Saturday, September 29, 2012

Advocacy for Those Seeking a Voice

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Photo by M Barrett Miller

At yesterdays Seattle AIDS Walk I saw lots of remarkable people reaching out to help those so much in need- 
I spoke with this man for a bit about this and that.
When I wandered over to watch the beginning of the race/walk I noticed him pulling up to the path. At first I thought he was going to ride some distance in support of the event. What I saw when he stepped out his chair tells the story-
Even with 23 years experience with those suffering from HIV/AIDS I am so often blown away by what I witness-
A couple of steps were enough---courage, conviction, dedication, support----
The following video says it better than I ever could.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just the Facts Please!

Dear Kids, particularly those of you that are presently in high school. 
Please ask your parents to support your collective demand that your health/science classes share current information on choices beyond abstinence.
"The United States has one of the highest rates of unwanted pregnancies in the developed world — nearly half of pregnancies here are unintended, and there’s been no improvement in the situation for a decade…" NY Times 18 Sept 2012
*Last week I was told by one school administrator that the seniors there "might" not be able to read "Ice", the book I wrote sharing stories of people fighting HIV/AIDS, as there are sexual connotations/references within…
The fear that one of the stories would somehow give immediate permission to kids to immediately leap into a sexual relationship was shocking.
It has been my experience with kids that if you show you respect them, they will take informations offered with the seriousness that its presented. 
They know when you're pulling the wool over their eyes. 
This is too serious a subject to be handled by continually sharing dubious information, or having teachers who are too embarrassed to share reality.
A third of 1000+ high schoolers recently said one could get HIV from mosquitoes-health teachers were in the classroom when the kids shared this belief----
See the following article for more information:  Between Contraceptives, a Gap to Bridge.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Are You Kidding?

Just when I think I've heard it all someone jumps up and kicks me in the reality knee!!
A friend, who has been long suffering with all that comes along with an AIDS diagnosis, recently moved out of a top notch medical facility that manages a nursing home for the terminally ill.
He made the move because he wanted to feel like he was still in control of his life.
At the moment he is "healthy." That means he is staying alive ingesting various drugs on top of the Morphine and Oxy he takes to manage excruciating pain.
When you live in a nursing home your comings and goings are controlled, you eat their food and share community space with others also fighting terminal diseases.
Not always a happy place to live, as most never leave under their own steam.
Once my friend had made up his mind to leave, and gotten his doctors, DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services), Social Security Administration, Medicaid and the facilities administrations approval to move he began his search for a place to live. 
Before he could commit to a new place he had a few more simple hurdles to leap. 
He had to agree to return to the facility three times a week for checkups, drug pickup and a few moments with the social worker overseeing his care.
No worries. He was ready to go-
The day he flipped open the Seattle Times to look for an apartment that would meet his needs one jumped off the page inviting him to call.
It sounded perfect.
The apartment was located on the ground floor, no stairs, close to stores, close to a bus route, affordable, quiet, has a small lanai, southern exposure and off the main streets.
When he went to view it with two friends it took him less than a minute to tell the apartment manager that he wanted the apartment. She told him to come back within 24 hours with a months deposit, damage deposit, electrical deposit, payment for a credit check and references.
He was able to accomplish it all with the help of DSHS. (It is less expensive to assist in housing outside a nursing facility so they are motivated to help in a timely fashion.) 
When he returned to the apartment house with the checks he was told by the apartment manger that she had to interview him before the final approval of him as a tenant.
He said fine.
Her first question was, "Now, just what exactly is wrong with you?" She pointed at the wheelchair he was sitting in as she asked. She must have been thinking about it for the previous 24 hours as he had arrived at the first meeting in his sporty motorized chair.
He asked her what she meant by the question knowing full well she couldn't legally ask the question.
She said she was uncomfortable with someone with needs and wanted to know what was wrong with him.
After thinking of all sorts of replies that would have had him looking elsewhere for an apartment he told her he had AIDS.
She went nuts!! 
"What about my tenants? I don't want them catching it! What if you bleed on the carpet? I don't want people infected by you when you wash your clothes, cough or throw up. I don't want all sorts of strange men coming and going etc. etc etc."
2012-Yes, it's 2012 with many people still ignorant of the facts on HIV/AIDS and how it is transmitted.
When I first got involved in the 80's with HIV/AIDS victims I expected to hear such fear wrapped in ignorance. Unfortunately, there are still lots of people in the dark to the facts around this malady. 
Fortunately for my friend the managers husband, and one of their friends, a fellow tenant, joined the interview just when it became necessary to calm down this woman.
She was literally freaking out sputtering all sorts of nonsense. The two men were trying to cool her jets as best they could considering she was way off the rails.
My friend had had enough!
He mentioned what laws were being violated and suggested she spend some time becoming familiar with the disease. He put the checks on the coffee table, turned and left saying he would make arrangements to have his furniture delivered. He was prepared for her to come up with some excuse for why he couldn't move in. He waited for her phone call - to his surprise, she didn't call.
The two men must have talked some sense into her. Maybe, the fear of a law suit played a role. 
He's now a proud "living on his own" tenant in a very cool studio apartment.
We laughed about the manager, though we wern't laughing humorously.
 It was sad laughter.
N.B. One cannot become infected by sharing a washing machine that a person with HIV/AIDS has used even if they were to wash bloody items. The virus is too fragile to survive.
For more information see Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Multifaith Works and my book "Ice" which shares story after story of people living, loving and surviving the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Help Us Help Them...

Student drawing...

Hungry kids in the state of Washington!
Help us help them-
If the recent statistics put forth by the U.S.Department of Agriculture are anywhere close to accurate we have a severe problem right here in the land of plenty.
Here are some highlights:
1) From 2008 through 2011the number of hungry families increased from 88,000 to 163,000. Only six states had higher growth rates.
2) In 2011, 15.4% of state residents said they struggled to attain enough food.
3) The Children’s Alliance estimated that 440,000 children (25%) live in households that do not have enough food for everyone in the household.
4) The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reported that the number of kids receiving free or reduced lunches has increased from c390, 000 kids in May of 2008 to c470,000 in May of 2012.
5) Northwest Harvest, a food distributor, has increased distribution by 9,000,000 pounds over the last four years. (17 million to 26 million pounds). Visits to their food banks have hit 700,000 visits a month.
According to a recent Seattle Times article there is hope.
A number of non-profits, schools, and groups of students are increasing their awareness and contributions towards helping those on the margins.
Help us help them. See our website and our profile on Universal Giving.

Sources: * Northwest Harvest, Seattle Times, Seattle Schools, Greater Seattle Cares, USDA, and Children’s Alliance.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Now is the time...

My pal Sage
A few of us sat around every night at our favorite hangout in Seattle watching as much, from both conventions, as was humanly possible.
We'd take notes, argue, justify, counter, agree and come to the same conclusion every time. 
That we are all in this together.
"This" being our country and our future.
When the last call was shouted last night we shared the following list of questions/observations we had come up with while watching this marathon of political activity-
"I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go."
This quote from Lincoln, shared by Barack Obama, tells us a lot about the man and the policies, and platform, of this party and candidate.
The last two two weeks have shown anyone paying attention that there is a profound difference between these two political parties.
One is inclusive, one is exclusive.
What did citizens do to be marginalized?
What did citizens do to be denigrated?
What did the elderly do to become the targets of a Medicare shake-up?
What did those living off survivors and disability benefits, under Social Security, a third of all disbursements, do to be threatened with cuts to their coverage?
What have the sick done to deserve the re-establishment of preconditions, life time limits, increases on the costs of medicine, children's coverage eliminated by the Republicans.
What did college students do to deserve college becoming unaffordable?
What did teachers, police, fire fighters do to attract attacks on their union memberships.
What did lower and middle school kids do to deserve the unraveling of an educational safety net?
What did the poor do to become the object of attacks?
What did women do to deserve all the rancor,ridiculous conclusions on how reproduction works, anger, and fear that seems to motivate so much energy towards them?
What did young children, of illegal immigrants, do to invite "self deportation?"
What did minority communities do to deserve being referred to as the "other?"
What did the victims of rape and incest do to deserve such a callous platform condemning them to relive their attack forever-
What did the auto industry do to deserve bankruptcy?
What did Republican followers do to be told by their candidate that he did not honor, or respect, them enough to share any financial information with them?
What did the super rich do to deserve more tax cuts?
What did women do to deserve the reversal of the Lilly Ledbetter act?
What did Planned Parenthood do to deserve the threat of closure under a Romney presidency?
What did minorities do to deserve attacks on their voting rights?
What did gay people do to deserve the opposition of same gender marriage and the right to serve in the military?
What did…?
The list grows longer every day.
This is all about us, and our ability to make our voices heard, if we want to continue the changes that are presently on the table.
"Yes, we can!"

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Letting Kids Be Kids

Okay, I readily admit it! This picture chokes me up!
I’ve been noticing more and more how president Obama reaches out to kids every time he is given the opportunity.
Being in the business of working with “young” people, from grade school age to those using walkers, I always feel good when I see such precious moments being grasped, before they pass by-
That someone, anyone, takes the time to recognize in another, the intrinsic value they have, is one of those moments that convey so much about the person reaching out.
Do we need to ask a lot of questions about someone who so freely gives so much without being asked? Probably not-
Too often societal systems don’t “allow” the expression of true feelings.
I cannot recall seeing one of our presidents being so conscious of the needs of so many kids in our society.
Thank you president Obama for bringing these tears to my eyes.