Need A Last Minute Gift?

From our friends at The ONE Campaign:

 

Give the gift of music and hope this holiday season.

This World AIDS Day, (RED), ONE & Tiësto have teamed up to create a compilation album to help support HIV/AIDS programs. It topped the dance music charts in 33 countries and was the #2 album on iTunes over World AIDS Day weekend!

The album features an exclusive collaboration between Tiësto and Bono on U2’s “Pride” and some of the biggest names in dance music like Avicii, Calvin Harris and Diplo.

download DANCE (RED) Save Lives

Download DANCE (RED), SAVE LIVES.

This album is a great last-minute gift item! And the best part is all proceeds go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Make the dance music fan in your life happy and help save lives with just a single purchase.

Happy Holidays!

ONE

 

Light A Candle

My address at the AIDS Outreach Candlelight Vigil 2012:

You may have heard the saying, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”

For more than 30 years we have been struggling to support people with HIV. We have struggled with shame, anger, deep grief and injustice.

We have lost many good men, women and children.

Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. Friends.

It was easy back then to just curse the darkness- blame it for not being light.

But there were people who refused to do that.

They raised their voices, they publicly shared their grief, their outrage, their compassion.

They refused to sit helplessly in the dark- they searched for light. And because they found it, we have come a long way from the darkness of 30 years ago.

In some ways, the story of AIDS is something of a human triumph.

In moving from shame to dignity, people began to live longer with medication breakthroughs. People acted out of love, not fear.

People lit candles.

We are just learning that treatment is prevention- HIV+ people on medication are much less likely to pass on the virus.

That means getting everyone at risk tested. And if they are positive, to get them on meds as soon as possible. If we did this, we could stem the tide.

But we know the people most at risk are not being tested. We also know why: Denial, fear and shame are holding that testing room door shut. Cursing the darkness rises once again.

It’s time once again to search for candles to light.

I know we have a difficult job to do. We have to push testing without stigmatizing those infected. We have to ask people to care for their health- and the health of their community, without creating a too-rosy picture of life with HIV.

How do you say “Don’t get HIV. But, if you do get it, it’s not the disaster your worst fears whisper to you”?

It’s hard. But we believe we’re making progress.

Because the most important thing we have learned in 30 years is compassion. It’s the common denominator in all that we do.

It’s what we bring tonight to remember the loved ones we have lost to HIV- what we use to dignify their memory.

I believe that we are witnessing the beginnings of the triumph of compassion over the fear and stigma and shame and ignorance of our past. We are witnessing the beginnings of the inevitable triumph of light over darkness- but only if everyone lights that candle….

People at risk are people- they are worthy of dignity, compassion and respect.

People with disease are still people- they are worthy of dignity, compassion and respect. 

It’s what I believe. I also think it’s what you believe- because you’re here.

“It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

As a symbol of that optimism, tonight we light candles.

We represent our hope, our loss, our pain, our shame, our dignity and our resolve with the light of some flickering candles.

Because we refuse to sit in darkness.

Because dignity is worthy of light.

Presidential Proclamation for World AIDS Day 2012

WORLD AIDS DAY, 2012

- – – – – – -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

On World AIDS Day, more than 30 years after the first cases of this tragic illness were reported, we join the global community once more in standing with the millions of people who live with HIV/AIDS worldwide. We also recommit to preventing the spread of this disease, fighting the stigma associated with infection, and ending this pandemic once and for all.

In 2010, my Administration released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, our Nation’s first comprehensive plan to fight the domestic epidemic. The Strategy aims to reduce new infections, increase access to care, reduce health disparities, and achieve a more coordinated national response to HIV/AIDS here in the United States. To meet these goals, we are advancing HIV/AIDS education; connecting stakeholders throughout the public, private, and non-profit sectors; and investing in promising research that can improve clinical outcomes and reduce the risk of transmission. Moving forward, we must continue to focus on populations with the highest HIV disparities — including gay men, and African American and Latino communities — and scale up effective, evidence-based interventions to prevent and treat HIV. We are also implementing the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded access to HIV testing and will ensure that all Americans, including those living with HIV/AIDS, have access to health insurance beginning in 2014.

These actions are bringing us closer to an AIDS-free generation at home and abroad — a goal that, while ambitious, is within sight. Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we are on track to meet the HIV prevention and treatment targets I set last year. We are working with partners at home and abroad to reduce new infections in adults, help people with HIV/AIDS live longer, prevent mother-to-child transmission, and support the global effort to eliminate new infections in children by 2015. And thanks to bipartisan action to lift the entry ban on persons living with HIV, we were proud to welcome leaders from around the world to the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

Creating an AIDS-free generation is a shared responsibility. It requires commitment from partner countries, coupled with support from donors, civil society, people living with HIV, faith-based organizations, the private sector, foundations, and multilateral institutions. We stand at a tipping point in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and working together, we can realize our historic opportunity to bring that fight to an end.

Today, we reflect on the strides we have taken toward overcoming HIV/AIDS, honor those who have made our progress possible, and keep in our thoughts all those who have known the devastating consequences of this illness. The road toward an AIDS-free generation is long — but as we mark this important observance, let us also remember that if we move forward every day with the same passion, persistence, and drive that has brought us this far, we can reach our goal. We can beat this disease. On World AIDS Day, in memory of those no longer with us and in solidarity with all who carry on the fight, let us pledge to make that vision a reality.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States do hereby proclaim December 1, 2012, as World AIDS Day. I urge the Governors of the States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and the American people to join me in appropriate activities to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and to provide support and comfort to those living with this disease.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of November, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.

BARACK OBAMA

Study: Access to HIV Services for Gay Men Worldwide Stunted By Homophobia

Global study finds homophobia, comfort with service provider, and community engagement make significant impact on access to condoms, lubricant, HIV testing, and HIV treatment

A large-scale study of gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), conducted by the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), indicates that only one third of MSM can easily access condoms, lubricant, HIV testing, and HIV treatment. Combining a multi-lingual online survey and focus group discussions, the study suggests that structural barriers like homophobia play a significant role in blocking access to HIV services for MSM, while greater comfort with service providers and community engagement are associated with higher levels of service access.

The MSMGF’s study aimed to identify barriers and facilitators that affect access to HIV services for MSM. The online survey conducted this summer included 5779 men from 165 countries.  In addition, the MSMGF collaborated with African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) to conduct focus group discussions with a total of 71 MSM across five cities in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Of men who participated in the online survey, only 35% reported that condoms were easily accessible, 21% reported easy access to lubricant, 36% reported easy access to HIV testing, and 42% reported easy access to HIV treatment. Levels of access differed across low-, lower-middle-, upper-middle- and high-income countries, with reduced access to services more commonly reported in lower-income countries.

Percent of MSM reporting that condoms, lubricant, HIV testing, and HIV treatment
are easily accessible
(organized by country income level using World Bank country income classifications)

“Such poor levels of access at the global level are unacceptable,” said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Director of the MSMGF. “The differences in access by country income level are especially important to note as the Global Fund moves into a new funding model where countries are grouped into bands by income level. Even in upper-middle-income countries, MSM still have extremely low access to services. Without targeted funding to MSM and other key populations, the new funding model may continue to deteriorate levels of access for the groups most affected by HIV.”

The MSMGF research team also conducted analyses to identify barriers (factors associated with lower access) and facilitators (factors associated with higher access) that impact the ability of MSM to obtain condoms, lubricant, HIV testing, and HIV treatment.

Adjusting for country income, greater access to condoms, lubricants and HIV testing were associated with less homophobia, greater comfort with health providers, and more community engagement. Among participants living with HIV, higher access to HIV treatment was associated with less homophobia and greater comfort with service providers.  Greater access to lubricants and greater access to HIV testing were also associated with less outness (the degree to which others know of one’s sexual orientation) and fewer negative consequences as a result of being out, respectively.

“As we collectively forge ahead into the new territory of treatment-based prevention, it is clear that many of the old challenges remain,” said Noah Metheny, Director of Policy at the MSMGF. “Addressing structural barriers remains essential to realizing the potential of HIV interventions for MSM, and it becomes more important with each new prevention and treatment option that is made available. Investments in the development of new interventions must be accompanied by efforts to increase access.”

The quantitative data from the online survey was supplemented with qualitative data from focus group discussions, helping to place barriers and facilitators in the broader context of the sexual health and lived experiences of MSM. Focus group discussion participants identified barriers and facilitators that were highly consistent with those found in the online survey, and many participants explained the ways that structural barriers at the policy, cultural, and institutional levels cascade down through the community and individual levels to block access to services for MSM.

Focus group discussion participants described how structural barriers like stigma, discrimination, and criminalization force MSM to hide their sexual behavior from health care providers, employers, landlords, teachers, and family members in order to protect themselves and maintain a minimum livelihood. The inability of MSM to reveal their sexual behavior to health care providers was linked to misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and delayed treatment, leading to poor health prognosis and higher risk of transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections to partners.

Conversely, focus group discussion participants explained that the negative consequences of structural barriers were moderated by the existence of safe spaces to meet other MSM, safe spaces to receive services, access to competent mental health care, and access to comprehensive health care. Participants described MSM-led community based organizations as safe spaces where they could celebrate their true selves, receive respectful and knowledgeable health care, and in some cases receive mental health services.

“The study’s findings underscore the urgent need to improve access to essential HIV services for gay men and other MSM worldwide,” said Dr. Ayala. “Interventions must both disrupt the negative effects of barriers and bolster the protective effects of facilitators. Study participants clearly indicated that community engagement and community-based organizations are central to moderating barriers and facilitating service access. Successfully addressing HIV among MSM will require a real effort to address structural barriers, and the findings from this study suggest that investing in MSM-led community-based organizations may be the best way to do that.”

Agreed. MSM-led community-based organizations must continue to work tirelessly to eliminate fear, shame, stigma and ignorance. They are all still very much with us.

And they’re killing us.

Related articles

World AIDS Day 2011

This time of the year is probably the best time (at least in our hemisphere) for World AIDS Day. Our twenty four hour days are filled with more darkness than light in December than any other month of the year. In some places it can be very dark and dreary, indeed. It’s an appropriate time of the year to remember the darkness of HIV.

The darkness can be frightening.

We have sometimes been very afraid here in our communities, in our states, in our country and in our world, because at times, it has been very, very dark. I especially remember the darkness and terror of 30 years ago when AIDS made itself known.

I also remember the panic that ensued- people bullied, driven from their families, homes, schools and places of employment out of fear and ignorance. Gay men were shamed and vilified openly by politicians and communities and churches.

I remember the shame that halted progress for research, treatment and prevention. I especially remember people- my friends- who wasted away in front of my eyes. Some died painfully and alone- their families too ashamed to ask for help or proper care.

We have lost good men, women and children to HIV/AIDS. Families have been broken, beautiful lives have been twisted by suffering.

It has been very dark, indeed.

But in this darkness, in this December, there always flickers the promise of light.

This disease can now be treated- treatment is now quite possibly the key to prevention. Shame has decreased. It is not gone, but it has decreased.

In this promise of light, I remember with gratitude the people whose bravery has driven away darkness. Whose voices refused to give in to hopelessness or complacency or fear. They got us here.

HIV is still here; it is still among us, it is still causing fear and shame. But the voices of reason and compassion have grown stronger.

You have heard those voices. You also are those voices. And when we use our voices to proclaim the truth- that disease is not a reason for judgment and shame- the light grows stronger.

When we refuse to give in to fear, we change for the better- and so does the world.

As a gay kid growing up in Montana, I remember walking in the cold dark of a wintery Big Sky, feeling alone, misunderstood and very small. But I also remember being under that same dark sky with friends and family, working happily to build a bonfire beside the skating pond. The dark of the night is no match for the voices of friends- especially when they’re united in a common purpose.

As a gay man living with HIV in a rural state, I know that my voice alone isn’t going to make much of a difference when it comes to education, treatment and prevention. It’s only together that we can truly make a significant difference for the lives of all HIV+ persons in our country and in our world. Because there is still work to be done. That’s why I”ll be going to a vigil tonight, holding a candle  in the dark with other people who know what it’s like to feel small and alone

The darkness never really goes away- but it’s also never a match for the voices and presence of friends. Especially when there’s a fire to build.

My Homily, World AIDS Day, 2010

(This is the text of the homily I gave at the interfaith World AIDS Day service at Grace United Methodist Church in Billings last night. The scripture readings were from Isaiah 43 and psalm 22)

I remember when World AIDS Day was different than it is now.

I remember when we gathered in the darkness with candles and listened to words and music that were designed to comfort- but we all knew that comfort was a luxury we couldn’t afford. We were terrified.

We remembered the dead. We hugged the living, and the very sick. We held the hands of people who couldn’t tell their own families that they had lost or were going to lose the most important person in their life. We cried.

Our grief and fear were the engines that drove us back then. We were sick of burying our friends. We were tired of trying to defend the ways we struggled to love. We were working hard to be responsible- to make safe sex cool. We fought to get programs and found organizations that would take care of the often very simple needs that the government couldn’t- or wouldn’t. And the fear- some of you can remember can’t you? It was an entity that lived in our midst, a specter of doom that we couldn’t shake.

Because the work seemed to be so overwhelming and the fear, shame and hopelessness we fought was exhausting, we needed our sorrowful mothers, our indignant sisters and our caring brothers, fathers and friends to carry us.  And carry us they did- often at great risk to their personal livelihoods and professional credibility.

There are people still doing this work because they remember the pain, remember the fear, and remember the exhaustion echoed in the psalm we heard tonight:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

We remember. Especially tonight, we remember. We remember that we never want to see it again.

That is the purpose of memory. The pain of those memories has become our strength.

This is our Seder, I daresay our Holocaust.

Only, in this we are not bound together by race, by religion, by nation or even by faith. I think we are bound together by our naked humanity, our compassion, our memory and our hope.

Isaiah gives voice to the hope we share- and not in grand or exalted words, in very simple words actually.

“Do not fear. I have called you by name. You are precious in my sight.  I love you.”

Much like Isaiah, John Donne’s meditations on life, death and salvation in what have come to be known as the Holy Sonnets, show the majesty and humility in the ordinary. And like Isaiah, he works to remind us of a perspective that relies on the struggle of faith.

His familiar lines echo in our world today, where we can instantly see war and famine and suffering- even from opposite places on the globe- places that we have no context for, places that we can only imagine, spurred by the small glimpse on our television or computer screens. The question he asks more than 400 years ago, is still relevant today- Why do we fear?

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more, Death, thou shalt die.

Death has only the power we give it. Now life, that’s the true power here. And the life that lives not only for itself, but also for the greater good. Or, as Donne would say, for the greater God.

This is the movement from the psalmist to Isaiah- despair gives way to the reality of God’s infinite love, protection and mercy.

The psalmist gives voice to the doubts and grief brought on by suffering.

Isaiah gives voice to the promise of love, of life, of joy brought on by seeing life as precious, and seeing our own perception as limited.

In short, these two proclamations give us the breadth of human experience. It would be easy to reflect on the pain, the suffering, the agony and the fear. But I think that what we need right now is to celebrate the spirit of life, of courage, of hope.

I think that’s what brings us here tonight.

We are here because we all believe that coming together lessens our pain, strengthens our resolve and renews our courage. We know that HIV is still infecting Montanans- too many. They are often young, they are Native American, and women. Many are not being tested because of the fear, the stigma and still more fear.

We are here because we need the habit of coming together. We need to be each other’s memory. We need to remember that we are not alone. To remind one another when we forget. To comfort one another when we are sad, to celebrate with one another when there is joy. To gather strength in the face of difficulty. To counter ignorance and fear with the truth and with compassion.

To be here now. To show up.

Woody Allen said “80 percent of success is showing up.” I think he had something there.

As a therapist, sometimes the only thing I can do for someone is to show up. To be there with them. To quietly see them for who they are- a precious person who may be lost in the confusion of pain and fear. And who won’t always be lost. Especially if they have someone to join them on the journey out.

It’s not about solving a problem or fixing anything.

It’s about being present and being awake.

My being present involves something a little different than it used to. HIV lives with me. It is a guest in my house. It is the guest I never openly invited, but nonetheless it sits in my living room, it gets into my refrigerator, hogs the bathroom and often makes me just want to go to bed and stay there.

When I was first told I had this “intruder” in my house, I felt strange. Somewhere between elation and anger. I really can’t be more specific. I do remember thinking I had to slow down. I had to stop and sit down and wrap my head around this.

I had to decide what to do. And for me, this was serious. This was the decision that was going to shape the rest of my life. I had to decide how I was going to treat this uninvited guest.

For me there were only two options: I could either hate it, or I could love it.

If I hated it, I would live my life as an angry man, always disappointed, always suffering, always asking “why me?”, never seeing truth, beauty or kindness. I would be causing most of my own suffering.

If I loved it, I would be free.

It was that simple.

And, really, what was not to love? This is my reality. Truth is love. Hate is suffering. And HIV is my reality. The sooner I make friends with it, the sooner I find out what it has to teach me, the sooner my own salvation becomes obvious. This is simply a virus, doing its job. It is not a moral judgment, or a sign of anything but reality.

It is often simply a microscopic sign of the reality that human beings will do almost anything to be loved.

So, I love my little guest. I accept my reality. To be honest, I’m grateful for him. (I’m not being sexist, it’s just easier to think of the virus as him, somehow) Without this home invader, I think it would have taken me a lot longer to wake up. I would have had a longer, more painful road to deeper awareness. I wouldn’t have so easily seen the love that surrounds me every day. I wouldn’t have been able to put up with all of the harsh judgments that people with HIV have to put up with.

I guess I see my role as very simple: I’m here to teach some people how to love better. If they can overcome their prejudice and love me, the gay, HIV+ former priest- they can love anybody!

And I get to learn how to love better in return.

I think there are three great reasons to gather here tonight: To remember, to be present with one another, and to choose love instead of hate. That’s the lesson.

But you get to decide how to love- that’s the human prerogative in all this. You get to decide how to use your gifts, how to stand up to ignorance, how to offer your heart in the face of anger and hatred.

From the psalmist to Isaiah, to John Donne to you and me here in this place the lesson is being passed down.

“Death, be not proud” because, Death, you are not the greatest thing there is.

The God who loves me is always here, even if, like the psalmist, I have my doubts. God is the one saying “I have called you by name, you are mine. I love you and the world is not big enough to contain that love.”

If we listen closely, we can hear the words of God in our own hearts: “Always choose love, even when it’s hard. I promise you will never regret it.”

Tonight, let’s vow to pay attention to that voice.

Choose love.

Even when it’s hard.