by Reggie Smith
"'Cause what I wanna do and what I'd like to tell you; May not be as you see. As you live today, what I wanna say- Be ever wonderful in your own sweet way."
Earth, Wind & Fire
Muhammad Ali would say, "Float like a butterfly sting like a bee; you can't hit what you can’t see." I have always been inspired by his ability to stand up for what he believes in, and his ability to create his own reality. His stance against the Viet Nam war flew in the face of social acceptability, but proved to be prophetic, in my humble opinion. I always admired how Muhammad Ali stayed true to his destiny, no matter what. Muhammad Ali put his faith and principles ahead of his own safety and security. Similarly, like with many other struggles for social change, the gay community also had to take a stance and fight for the lives of everyone diagnosed with HIV so that the ruling class were not easily able to dismiss those (of us) who were afflicted with the disease. It’s too bad that we are quietly losing much of what was paid for with the lives of many, because "priorities", and supposedly finite resources have fueled fear and greed have flourished once again.
When all is said and done, the American medical system is set up for profit, not for wellness. This is the reason many people living with chronic illnesses suffer and/or die in America. After living with HIV for over 25 years, it's infuriating to see how access to services have deteriorated for people accessing public health. When HIV was perceived as a “gay disease”, money was being fought for and put into services that are no longer available for the poor. Now, the majority of people with HIV are people of color, and not necessarily gay. I hope that those who helped win the battle have not become the greedy and fearful.
There is still a great deal of trauma and stigma, hurt, fear and ignorance surrounding HIV, but the money to treat chronic disease is moving to a larger market of hepatitis C. The Hep C virus is covertly having a devastating effect on the world community, and it’s estimated that over 3.5 million Americans have been exposed. So, if we do not learn from our experiences with HIV, and take care of the people who are diagnosed and affected, we are doomed to repeat many of the same mistakes. There is too much at stake for all affected communities to be divided by greed.
Maybe “Obamacare” will help the poor and middle income afford treatment. At present, there is a hole that those who cannot afford the deductible are falling into that is about five feet deep. It’s not deep enough to die in, but one can hardly breathe or see your way out of the financial grave the costs dig for us. As a person living with medical coverage, there are things I’m not exposed to and do not generally see unless someone shares it. It seems evil that some legislators and others would work so hard to deny human rights and dignity from people seeking it. Most media does not work hard enough to expose that evil because it, too, is a corporation looking to grow profits. Corporations are not really people, but they pay people to create laws that cause pain. Real people are suffering so that corporations and stockholders can profit. Instead of Black and gay people fighting each other for crumbs, we should change the game of capitalism so that it serves the unmet needs of the people.
At the core of the effort to oppress and deny human rights to Americans is an organization we never see called The American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is an organization that is spending a great deal of money to make sure that corporate interest trump the interest of regular people like us. Wikipedia say “ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. ALEC legislation affecting healthcare for Americans includes proposals to weaken the regulation of medicine by the Food and Drug Administration, privatize Medicare and Medicaid, repeal important laws that expand public access to health care, and bar the families of Americans injured or killed by drugs that are recalled from holding drug companies accountable for the loss of beloved parents, partners, or children. If we really take a good look at things we will see, we’ve got little choice but to work together for change.