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Volume 34
Issue 14
 
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Tour De Life by Beau Burriola
RE-RE-INVENTION
"Look at this," Michael's e-mail read, ending with a link to a news story I knew I wouldn't care one bit about. In the years I've received forwarded junk from him, I haven't found much of it useful, or even interesting. I wasn't even really sure who Michael was anymore - if I'd ever met him in all these years, if maybe I worked with him, if we maybe ever briefly dated, or if I was only ever a name on his blind email list that never went away - but just as I've been curious enough to do for four years, I clicked the link anyhow.

The news story was about Madonna's upcoming "Confessions" tour, and I was right. Other than a bizarre fascination at what the 47-year-old Material Mom might have left to confess at this point in her life, I didn't really care. Rather, what caught my eye was another story on the same web site announcing the number of HIV-positive people currently on waiting lists to receive assistance from AIDS Drug Assistance Programs around the country. Folks in Alaska, Idaho, Montana , Nebraska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia , and Alabama are being told they've got to wait for access to life-saving medications because of program funding cuts.

ADAP waiting lists aren't new. They've been showing up in recent years as AIDS is squeezed out of the crowded American attention span, replaced by this season's newest prime time pandemic hit, the Avian Bird Flu. Like the unimpressive "SARS pandemic" of years past, the sick chick pick of this season is reaping huge research sums and garnering an impressive audience. Yet, for all the tens of people such designer diseases-du-jour actually take out, hundreds of HIV-positive folks again find themselves waiting for medicine for a disease that is already here and growing bigger all the time.

"That bird flu is serious business," my well-meaning sister told me on the phone, citing a report she'd seen on CNN, complete with some footage of an agonizing patient lying in an empty hospital room in an Asian nation far away. "People are dying."

The question ADAP waiting lists continue to pose is a very basic one: should every HIV-positive person have timely access to life-saving medications if they cannot afford them? If the answer is yes, then let us fund the programs already in place to make that happen, and if the answer is no, then let's give the real reasons why the answer is "no" - not because of Bird Flu, SARS, or the war in Iraq, but because the people served by these programs are seen as immoral by folks with the purse, that our country "just accepts" that a certain number of people will die from AIDS without help, or that there isn't enough profit to justify the cost of saving poor lives.

Maybe like Madonna, AIDS advocacy organizations and HIV-positive people are going to have to re-re-invent their look and plan a "Confessions" tour to try to find a place again in today's Great American Debate. Maybe, in order to compete with the latest and greatest, AIDS will have to enlist the help of a top-notch public relations company to change its hair color, slap on a new layer of makeup, and drudge up a few sexy confessions to reveal.

Or, maybe folks like me will just have to accept that while there will always be room for another tour for Madonna, old diseases eventually all go the way of the B-list musicians who don't have a dazzling new look, the money to create one, or anything new to confess.



Beau Burriola is a local writer thankful to live in a state with no ADAP waiting list. E-mail him at: beaubrent@gmail.com)
visit Beau at www.beaubrent.com

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