Ordinarily, I'd be fundraising for AIDS LifeCycle (ALC) a seven-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles that raises money to support the HIV/AIDS services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
2020 would have marked my 8th consecutive ALC! Unfortunately, it was canceled due to COVID-19, and given the uncertain state of the pandemic in the US, a tough decision was made to cancel ALC 2021 too.
But as challenges and obstacles often inspire creativity and leaps forward, the LA LGBT Center and SFAF have pivoted to Togetheride!
From now through June 2021, Togetheride will collectively ride 1.2 million miles , in honor of the 1.2 million people in the US living with HIV/AIDS.
On my end, I've pledged to:
- Cycle 3,000 miles
- Raise $12,000
- Lose 25 lbs! <-- that's just for me
That works out to about 100 miles per week through next June, and raising $4 per mile!
In the 7 years I've ridden ALC, you'd helped me raise over $73,000. WOW. It bowls me over whenever I take a second to think about the difference that over $10k a year can do for people who are in some of the most vulnerable and stigmatized circumstances. And how that difference also has public health ripple effects that benefit everyone. So THANK YOU so much for your generosity and support. You make this possible. And you've helped me stay in shape!
Your support has also enabled me to find a home in an exceptionally loving and welcoming community, stay active throughout the year, and get so intimate with a long stretch of California that I could almost navigate my way with my eyes closed. It's too pretty for me to keep my eyes closed, but I wonder sometimes if I've started to take that beauty for granted.
Togetheride is helping me find a way to stay active and connected with this wonderful community despite the COVID-isolation we've been living in. I hope you can join me again in this new phase. (And message me if you want to participate!)
There are a lot of urgent issues these days and causes to support. I mean, sure, my naturally affable charm, kitten photos, and cycling milestones are reason enough to support any endeavor of mine, right? But in the context of the times, it can be easy for many people to forget about global and local HIV/AIDS issues. Over the years, the fight against AIDS has obviously become a major cause and community for me. It's not the only thing I care about, and it's not the only cause I think you should support either. But there is still a dire need to fight HIV/AIDS, and if we all pitch a little something in, we can make a huge difference.
And, of course, in light of current political realities in the United States, actively supporting the fight against HIV/AIDS is critical for avoiding the sort of human and moral catastrophe our nation experienced in the '80s and '90s, when we lost a generation of people amidst indifference and stigmatization from our political leadership.
Here are the main pushes in the fight against HIV right now:
- Find a cure
- Stop new transmissions
- Provide medical and support services to people living with HIV (long-term)
- Eliminate stigma against people living with HIV
Ensure equitable access to services
The world is getting close to #1. San Francisco, thanks to the SF AIDS Foundation, is getting close to #2, and has developed innovative programs that have helped make great strides with #3 and #4 and #5.
Those goals, and our current progress, are at risk.
Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed, only about 13 percent of people with HIV had private health insurance and 24 percent had no coverage at all, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The ACA has dramatically increased the number of people living with HIV who have access to medications and insurance. Repeal of the ACA (or killing it through some other method, like certain tax plans) would erase much of this progress. And of course, we can do so much better than the ACA. Even with the ACA, health insurance can be prohibitively expensive, with rates climbing every year. Without additional support, this is a major obstacle to securing treatment for what can now be a chronic condition, rather than a death sentence.
As an aside, even taking Trump out of the picture, we still face a GOP and Supreme Court bent on systematically dismantling HIV/AIDS support systems. When Mike Pence defunded Planned Parenthood in Indiana as Governor, he closed the only HIV testing center in Scott County, leading to an outbreak of HIV transmissions. There is a very real risk that continued GOP policies and attacks could replicate this public health disaster around the country.
- The President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) has been disbanded.
- Since 1995, PACHA has provided recommendations on the U.S. government's response to the AIDS epidemic.
- The White House Office of National AIDS Policy has been dissolved.
- Since 1993, The Office of National AIDS Policy is part of the White House Domestic Policy Council and is tasked with coordinating the continuing efforts of the government to reduce the number of HIV infections across the United States.
- Information about the Office of National AIDS Policy was removed from the White House website the day President Trump took office.
- In June 2017, six members of the council filed letters of resignation, citing that the current administration "...simply does not care..." about the HIV/AIDS situation in the United States.
- A new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) directive allows healthcare workers to refuse to perform health-care services based on personal objections.
- This effectively eviscerates the very purpose of HHS to protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services.
- Constant attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA)are starting to take their toll and put millions at risk.
- Key pieces of healthcare legislation are gone, while 90 percent less was spent on advertising an enrollment period that was half as long.
- The World AIDS Day proclamation removed references to gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, and black and Latino Americans.
This is my most important year ever.
Let's cross $12K again! (DON'T FORGET TO CHECK WITH YOUR EMPLOYER RE MATCHING DONATIONS.)
As a reminder, here's what your donation--and all of this aggregate fundraising, accomplishes:
- $10,000 helps provide counseling services for more than 250 clients.
- $5,000 helps keep the HIV testing RV rolling for one year.
- $2,500 helps four HIV-positive people receive stable housing for one month.
- $1,000 helps provide two Community Education Forums where 150 people can learn more about HIV.
- $250 helps provide ten rapid HIV antibody tests at a testing site.
- $175 helps provide case management for 15 HIV-positive clients who are homeless.
- $150 helps provide 1,000 syringes through the street-based Syringe Access Services.
- $100 helps provide the travel cost for a Treatment Advocacy Coordinator to attend the medical appointments of 25 clients, provide moral support, and help clients advocate for themselves.
- $25 helps a financial benefits counselor assist one person in navigating the private and public benefits systems.
- $10 helps provide 143 condoms to the SFAF and LA LGBT Center's service sites.
On the micro-level, every dollar counts! On the macro-level, the millions of dollars raised every year by ALC make up a huge portion of the budget of SFAF and the LA LGBT Center, allowing these organizations to provide and expand their cutting edge programs, which serve as models to organizations around the world.
Thank you for being a part, and for allowing me to participate in my favorite event of the year.