AIDS Decade in Review (cont.)

Ms. Seele: Well, I want to say that for the African-American community, I think that we are beginning to mobilize in a way that we've never mobilized before around HIV --

Mr. Kramer: That's because of you and people like you that are 20 years into --

Ms. Seele: Exactly. It's 20 years, and I'm tired.

Mr. Kramer: And I'm tired too, and Rick's tired.

Ms. Seele: But at least we can say that -- I know that when we started talking to the church 10 years ago, there were no churches. Today we have churches involved. Are there enough churches? No. But at least there is a force going on now, there's movement going on. But it's slow. And that's the problem.

Dr. Marlink: Pernessa, what about -- our friend Mario Cooper talks about a Blacked-Up with a "B." I mean, is this really going to happen beyond some extra money from Congress, which is great. Is it really going to be a national movement?

Ms. Seele: I doubt it. I doubt it. And I doubt it because -- Rick, the challenge that we have in the black community, it's like we are so divided among ourselves over the issue of AIDS. It's economic status, it's social status, it's those people -- and we all don't feel the impact of HIV, unlike when Larry came along, the gay community felt the impact of HIV.

Mr. Kramer: And we were scared you-know-what-less. But nobody is anymore.

Ms. Seele: But something happened in your movement, Larry, that you were able to mobilize the gay community in a way --

Mr. Kramer: Yes, but something has happened now that has -- the movement is destroyed. I mean, we've got -- I can't get 20 people to go picket DuPont for putting this poison drug, Sustiva, on the market, or going to Abbott for putting on Norvir which has now been discovered to cause liver cancer in so many of the people who take it. I mean, we should be chaining ourselves to these drug companies, but it's the very -- but it's the very people who were the activists 10 years ago, these idiots in TAG, who are telling people that these are the drugs they should take.

Ms. Seele: But you see, that's my point. You now have people who are doing well on drugs, and you have people who are not doing well on drugs. You have people who can afford drugs, and you have people who can't afford drugs. You don't have a cohesive unity of -- you know, when back in segregation -- I grew up in the segregated south. We were all colored people, all Negroes who could not walk in the front of the building. So therefore we could mobilize because we all felt, each of us, pain.

Mr. Kramer: You were all the same, right.

Ms. Seele: You know, nobody could walk in the front of the Capitol building. Now, you can walk -- it's about how much money do you have to walk in this door?

Mr. Kramer: You're so right. I --

Ms. Seele: So therefore, we don't all feel the same pain, and that's the problem of mobilizing around AIDS today, we're not all in the same boat.

Mr. Kramer: I said to a friend of mine, David Sanford, who's editor of the Wall Street Journal, who has AIDS, and who just feels so awful from all of these drugs, and I said "why don't you get out there and say I feel awful from all these drugs?" And he said "well, because I'm alive."

Ms. Seele: See.

Event Moderator: I'm going to interrupt you now to move onto some more questions. We have a lot of them coming in from the audience right now.

Mr. Kramer: They're too -- they're too namby-pamby, the questions.

Event Moderator: This one is: How important is the search for a vaccine?

Mr. Kramer: Oh, please. Could we go to the next question?

Event Moderator: I can go to another one. Dr. Marlink, do you think that immunological control of the virus might be possible in the near future?

Dr. Marlink: Not in the near future, but it certainly -- something happens in the immune system -- the dance that the immune system do and the virus do together that implies that the virus is somehow under control -- and I put that in quotes -- for some length of time without medications, etc. So, does that lean us toward the possibility of immunologic control? Does that show that it might be possible? Yes. How to do it? I don't think we're that smart yet.

Event Moderator: Our next question is: How can academics get researchers and policy makers to start looking at poverty and political economy, and not culture and psychology, in understanding risk behavior?

Mr. Kramer: We've been talking about that all along. I don't -- I don't know. I mean, if that person who asked that question just did his work and did what he wanted people to think about, and stopped passing the buck, then that's a start. Next question.

Event Moderator: What's the good news? Is there any?

Mr. Kramer: No.

Ms. Seele: Well, I think that -- I think that the good news is that, you know, on this conference call you have a Larry Kramer, you have a Richard Marlink, and a Pernessa Seele, and I think the AIDS epidemic has brought communities together like we would never have come together before. And we are learning how to work together. We are having dialogue and having frank conversation on how we are the same, our similarities, and our differences. And I think that the AIDS epidemic is really doing a great thing in terms of breaking down some cultural barriers in this country, including racism on some level. And I think that's a good thing. I think that's a very good thing.

Mr. Kramer: The person who asked that question wants us to say yes, so that they can go and go on their merry way and not have to do anything, not have to fight, not have to write a check, not have to make a phone call. And that's the problem with all of this. Everybody looks for faint hope in these crappy drugs that are out there thinking that they're going to get people through. What we're saying today is they're not, and there isn't any good news, and you've got to be scared again. And it's only fear that's going to get people off their duff.