Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Zambian Activist Talks about the Cure

Winstone Zulu. (Photo: Susan Cole/PositiveNation)

Winstone Zulu, a longtime Zambian activist, and I have been working together since 2009.
Winstone was the first publicly HIV-positive person in Zambia, and has been commended by Nelson Mandela for his work. A few days ago, when he was sick, we hatched a plan to write a blog post together for POZ. You can read the post at http://blogs.poz.com/aidspolicyproject/

It's a long post because both of us talk, but it's interesting because Winstone, who gets around on crutches (and used to use a wheelchair), paints a picture of his daily life as he struggles as a longterm survivor who is living a life a bit like someone with AIDS in the US in, say, 1990.  Winstone is a brave and brilliantly articulate person literally on the front lines of this pandemic in so many ways.  He also has a great sense of humor and he's tough and strategic. So it is fun to work with him. Check out the blog post and see what you think.

Something to note: There are shock waves in communities that learn that a cure for AIDS is not a top funding priority for the National Institutes of Health. This is something that US communities of people with AIDS share with their counterparts in Zambia.

One more thing: The AIDS Policy Project is holding a conference on AIDS cure advocacy on May 28, 29, and 30 in Philadelphia. Contact me at Kate at AIDS Policy Project dot org if you want more information. We will be featuring talks from top researchers and major AIDS activists. Everybody, and we mean EVERYBODY, is welcome. Should be pretty cool.

Oh--here are our tips from the end of the post:

What can you do to advocate for a cure for AIDS?

1. The most important thing you can do is call up and make an appointment to make an appointment to meet the staffers of your US Senators and Congresspeople (if you are lucky, you will meet with the member of Congress herself). Bring a small group with you of good talkers: people with AIDS and their allies (the head of an AIDS NGO, an activist, a faith leader, a physician, a researcher, etc.) to visit your member of Congress and educate them about this problem--You can read and bring along fact sheets and reports from our web site, at www.AIDSPolicyProject.org.

Have a pre-meeting to plan what you want to say, be sure to ask for more money, and give each person a speaking part. It's easy, fun, and powerful. Activists are calling for an increase in AIDS cure research funding to $240 million, using funding left over from the NIDA and the NCRR. Email us at info@aidspolicyproject.org if you need help with this.

2. Spread the word about this situation to your friends and the leaders at your local AIDS service organization. Bring fact sheets to your support group and your doctor.

3. Read our report, "AIDS Cure Research for Everyone." Write letters to the editor about a cure; blog and tweet about it.

4. Come to our AIDS Cure Activist Conference! The AIDS Policy Project is organizing an AIDS cure activist conference on May 28, 29, and 30, 2011 in Philadelphia. Join us, as together we work in solidarity with activists  like Winstone. A cure isn't just a research issue or a US issue. It's a global health issue. For more information, contact kate@aidspolicyproject.org.

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