AIDS Decade in Review (cont.)

Dr. Marlink: No.

Mr. Kramer: He has put more people to death in the electric chair than any other governor in the history of America. I mean, this is a man that's going to help us? Thanks a lot.

Ms. Seele: I think that we have to look at -- it's not just a issue of what President Clinton has done. AIDS is such a big business and it's so political. It's not just one leader, it's looking at Congress. It's looking at the leadership in government. It's looking at political leadership in our own communities. And when you look at the whole picture, certainly we have definitely -- our political structure has always failed us when we have dealt with HIV. And I think the present administration has done some good, but have they done enough? Absolutely not! Absolutely not! But I think that we should look at the entire political structure and how the political structure has failed in this epidemic for yet another decade.

Mr. Kramer: I want to say -- this is Larry again -- that unfortunately, those who -- most of the activists, the AIDS activists, who speak for us now are so in the pockets of the bureaucracy of the drug companies of the anti AIDS, that they have become almost fascist in ramming down their treatment notions down the rest of us. The research that is done today is pretty much dictated by a small handful of pea brains called Treatment Action Group, TAG, which has a stranglehold on what is researched, what the drug companies release, how it's tested, and that is the guidelines that all of us are told to take all of this poison more and more of it -- that that all comes out of a handful of people, because -- namely because the rest of us aren't out there fighting, forcing -- the power is in numbers, not just in a few of us.

Ms. Seele: Well, I also think that -- you know, Larry, we're talking about a decade in review. In the beginning of this epidemic, you and Rodger McFarlane and your crew, you all really, really -- you went to hell and developed a political structure that had to respond to HIV.

Dr. Marlink: He also told some other people to go to hell.

Ms. Seele: Exactly. But you know, when you came on the line, Rick, you talked about the lack of a serious response of people of color. As an African-American, one of our frustrations is that we did not see the political activism that has continued, that Larry and Rodger really made attention on this AIDS epidemic. And I think the kind of political activism that Larry did in the early part of this epidemic really made, made the politicians take note, and something happen. But that's gone today. And we are now looking at how do we now restructure that kind of political activism to get that kind of attention that we need today. The bottom line: Who cares about AIDS in Africa? Who cares about it? You're talking about -- well, for some -- some people do care more about AIDS in Africa than they do about AIDS in America. And that's a challenge that we have today. But something has happened in this past decade about the political -- not only just the response of the politicians, but the response of the community to make the politicians do what's necessary.

Mr. Kramer: Pernessa, that was so beautifully said. That's the tragedy that we have to confront every day. Nobody has an answer how to fix it, how to get everybody off their butt again, how to make people angry again. Everybody's feeling too good somehow, or whatever. I don't know.

Event Moderator: This brings us to our next question, which is: Can we stop complaining and look for some solutions? How do we do such a thing?

Mr. Kramer: We've got solutions. Never stop complaining, I'm sorry, you've got to let the world know when you've got something to gripe about. I'm sorry. The squeaky wheel gets the most grease, and anybody who says otherwise is a fool. The solutions in whoever, whatever, what dreamer ever asked that question, requires money, requires leadership, all the things we're talking about. And I don't know how you do those over night and I don't think anybody else does either.

Dr. Marlink: Well, I agree about the -- I didn't mean to laugh about the complaining. I think that the squeaky wheel does get the grease. This is Marlink again. Things can be done. They take work, and they take long term commitment.

Mr. Kramer: Exactly. You have to get up every morning, every day, and say "what am I gonna do today to fight for this -- for my cause." That's what activism is about. You cannot take a vacation one day at all. You cannot take a Sunday off. You cannot take a Saturday off. It is never ending and it is exhausting, and no sooner do you think you've got something then it all evaporates in your hands. But you cannot stop, and people are simply not prepared to make that commitment, especially at a time -- for most people -- of economic prosperity.

Ms. Seele: I think when we look at the issue of tobacco in this country, and what this country has done around the entire tobacco laws -- you cannot smoke in a building in America. Basically, if you are smoking you go outside and smoke your cigarettes. But look how much money was poured into making America a smoke-free country, and it has worked. But it took commitment on all levels. And now we're in the third decade of an epidemic that kills people looking for -- in two years, 1 billion people infected, and we still don't have that kind of commitment on all levels. And that is the essential fundamental problem of AIDS in the world today, particularly AIDS in America, first world. If we are in this situation in our first world, you can imagine that there is no infrastructure in third world. But we have not -- if we can change the consciousness around tobacco, we should be able to do the same thing around HIV, but the commitment is just not there.

Mr. Kramer: Well, we also had an amazing man running the FDA on the tobacco thing, called David Kessler, who went after them tooth and tongue -- the tobacco industry, to make this issue finally come to a head. But we don't have that person working for AIDS in the government.


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