Browsing Category: Elections 2012

Witness to History (Again): Inauguration 2013

head shot, Melissa

By Melissa Donze, Zamora Fellow, AIDS United

Six hours of freezing cold temperatures; six hours of standing in the same place, watching the sun rise over the Capitol; six hours of waiting to hear a single person speak; and it was worth every single second.

Four years ago, I drove to Washington, D.C., with some of my college friends so I could be witness to the historic inauguration of the man who renewed my hope in the collective power of individuals. Being a part of President Obama’s first inauguration is one of my most treasured memories; for the first time in my life, I was part of something bigger than myself, something that we have only begun to understand within the context of history.

Four years later, I found myself in D.C. again, this time as a resident and an advocate for people living with HIV. When the opportunity to attend President Obama’s second inauguration presented itself, I couldn’t say no; I wanted to be a part of history again. This time, the crowd looked different. It was smaller, but hopeful; enthusiastic, but resilient. The past four years had changed all of us in one way or another. I was older, and maybe a little bit wiser. I went abroad and returned home with an altered perspective of the world every time. I graduated from college and got my first taste of the “real world.”

I wasn’t the only one who had changed. President Obama was noticeably greyer this time. Realistic expectations and principles had replaced the unbridled idealism of four years ago. The most noticeable changes, however, were found in his inaugural address. While his first inaugural address was good, it was full of lofty messages and metaphorical abstractions that could have been applied to any time period. This second address, however, was grounded in our time and the struggles we face today. It was guided by the principles of our founding documents and still managed to be forward-moving and progressive. Its premise of equality, the most evident of truths, allowed him to address fair wages for women, gay marriage, voter suppression, immigration, and second amendment controversies. Although he did not directly mention HIV, his address spoke to many of the issues people living with HIV face.

As I stood there and listened to President Obama say the words “Stonewall” and “Newtown,” among many others, my eyes filled with tears. I am so proud that the President will be leading us down the path to ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans. It truly feels to me like we are now on the path to equality.

T’is the (Election) Season

Photo of Jessica Terlikowski

by Jessica Terlikowski, AIDS United Director of Regional Organizing

Just 53 days remain until Election Day.

That’s 53 days.

Fifty-three days to help voters understand that everything from HIV prevention to health care to housing to food stamps to LGBT rights to women’s reproductive health and justice is on the line this Election Day.

Fifty-three days to mobilize people who live with and care about HIV/AIDS to get to the polls early and on Election Day.

Fifty-three days to fight against the voter suppression efforts taking place in too many states.

Fifty-three days to bird-dog candidates with questions asking how they will address HIV and the health care crisis in the U.S.

Fifty-three days to light a fire within our community and ensure that every person who lives with, is at risk for, and cares about HIV/AIDS has their voice heard on November 6.

And there are even FEWER days for people to REGISTER to vote, with each state having its own registration deadline – a deadline that is swiftly approaching no matter where we live.

For the last five months, AIDS United has worked to make sure the HIV community has what it needs to get the vote out this election season. We have held webinars and on the ground trainings and strategized with grantees and partner organizations on how to ramp up their involvement in the elections. We collaborated with Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina partners to hold events featuring local and national leaders at the Republican and Democratic conventions to shine a light on what Medicaid expansion means for people living with HIV and how health care access is critical to turning the tide on U.S. HIV epidemic.

Packed rooms at each event listened to esteemed speakers: Dr. Joseph O’Neill, National AIDS Policy during the Bush Administration and President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) architect, Jeff Crowley, former director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy for President Obama and the force behind the development and implementation of the U.S. first National AIDS Strategy, and congressional HIV/AIDS champions Representative Barbara Lee (CA-9)
and Representative Maxine Waters (CA-35). Though they served under the leadership of two different parties, both former AIDS directors agreed that there is much that can and should be agreed upon across the aisle to end HIV in the U.S. and around the world. Both O’Neill and Crowley spoke to the importance of increasing the number of HIV-positive people who can access and stay in care.

Advocates at each event shared how they are using the election as an opportunity to educate voters, candidates, and elected officials about the needs of the HIV/AIDS community. Metro Wellness and Community Centers in Tampa is registering clients. North Carolina AIDS Action Network is asking North Carolinians to pledge to vote.Regional AIDS Interfaith Network is using the AIDS United voter mobilization toolkit to educate voters about the issues at stake. North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition is training law enforcement and veterans on how to talk with conservative lawmakers about the value of improving sterile syringe access and other harm reduction services. These are just a few examples of grassroots efforts to ensure that people living with and at risk of HIV/AIDS are informed and engaged in the civic process.

AIDS United grantees and partners in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are also building and mobilizing their states so that the voices of their HIV/AIDS communities are heard at the polls on November 6.

Over the next 53 days, you can count on AIDS United to continue to move full steam ahead with our efforts to engage, educate, and mobilize. Can we count on you to join us? Email organizing@aidsunited.org to let us know!