What do you know about AIDS?
Last week I had the privilege of watching what ended up being one of the most profoundly moving and eye opening documentaries that I have ever seen. The film, United in Anger: a History of ACT UP documents the work of the direct action advocacy group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) in New York city in the 1980s. The film brings viewers to the frontline of some of the most powerful sociopolitical demonstrations in Western history. ACT UP demanded that reactionary action and the prioritization of things like the release of antiretroviral drugs at a time when the United States government was taking no responsibility. ACT UP was a group that was founded through love, which was the only available resource of any significance to buttress this offence against the most destructive epidemic in recorded history.
A lot has changed since the time depicted in the documentary. A time when activists would spend weeks preparing for demonstrations, when individuals would spread the ashes of their lost loved ones in public places in an attempt to have their voices heard. They were united in anger.
When our lives don’t depend on it
During the discussion that followed the film, one viewer raised the point that it seems that far less grassroots action is present in North American society today, where the epidemic remains a huge issue. In a recent Huffington Post article, Michael Yoder, writer and activist living with HIV establishes his take on the changes that AIDS work has undergone due to modernization and bureaucratization. Yoder, a man who witnessed the early stages of action, argues that AIDS work has in fact “lost its heart”. [See full article] He suggests, I suppose, that we are neither angry or united anymore.
Yoder’s claim is perhaps unfair to make in light of all of the love, dedication and hard work that is put towards AIDS work on a daily basis, all around the world.The fight to end the worldwide HIV and AIDS crisis is as vital and challenging as ever but there are also a number of organizations that have been in place for years which have never lost sight of this. In Montreal alone there are a number of community based organizations with initiatives that focus on stigma, transmission, prevention, and criminalization (The Canadian Association for Education and Outreach (CAEO), COCQ-Sida and AIDS Community Care Montreal to name a few).The reality is that people continue to be infected everyday and the challenges that these individuals face still demand attention in a number of ways, on both a local and international level.
Some local campaigns:
What can you do today?
If you live in Montreal grab a loved one for World AIDS Day and go get tested or head to the Shag Shop where you can score some cheap condoms at only 25 cents a piece. The following locations offer rapid, free and anonymous HIV testing :
CLSC Metro – 1801 de Masonneuve West, Suite 300, 514-934-0354
CLSC des Faubourgs – 1250 Sanguinet, 514-527-2361
PGSS 3650 McTavish, 514-398-3756
Or, understand the kind of love that Michael Yoder is referring to by checking out films on the history of AIDS like United in Anger: A History of ACT UP and 30 Years From Here.
Check out the awesome and ANGRY and action-oriented work of AIDS Action Now which Ian wrote about here.
Volunteer or Donate: Get involved with a AIDS service organization in Montreal and donate your time and skills (or money!).
Attend the vigil and parc de l’espoir in Montreal, or the service at Saint James Church tonight and learn, observe, empathize, care, ACT!
Either way, do something.