#WAD2014 – #Reagan, #AIDS, and ACT-UP

For those of you who don’t understand why I dislike Reagan so much, here’s a poster from 1987 protesting our president’s silence on the deadliest virus that America had seen.

AIDSGATE, 1987, posterThink about that for a minute. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were sick and dying, and the American president was silent!

Ronald Reagan’s silence led to the organizing of LGBT protest/action group, The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, or “ACT-UP”. Their slogan, “Silence = Death” is based on Reagan’s silence.

AIDSIntroPicSilenceDeathSo the next time a conservative talks about how great a president Reagan was, ask them if they think it’s okay for an American president to ignore the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Ask them if they ever wonder how much closer we might be to finding a cure for HIV had Reagan actually done something.

If it sounds like I’m angry it’s because I AM angry. A whole generation of gay men from artists, writers, athletes, and teachers to doctors, lawyers, friends, lovers, and family, an entire generation was lost because of the callous attitude of Ronald Reagan and his successor, George HW Bush. Those of us who survived watched the ones we loved die all around us.

Gran Fury, The Government Has Blood On Its Hands, 1988, posterBoth Ronnie and Georgie Sr have blood on their hands.

I am dedicating World Aids Day 2014 to the fighters, the people who stand up for justice. From ACT-UP to protesters in Ferguson, we are all fighting for our lives. Never stop fighting. Sometimes shouting is the only way we’re heard.

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#VOTE DAMMIT! No excuses. Here’s how to find your polling place.

If you are a registered voter in the United States, you have no excuse NOT to vote.

The midterm elections are much more important than the presidential elections. The midterms determine local politics, the stuff that affects you on a day-to-day basis. If you’re unhappy with what is or isn’t being done, don’t blame Obama. Blame your local elected officials. The president isn’t king. There’s only so much he can do on his own.

Are you out of work? Are you underpaid? Are you barely able to make ends meet? Republicans are giving away the store to corporate interests, leaving us to foot the bill.

Remember this scene from Rosanne?

That scene could have been written yesterday, but it was two decades ago! Republicans are still shoveling the same crap. Tax breaks to lure companies who provide low wage jobs to families who then still have to rely on food stamps.

What the hell??

We can’t keep letting the GOP sell America to the lowest bidder! We can’t let congress give religious extremists the right to bastardize the constitution to suit their needs!

Please. Vote. Vote as if your life depended on it. If not for yourself, do it for the future of your children, your family, your country.

Thanks to the folks at Word Press, here is a voter information tool to help you find your poling place on Tuesday, November 4th.

“My Mamma Taught Me Not To Pee On My Hands” is not an excuse!

When was the last time you washed your hands?

Was it this morning?

Did you wash your hands before leaving the restroom? Everyone says they do but I still see more people leave the restroom without washing their hands than those that do. The most common reason given for not doing so is, “My mamma taught me not to pee on my hands.” I have a real problem with that kind of arrogance. It disregards the well being of everyone you encounter for the rest of the day. It’s a giant “F- You!” to the rest of us. I wash my hands twice in public restrooms. The additional washing is on the way in because I want my hands to be as germ-free as possible before I handle the family jewels.

I am fairly obsessed with hand washing, not just around restrooms. I’m not really a gernaphobe. It’s just that, over the years, I’ve gotten used to washing my hands fairly often. From when I was a little boy helping my grandmother in the kitchen, to a teenager slicing lunch meat at the deli counter, and then as an adult working in the food and beverage industry, clean hands have always been very important. As obsessions go, hand washing is pretty mundane. But it does have it’s drawbacks. As any bartender will tell you, all that hand washing makes for dry, chapped hands.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the overuse of those stupid plastic gloves that have become the mainstay of the food service industry. Those gloves have made people lazy. I watched a deli worker at my local supermarket begin to fill my deli order wearing the same single use gloves I saw him wearing while wiping down his work area. Single use gloves are not supposed to take the place of hand washing. In fact, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, single use gloves are only effective if placed on properly washed hands and changed at appropriate times during the food operation. I told him to stop, change his gloves, and start my order again. He got upset, so I left without my order. Of course, I spoke to the manager first.

Another concern is the proliferation of hand sanitizer, which has become a substitute for hand washing. When used properly, hand sanitizers kill 99% of germs. But soap and water are still more effective than hand sanitizers at removing or inactivating certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile. Furthermore, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), hand sanitizers may increase the risk for outbreaks of highly contagious viruses.

“It’s widely recognized that improper use of antibiotics contributes greatly to the development and spread of super bugs in health care settings, but the link between hand sanitizers and bacterial resistance is less clear.”- Lauren Vogel CMAJ

However, according to microbiologist Stuart Levy of Tufts University School of Medicine, Antibacterial products leave residues where they are used. They linger and continue to kill the bacteria, but not effectively or randomly. The naturally stronger bacteria that survived the initial assault develop new defense mechanisms against the chemicals. This selection process gives rise to a new generation that is resistant to the offending compounds. (source)

I suspect Mr Levy is referring to alcohol-free antimicrobial hand sanitizers that are made with triclosan or povidone-iodine which, as shown in the video below, are ineffective at best.

In the following video, which aired in February 2013, ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser compares the best ways for killing germs, including E Coli.

So, in order for your hand sanitizer to be effective it has to be alcohol based (>63% alcohol), you must use enough to cover your hands, and you need to work it into your hands and let air dry for about 30 seconds.  Why not just wash your hands with soap and water?

How many times a day do you touch your face?

In a scene from Contagion (2011) Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) claims that the average person touches their face between two and three thousand times a day, or 2-5 times every waking minute.

According to researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, the reality is closer to 16 times an hour. That’s still a lot. Each time you touch your face, you’re transmitting whatever is on your fingers to your face. Touching your face with dirty hands, or cellphone, is the most common way to spread diseases like Influenza and Ebola.

We’ve become so reliant on quick fixes and magic bullets that we’ve forgotten the basics. I don’t mean for this to be a rant. I’m just curious how we’ve come to rely on these products that were only meant to be used in addition to, not in place of, good hygiene. And it’s kinda strange to me that, with all the paranoia over Ebola, people aren’t taking the simplest precaution.  Just 20 seconds of soap and water. If that’s all it takes, why not wash your hands??

For more info, check out the CDC Show Me The Science Hand Sanitizer vs Hand Washing and the CDC Guidelines to Washing Your Hands.

Saying Goodbye To A Dear Friend.

I had intended a Friday post about my recovery from lithotripsy, which is progressing smoothly and without complications. Unfortunately, Thursday morning I received incredibly sad news. A very close friend lost her battle with uterine cancer. I am heart broken by the loss and angry at the circumstances around which she died. The rest of my day was spent in a fog. After not being able to sleep, I found it helpful to just start writing. The following unorganized mess is more therapy for me than anything else.

In the years that my other half and I have been living on this little South Philly block, we’ve established close friendships with our neighbors. With a few exceptions, we look out for one another.

I met Fran through a friend and neighbor who lived two doors down. She was moving onto our block. With her sharp wit and wicked sense of humor, Fran fit right in. She was the kindest and most generous soul I have ever had the privilege to know. That’s not hyperbole. There was nothing Fran would not do to lend a hand to anyone in need. If it was within her power, it was done.

First Friday Sushi Lunch

A perfect example of our First Friday Sushi events. 🙂

My friendship with Fran developed slowly. We bonded over our Italian heritage, and gastronomic pleasure, which included first Friday lunches with our friend Scott. I’ve often bored you with pictures of sushi and sashimi. Fran was a vegetarian, but that didn’t prevent her from enjoying her sushi. 🙂  She and I had an ongoing dialogue about ways to recreate meat-free versions of childhood dishes. It wasn’t uncommon to see either of us carrying plates of food from one house to another. Fran was the inspiration for some of my favorite epicurean experiments.

About eighteen months ago, Fran began to experience pain and bleeding. She was in her sixties so menstruation was out of the question. After a few months of doctors and tests and more doctors and even more tests, it was determined that Fran had stage 3 uterine cancer. It was emotionally crushing.

Our monthly lunch dates continued even as Fran started chemotherapy, but tapered off as some of her experimental treatments took their toll. She was listening to advice from conflicting sources, and people with no medical training who claimed a certain food, vitamin, or magic root was a cancer cure. She went gluten free, tried a macrobiotic diet, and went to extremes to find and eat only organic fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, she was asking Scott to pick up bagels from Dunkin’ Donuts.

Now, let me stop here for a minute and assure you that I am in no way blaming Fran for her illness or worse, her death. That would be absurd and cruel. I am Pro-Choice. Being pro-choice means allowing a person autonomy. I’m angry because there is so much misinformation being disseminated out there. She was scared. She was reaching for anything that might give her hope. I feel, however incorrectly, that Fran was taken advantage of. I  mentioned the Dunkin’ Donuts because Fran needed to get food into her body. When you’re perpetually nauseous, any food is better than nothing. We encouraged her to eat whatever she could keep down. You’d be surprised at some of the odd things she craved. Fran had an affinity for pickled cherry peppers stuffed with prosciutto and provolone. We asked if she might not be pregnant. {:-)

Last summer, Fran found out about a Vitamin C therapy. It’s an alternative cancer treatment that involves massive doses of vitamin c administered intravenously. Since it could be administered while a patient was also undergoing chemo, Fran signed up. The treatments were hell. Chemo was bad enough, but on the days she received the vitamin C, she was in bad shape. It often took two days for her to recover from the therapy. By January, the oncologist was refusing to give her chemo because she was too weak. The best they could do was rehydrate her with saline and send her home. The vitamin C had done more harm than good. It was clear that Fran’s time on Earth was limited.

During the worst of her illness, it was Scott who did most of the heavy lifting. When Fran needed something, it was Scott she called. Scott taxied her to doctors, treatments, and trips to the grocery store.  Fran’s illness took it’s toll on him. Her death hit him hard. He’d been through this once before when longtime friend and neighbor Mary Ann died just a few years ago. This time was worse because he and Fran were real close.

Fran was rushed to the ER Tuesday night. She was in pain and having trouble breathing. She was admitted to the hospital, where they treated her pain. There was nothing more they could do. Her siblings took shifts sitting with her in the hospital room. Fran passed away 1:00 am Thursday morning. Her brother and one of her sisters was in the room with her.

There’s going to be a viewing next week, followed by a Wiccan ceremony. Fran was a Wiccan high priestess. I’m so proud of her sister, who is Roman Catholic, for adhering to Fran’s wishes.

I’m not sure how to wrap this meandering mess up, but I suspect you will all understand. This past year has been a rough one. There’s been enough sickness in our little burg. So you’ll forgive me if I tend toward the ridiculous sometimes. It’s a hell of a lot better than dwelling on the sadness. Besides, I’d much rather remember the happy, joyful soul that was Franny T.

World AIDS Day

“There will never be a cure! Big Pharma is making too much money stringing me along from one treatment to another.” – Sam W.

In order to help keep AIDS awareness in the minds of people around me, I thought I’d share some of my personal experiences, and how HIV/AIDS has affected people in my life. The following is pulled together from casual conversations with my friend Sam, whom I’ve known for almost two decades. I’ve entered direct quotes as I remember them. Everything you read here is fact.

Sam, quoted above, has been living with AIDS for a little over twenty years. He tested positive in 1991. His survival, he says, is a double edged sword. He feels fortunate to be alive but, like many LGBT folks our age, most of his close friends are gone. “There’s no one left!” he says. “In the early 90s my friends were dropping like flies, one after the other. I thought I was next. My doctor told my parents to make my final arrangements. I was prepared to die.” Sam told me that when he didn’t die, he went into a depression. Psychologists call it Survivor’s Guilt.

Though ten years younger than Sam, I can easily empathize. At the height of the pandemic, AIDS took most of my friends. But the friends that I lost were relatively new friendships. Sam had known most of his friends for ten, fifteen years. You’re not supposed to lose so many friends at such a young age.

Sam says his biggest lament is the cost of survival. He was fortunate enough to have had a decent enough employer who provided him with healthcare, and who was understanding enough to alter his work schedule as needed. He worked for as long as he could, but by the mid-nineties his health had so declined that he had no choice but to go on Social Security Disability and wait for death. Then Protease Inhibitors came along.

The new drugs that saved his life cost a small fortune. Sam takes three Anti-HIV pills which cost about $900 per bottle, and a handful of medications to handle side effects that cost between $20 and $150 per bottle. And that doesn’t include regular blood tests, doctor visits, and medical procedures.

“Remember the assisted suicide controversy in the 90s?” he asks. “All those conservatives wanted to hang Dr. Kevorkian! Now they want to cut my benefits! (Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicaid, Medicare) Where’s their compassion for the sick and dying, now?? If you don’t want to help me live, then allow me to die!”

Sam assures he doesn’t really want to die. He’s understandably frustrated by a system that has failed him. It would be difficult for him to go back to work. He couldn’t even afford a part time job. If he went back to work, he’d lose his healthcare. If he lost his healthcare, he’d get sick again and most likely die.

In a perfect world, Sam could rejoin the workforce, keep his healthcare, and maybe pay an affordable percentage of his salary back into Medicare. The trouble is the cost of prescriptions. As long as he has to take those expensive medications, he can never leave Social Security.

I reminded him of the recent advancements in developing a vaccine. “There will never be a cure!” he says ” Big Pharma is making too much money stringing me along from one treatment to another! It’s a scam, and the American people are too blind to see it!”

Though careful what I say to him, I can’t help but think perhaps he’s right. There’s no money in cures. The money is in treatment. If you cured cancer tomorrow, all those Cancer Treatment Centers would go bankrupt within months. Susan G Komen would cease to exist. I hate to sound pessimistic, but I have little faith in a system that values money over people.

ribbonflag

The best I can offer is try to educate people around me and hope that they pay attention.

AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) has been around for three decades. Some of the biggest myths about AIDS that still persist today include, “It’s a gay disease” “It can’t happen to me” and “There’s a cure”. AIDS is not a “Gay” disease. It CAN happen to you. There is NO cure.

Treatment has it’s own issues. Side effects of Anti HIV medication include, fatigue, neuropathy, fungal infections, liver damage, heart disease, kidney disease, body fat re-distribution (buffalo hump), chronic headaches, nausea, vomiting, vision loss, blindness, high cholesterol, diarrhea, constipation, dementia, calcium deficiency, loss of bone density, death and more.

  • Sounds fun, right? Especially when you consider prevention is as simple as proper condom use.
  • And ladies, because men are so reluctant to wrap it up, there’s a condom designed just for you. – Introducing… The Female Condom!

Knowing all of this, would you rather protect yourself and your loved ones, or spend the rest of your life at a doctor’s office?

To learn more about HIV/AIDS, check out the NIH AIDS info page.  http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov/

WTF! No… seriously, W – T – F?

When I created ADignorantium I set a few guidelines for myself. Two of the most important are, I don’t bully and I don’t use language that I’d be embarrassed to let a grandmother read. Don’t get me wrong. I do plenty of cussing at home. Some of my favorite words have only four letters. Lately though, it’s been difficult to maintain the latter. The political climate has devolved into a childish temper tantrum, and I am pissed!

I am so friggin pissed I could spit nails!

I never truly understood that expression until those unbelievably shortsighted tea party republicans decided to put the screws to the United States. I can’t even put thoughts into words, I’m so angry. This is not how America works! We don’t allow a few extremists to shut down the entire government  Do we?

Instead of passing a clean appropriations bill, house republicans attached an ACA rider that doomed it to fail. The unrelated provisions guaranteed the bill would not pass the senate. All they had to do was pass a continuing resolution (CR) that was clean of extraneous nonsense, but they are blinded by their hatred of anything Obama.

Truth be told, I’m not exactly thrilled with every bit of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but it’s a good start. It’s a step in the right direction. When you’re not happy with something, you don’t fix it by killing it. And before you throw “corporate exemptions” at me, those exemptions were concessions to republicans. If you want to get rid of the exemptions, you write a bill, separate from the appropriations bill, and send it to the senate. But that’s not what they want. They want to undo the healthcare law. After trying and failing to repeal the ACA forty two times, they try this stunt!?

Now the government is shut down. National parks, museums, and landmarks are closed to the public. Millions are now without work.

  • Don’t they understand that a government shutdown affects more than government employees?
  • Don’t they know that everyday Americans like hotel staff, bartenders, waiters, and store clerks depend on tourism to make a living?
  • Do they even care that their stubbornness will have a negative effect on the economy?

There is no doubt in my mind that this bullisht is racially motivated. I wasn’t sure at first. I just chalked it up to politics as usual. But after six years of stubborn resistance, there can be no other explanation.

So now I owe some very good friends an apology for all those late night conversations about “race in America” in which I was so certain that things had improved since my father’s generation. Apparently, I was wrong. I was wrong and it sickens me. I am so f*king ashamed of my own country. MY OWN COUNTRY!

I’d like to think we’ll remember. I want to believe we will carry this rage with us to the voting booth. I know I will. But America has a short memory span. We are more worried about Miley, Kim, and Kanye than we are about what our local politicians are up to. More Americans know the names of the Real Housewives than who their representatives are.

So why am I surprised when this isht happens?

~end rant~

Thanks to all for bearing with me. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

A word about the so-called IRS scandal…

Shortly after President Obama was elected, 501(c) (4) applications started to pour into the IRS by the thousands from anti-government Tea Party groups. Those of you with a short memory might not remember the negative reaction to the economic stimulus and those big business bail outs that saved the auto industry. By 2010, as healthcare reform legislation became law, and the U.S. Supreme Court deemed corporations are people too, the number of 501(c) (4) applications increased.

According to Michael Scherer of Time.com, “many of these so-called social-welfare groups have multiplied–annual applications for the designation have nearly doubled since 2009–with many spending nearly 50% of their money on campaign advertising, almost daring the IRS to challenge their activities. Of the more than $1.2 billion spent by outside groups in the 2012 federal election cycle, at least $254 million came from “social welfare” nonprofits.”

To me, this is a red flag!
“All this outrage threatens to obscure an important point: the IRS does need to crack down on political groups masquerading as social-welfare organizations. Many of the nonprofit groups who claim 501(c)(4) status either flout tax law or flirt with the murky line between electioneering and issue advocacy, all while using their tax-exempt status to conceal their donors.” – Alex Altman “The Real IRS Scandal” time.com

The IRS may have been overzealous, but there’s certainly no scandal here.