question with a resounding no. No, AIDS activism is not dead, and it never will be: civil disobedience is and will continue to remain an integral part of the fight against AIDS and reminding those in seats of power that we never let them forget, Silence = Death. Throughout the whole week I was witness to a protest against the Global Fund; a protest against the literal division between those who afford a $475 day pass and those who were confined to stay in the Global Village; a protest against the Canadian Health Minster for cutting HIV/AIDS funding; the Trans-Pacific partnership which could prevent AIDS medications getting to those who most need them; and the protest against DC Mayor Vincent Gray for his surreptitious speeches about the state of HIV/AIDS in the District. And these are just the protests I was able to get to, the actual list of protests is probably much longer.
The reason that I know AIDS activism is not dead is because an overpriced pill will not treat the HIV stigma, discrimination, and inequality that continues to run rampant in pockets of the world. I know that AIDS activism is not dead because even with the scientific advancements made in the last decade, that there are still those who are unable to simply afford medications that cost pennies to make. I know that AIDS activism is not dead because there continues to be a lack voices from people living with HIV/AIDS at the International AIDS Conference. I know that AIDS activism is not dead because we will not be silenced, and we will continue to fight for the rights and recognition of all.
See you in 2014 at Melbourne, folks.
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