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TIM BARRUS: HIV CONSPIRACY THEORIES

I have always regarded people smitten by the conspiracy bug to be a little cute, somewhat naive, and quite mad. I have always wondered why these Nutella folks never bothered to look at facts or science. They were always anti-science.

But this was before I started dealing with the NIH and the CDC.


And over 200 other AIDS orgs.


I am not saying I buy the argument that the US government created HIV.


Or am I.

I’m wavering.


The United States Army Medical Research Institute for infectious diseases, USAMRIID, traces its institutional lineage to the early 1950s, when Lt. Col. Abram S Benenson was appointed as medical liaison officer to the U.S. Army Biological Warfare Laboratories at Camp Detrick to oversee biomedical defensive problems. Soon thereafter, a joint agreement was signed and studies on medical defense against biological weapons were conducted cooperatively by the US Army Chemical Corps and the Army Medical Department. These early days saw the beginnings of the medical volunteer program known as Project Whitecoat. (1954–1973). USAMRIID’s precursor — the Army Medical Unit (AMU)  began operations in 1956 under the command of Col. Bill Tigertt. (One of the AMU’s first responsibilities was to oversee all aspects of Project CD22, the exposure of volunteers to aerosols containing a highly pathogenic strain of Coxiella burnetii, the causal agent of Q Fever).


Modern principles of biocontainment pioneered at Detrick throughout the 1960sUSAMRIID laboratory and office building (Building 1425) and its advanced biocontainment suites is formally known as “The Crozier Building”. Ground breaking came in 1967 (personnel moved in during 1971 and 1972). In 1969, the BWL were formally disestablished and the Institute underwent a formal name change from the AMU to the “U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.” The Institute’s mission did not really change and it received additional funding and personnel authorizations to hire biomedical and laboratory scientists. Offensive Bio Weapons studies continued. This is a matter of public record. There are no public records indicating that HIV research was ever conducted, but there are no public records indicating such research was never conducted.

You can’t prove a negative.
67% of the American public thinks HIV was created by the government. No one really gives a fuck.

In the beginning of the AIDS crisis, there was a lot of private philanthropy and there were private “helper” agencies.
That has changed. Follow the money.


The government has all the money.


Today, apathy is endemic.
Wordplay intended.


The “AIDS-Free generation” that is currently the rah rah blarney stone of the AIDS.gov generation is magical thinking. It has nothing to do with science whatsoever. It is PR razzle dazzle, and it has worked. The CDC has shelled out 36 million dollars to see that it works. Most of those funds went to advertising consultants from the top advertising agencies in Manhattan. I will not list them because I see on Google Analytics that they all follow this stupid blog.


You can hide behind a lot of things on the Internet.
But you can’t change the name of the service providers. The service providers can be any number of dot govs. The big ad agencies are also their own service providers. I now have 143 service providers who consistently follow this blog. I note that many community clinics funded by the government are also their own service providers (I found that odd).


TV stations are also their own service providers. None of these people even bother with a proxy server. How hard can it be. But impunity is infectious.


The government IS involved in a conspiracy to make it look more hopeful that it really is.


There are project managers at the CDC whose job is to evaluate AIDS programs.
Anyone with a new idea — especially with how to actually reach “the difficult to reach populations” (their term) are immediately squashed.
The government has no intention of reaching the difficult to reach. They won’t tell you that. But all you have to do is go through the process: The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal freedom of information law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the government. Go ahead. Inquire into what the criteria is for program managers to approve of disapprove AIDS programs reaching the difficult to reach.


There aren’t any. They can’t give you what they don’t have.


What conclusions can be drawn.
That the government has contempt for the very populations that they maintain they are making extra efforts to reach. It’s a good veneer.


The CDC also shows up on Google Analytics. Most of those hits will be coming from Maryland, Atlanta, or DC itself.


There have been infectious disease specials who have dropped out of this so-called effort to reach the difficult to reach..
No reasons given.
You can infer whatever you want. They can’t give you what they do not have.
The air here is beginning to stink.


Personally, I am ending dealing with these people. When I listen to them, I think they’re dangerous. When they waffle of releasing records, I think they’re dangerous. As they create public policy (there is no way of knowing who issued the edict that AIDS services would be centralized which has concentrated resources to a few places — always urban — in any state, I think they are more than dangerous. In other words, you can live hundreds of miles from treatment. Why was so much treatment put out of reach.


Here’s the response you get: In order to conserve resources, and to better serve…
Conserving resources means the power has been aggregated.


The names of the people who have put in Freedom of Information Requests having anything whatsoever to do with possible HIV research conducted over five decades ago are put on a list. Even if you receive no information, and you won’t, you still go on the list.


It’s not a long list. In fact, it’s quite short. They think they know everything about you. They don’t. Close but no cigar.


Journalists are more concerned with unmasking other journalists.


Out of all the people requesting information, all of them are journalists. Except one.


I quit writing (it wasn’t like I had a choice) so I am no journalist.


Try soliciting any information from Detrick directly, and you will get a visit by some suits.


I think the AIDS conspiracy people are crazy.


There is much clinical information now that strongly suggests that HIV has been around a long, long time. Some infectious disease specialists believe diagnosed TB was at one time probably AIDS.


But none of this research is definitive. People are inferring. 
What does the government know and when did they know it.


You can’t get what they do not have, and what they do not have tells a story that is definitive.


I think it’s far, far, far worse than anyone wants to entertain. 



TIM BARRUS. EXIT WOUNDS: SUICIDE IS HARDER THAN YOU THINK

 

I am never comfortable without a shirt. People might see my scars.

Sometimes, our scars are who we are.

My guts were spattered all over the wall. I dropped the shotgun and screamed.

It’s harder to kill yourself than you think. The human will to live is awesome.

They call us survivors. Of whatever. I don’t want to talk about it.

How many suicidal kids have I dealt with over the years who have looked me in the eye and said: I do not want to talk about it.

Hundreds.

I’m sorry. But we have to talk about it.

I didn’t think I would ever have the courage to put the above photo here. Or anywhere. Ever. I try not to think about it. But it hurts, I still have the lead from the shotgun shell inside of me, and it often reminds me of one thing: the wall.

I do not know how I can ask the suicidal to talk about it if I can’t, and every word of this is very difficult to pound out.

I hate my body. I hate what I did to it.

Recovery was a breathtaking nightmare. But that is another story.

I work with boys with HIV. All of whom have done sex work.

I did sex work. My tricks always wanted to touch my scars.

Sometimes I even let them. The ones I wanted to love me.

In sex work, we say it’s all business, and it is. And it isn’t.

It’s intimate.

Touching my scars is more intimate than fucking me.

I can’t indulge my own hypocrisy unless I put the photograph here. I can’t ask anyone to talk about how badly they want to kill themselves unless I write this here.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record. But there are some boys I am dealing with (we make a lot of art) to whom this is a beginning.

I can’t say I know how you feel tonight. Because I don’t. All I can say is that I was there. All I can say is that I hear you when you tell me the darkness is eating you alive.

I understand it does that. I understand you do not want to be here. On this planet.

I want you to hear that suicide is harder than you think.

After my guts were splattered all over that wall, and some of them were hanging from me, I pushed them back in, and I ran up a flight of stairs to where the people were who were screaming. They had heard the gun. They knew. They stood at the top of the stairs. 

The people who had abused me.

I loved them. I still love them. I will always love them.

I have forgiven them.

I can’t tell you that you have to live.

I will tell you this: forgiveness is the hard part. It is way, way, way more difficult than shooting yourself.

It doesn’t mean I’m not mad.

I am so mad. You have no idea how mad I am. The memories of abuse do not go away.

But they do not have to control you. You can learn control yourself.

I have never met a sex worker who was not abused somehow, somewhere. And I have known many, many of them.

I have met a few who claim they were never abused, and are not being abused now.

I believe them when they say they are not being abused now.

But I do not believe they were never, ever abused.

It’s a personal failing. I have many failures. But I just do not believe them.

I have seen too many of them suddenly remember.

I have a very difficult time posting many of the videos that kids make in Show Me Your Life.

So many of those videos are guts on the wall.

I am told: it gets better.

It’s bullshit. It’s rhetoric. It’s PR propaganda designed by gay white men with advanced educations who very much want there to be light at the end of that tunnel.

It might not get better.

It might get worse.

Depends.

There are no guarantees.

To unlearn how to snake these legs of chains from around and around our grim existence. Our deaths deserve more than the superficiality of one more fucking slogan. Just get tested. AIDS-Free generation. When are we going to learn that when we discount what the reality is, when the enormity of it all has cut us in two somewhere just above the knees, we cannot dance the rites of passage, the labyrinth of corpses trails our insides like a path through the woods of razor blades. If we keep saying — it gets better — we can make it true even when the slogan itself is the glimmering of a lake of blood. I am often asked: what do I have to do to get your attention, Tim.

You have to stand in front of me. You have to grab me. Sometimes you have to shake me. Sometimes you have to make a very loud noise.

I will stop what I am doing.

All I will promise is that I will listen. I do not know your pain because no one does. It belongs to you.

If you want to work to live, I will try my best to be there for you.

You see: I am doing it again.

Allow me to erase the word T-R-Y.

Try hard. Try hard. Try hard. Try hard. Sometimes all the trying hard is what undoes us.

I will be there for you. Pound the table at breakfast and scream to be heard.

I will listen.

No more walls.

I am told that our scars, the scar tissue each of us possesses somewhere, and it’s in different places with different people, is tougher tissue than the surrounding tissue.

You have no idea how tough I am. There is nothing you can say that will shock me or hurt me. That would be on me.

We drag our slow length of scars along.

But we are the other tissue, too.

Exit wounds need tending. I cannot promise you so much as bandages or a place to sleep. A lot of it will be on you.

What I can do is help you put your guts back in. We will use our hands. We will make a lot of art. I will not be waiting at the top of the stairs. Frozen. Or too afraid to go down there. I will go down there to find you if I have to. I will be quick about it. Sometimes, the clock ticks very slowly. Sometimes, it ticks lightning fast. We can make it to the top of the stairs together.

Video Editing...

SPARKLESKATE BY KEVEON

 


I AM MORE THAN JUST INFECTED


THERE IS A LIGHT INSIDE MY SKIN


THAT IS MORE THAN JUST INFECTED


I AM GLIDING THROUGH THESE


OTHER LIVES ON FIRE AND THEY


ARE MORE THAN JUST THE LOUD


AND THE INFECTED, OH, WORMHOLES


THE SMOKE DRIFTS ALONG THE

PURPLE SHORES BECAUSE WE


HAVE TRAVELED PAST THE LIVING


AND THE DEAD AND TIME AND WE


ARE MORE THAN JUST THE QUICKLY MOVING


BY THROUGH TIME AND THE INFECTED



I Walk in Soft Shoes Between the Stars by Jonah (for my teacher, he does not want me to say that but I say it anyway)

 

If you could only see the beast you’ve made of me

I held it in but now it seems you’ve set it running free

Screaming in the dark, I howl when we’re apart

drag my teeth across your chest to taste your beating heart

And I become this child again. Walking our bikes up another rocky road. I have another crush one more time. I try not to. I fight it, and then I give it up when they disappoint me.

He tells me to stop copying, to stop copying him, and he says he is no role model. But I have an ear for it. For whatever the rhythm of a heartbeat sings. But how do you do that, how do you stop copying someone when you do not know you are copying him, and he keeps you at arm’s length, and he knows I am probably dangerous, and all you know is you can touch the rhythm, and he can do that, too.  He makes you push it and push it and push it until you are using words you never heard before or maybe you heard them in another life.

He is teaching me to write poetry. He throws books in my faggot’s face. How do you teach poetry. You take me to a quiet place where I can write with paper and a pencil. And then you leave me there like Tim does.

If I say something like, “The stars are beautiful and I walk between them in soft shoes,” Tim will roll his eyes.

“Avoid cliches,” he says. If it is a cliche, Timothy will piss on it. He is part dog. That is not a metaphor.

There are animal symbols among us. And you wonder where we live. Among the mountain whelps and mist that hangs above the ground. In the Blue Ridge where the bike trails will tear your skin and bones apart. 

When a pack of whelps sleeps together, they are always moving together, too, even in their sleep. My bike is double-twisting mid-air, and it’s the frame that has to take the punishment. If I fall, and I always fall, I will get back up again crushing me or no crushing me. Why do I fall only for kind men who can never love me back?

Tim is a junkyard dog. I am a Sparrow Hawk. Keveon is a gazelle. Trigger is the patience of a tiger. You never know when it will go off but you know it will kinda like an earthquake you cannot predict, but you know in time the threadbare earth will move.

My fingers claw your skin, try to tear my way in

You are the moon that breaks the night for which I have to howl

My fingers claw your skin, try to tear my way in

You are the moon that breaks the night for which I have to

Howl, howl

Howl, howl

Tim loves this song and I know why. We all walk between all of this and all our deaths in soft shoes star to star. Beneath most plain men are prisoners with no hope and their cruel windows. I was a prisoner in a Youth Authority Detention Center. The whole world gets reduced to fluorescent flickering. The light goes on and off again. And we are just a group of boys together who have by accident escaped destiny’s harsh laments like rolling papers that get flushed away and down the toilet because the cops are at the door.

Darker and darker and house to house. Love to love. Crushing and it’s all crushing me. We aren’t all that good for much. But we can escape any afternoon of dust lost from everything but desire. We know all her wet secrets and all her boundary stones, and at night we listen to the silhouettes of howling as it steadfastly refuses to give up something we will never know. You can’t know everything, and Tim walks away from the why, why, why lashes of that whip.

And I become this child again. Walking our bikes up another rocky road. He makes you push it and push it and push it until the words you heard in that other life have become alive in this one.

I walk in soft shoes between the torment and the sorrow. Like a Bedouin who has touched the treacherous sand with his constant eyes of rushing blindly through the whispers like a parasite tearing open each boys’ becalmed throat and each boys’ belly until we have looked at all our bloodied hands and then the screaming starts.  

Now there’s no holding back, I’m making to attack

My blood is singing with your voice, I want to pour it out

The saints can’t help me now, the ropes have been unbound

I hunt for you with bloody feet across the hallow’d ground

like some child possessed, the beast howls in my veins

I want to find you tear out all your tenderness

And howl, howl

Howl, howl

 

 

Sometimes There Is A Key By Jonah

I sit in this group with guys just like me and he sits

There in his chair turning the keys in everyones’

Gut and mine and sometimes I hate him for that for

Making me look at who I really am beyond the identity

of what I once did for a living to survive because it

Was the only way I knew how and if I keep telling

Myself that lie maybe someday I will believe it

because the key is just another dagger plunged

through my eye so that I might unlock all the

coffins I have hidden in

Show Me The Money

To participate in the drug trial, I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Empirical Knowledge in an Humanitarian Disaster: AIDS DRUGS TRIALS

April 22, 2013. Washington, D.C.—Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee issued the following statement as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments for U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) v. Alliance for Open Society, International (AOSI). Congresswoman Lee, along with Senators Enzi, Leahy, Daschle and Frist, and Reps. Lowey, Waxman, Berman, and Kolbe, signed an amicus brief in support of AOSI“At the heart of this case is a pledge, the Anti-Prostitution Loyalty Oath, which requires groups getting money to fight AIDS from USAID to specifically pledge to be against prostitution. The unfortunate side-effect of this pledge is that groups are barred from reaching one of the most at-risk groups for AIDS: sex workers. “As a member for the United Nations Global Commission on HIV and the Law, I am deeply concerned that the global response to the AIDS crisis is being undermined by this harmful and discriminatory law. The pledge is counterproductive to the good work that many AIDS organizations are performing, and I’ve introduced legislation to repeal it. I hope the Supreme Court does the right thing and rules in favor of stripping this provision.”

“But the patient is not being cooperative.”

Are you looking for the hard to reach or for cooperation. Decide. You can’t have both. It isn’t possible. Get over it.

We could never afford the drugs. Where has public health been advocating for us. We are poor. We have no money. What has public health done at the doors of Big Pharma. In a word, nothing.

When public health tells us everyone can be treated we do not believe you. We KNOW people who are on waiting lists. We think you want to use us and abuse us simply because everyone does and that is our experience.

So you have a LONG way to go to reach young boys doing sex work and the statistics bear that out. The video we have posted here will make you uncomfortable even if it is only two seconds long.

It portrays a kind of bondage that can be inherent to sex work, and it portrays the kind of relationship we understand we would have with public health. 

Я сожалею, что он ушел. Я скучаю по его улыбке. Все, кто знал его будут помнить его. Россия может быть опасным местом для жизни.

http://showmeyourlife.tumblr.com The Smash Street Boys, kids at-risk themselves, work as mentors with children all around the planet in Show Me Your Life. It is our hope that in this context — photography, video, music, dance, painting, story-telling, poetry — children at-risk can find validation through expressing themselves, and that the story of what “at-risk” means can begin to be told.

L’accent mis sur les enfants, car ils seront l’avenir avant que le futur arrive.

TIM BARRUS: AIDS DOT GOV. SHOW ME THE MONEY (HIV/AIDS)

 

Show me AIDS programs that are fully funded. Show me AIDS programs that have no trouble acquiring meds. For everyone who needs them. Show me AIDS programs or public health programs that don’t treat young boys with the patriarchal attitude of: this is what you have to do.

Show me anything that has failed as badly as public health.

Show me the money.

AIDS DOT GOV  is a US government website that posts on AIDS issues. It’s a good thing. I am not sure who reads it.

I know for a fact who doesn’t read it. Hard to reach populations are called that because they are hard to reach, difficult to get to, and when we do reach them, then what.

You’ll find video, audio, and anything that can touch upon awareness.

“We’d love to hear more from you,” we are told. It might be true. It might not.

There is usually a price to pay if you deviate from mainstream perceptions.

I do believe they are reaching some in the transgendered community. They had to put out to do that. It didn’t just happen. It was not an accident. They had to embrace inclusion. They are reaching some transgendered people.

In the sex work community — not so much. Survival sex is almost impervious to listening.

Boys who do sex work are not being reached.

Boys of color who do sex work are not being reached.

I know counselors in AIDS ORGS who will tell you that adolescents of color do not do sex work. They don’t believe it. Stereotypes are hard to shake.

So is stigma.

We use the word whore a lot. To draw attention to the fact that gender is not always relevant to what we think is real. Be a whore and wear it proud. Whatever.

I do not really care what you do. It’s up to you. I am of the firm conviction that following the lead of mainstream culture can end up boiling you in oil. Be very careful. In the old days, it was cops, pimps, dealers, and tricks who were dangerous.

Today, there’s public health.

In Africa, they’re telling boys that if they become circumcised, they can’t get AIDS. African boys believe this and they comply.

Often, to discover it was not true.

Discovering you have AIDS is a bit more dramatic than discovering the book you’re reading is stretched some, or essentially disguised. Books are nothing.

Most of new media as well, is nothing. Until you make it something.

A safe house for boys who are doing or have done sex work is a new idea in the world of AIDS.  The grand poobahs in AIDS would be shocked to really come to terms with not so much how little such boys understand, but how little they trust. Some will never trust anything ever again.

They don’t just automatically “lose distrust” if they need treatment for HIV, getting it is easier said than done. Such boys do not like giving away their freedom, their names, their ages, or the families they fled. Or disclosing how they make a living today. Prostitution is against the law. Prostitutes carrying around condoms is against the law. Trust issues.

The THEY are, after all, government.

Sometimes the boys bet on the paradigm that one hand wipes and the other hand is oblivious. They tell me government is incompetent. The physical a year requirement in primary care is ephemeral, as is fasting for cholesterol tests and why are we testing young boys for cholesterol anyway. Because it’s in the funding rulebook.

The message they really get from public health is more You Better Follow the Regulations Manual or else. Or else what. We will drop you from the rolls. You will have to begin again. At the beginning.

It’s one thing to get fucked for a living.

It’s another thing to be objectified when you are not making a living. Many boys balk, and yet the attitude of public health is: we are only trying to help.

Actually, they are just keeping their funding. You are reduced to a checklist. Antenna that can focus on objectification is an attribute we have historically coveted. 

The boys know that there are no slogans about getting (not just tested) treatment. They know that a YouTube video is ubiquitous. They are uneducated. Not stupid.

We put our videos on http://le-too.tumblr. com and http://realstoriesgallery.org and http://smashstreetboys.com and http://showmeyourlife.tumblr.com.

We use Tumblr not FB. FB kicked us off. Because as sex workers, it was more than FB could stomach.

The lowest of the low on a good day.

We get around through Tumblr’s “ask” feature. We can go anon. WE can use our names. We decide. Not FB. It is a grapevine of boy sex workers all around the planet.

The boys have asked me to refrain from explaining how the “ask” feature works. Okay.

AIDS DOT GOV is shooting for the mainstream They have a voice that does exactly that.

They do not speak the boys language, Miss Thing.

They do not speak the languages of the people who are the most intransigently marginalized of the off the grid populations of people at risk for acquiring HIV. Simple.

I don’t know if they have a presence on Tumblr or not. That is the point whether they do or they don’t. I don’t know about it.

Why. Because they are suits. Like the boys themselves, I avoid the government.

We have to be our own ORGS. We have to form our own liaisons. We have to speak our own language. We have to have our own codes. We have to make what we can of it our own culture.

Because if we do not, they will eventually kill us. We understand that we are not the mainstream gay community. We are the misfits who don’t fit in. I did sex work to not starve. I share that history with where the boys are at today. We are lucky to survive and we know it.

When we were being beaten up by our friends and families, where was the government. It was not there for us.

Why has public health failed.

You have failed because you have failed. If only a minority of people with HIV can stay in primary care, you have failed. It is not our failure. It is your failure.

“But the patient is not being cooperative.”

Are you looking for the hard to reach or for cooperation. Decide. You can’t have both. It isn’t possible. Get over it.

We could never afford the drugs. Where has public health been advocating for us. We are poor. We have no money. What has public health done at the doors of Big Pharma. In a word, nothing.

When public health tells us everyone can be treated we do not believe you. We KNOW people who are on waiting lists. We think you want to use us and abuse us simply because everyone does and that is our experience.

So you have a LONG way to go to reach young boys doing sex work and the statistics bear that out. The video we have posted here will make you uncomfortable even if it is only two seconds long.

It portrays a kind of bondage that can be inherent to sex work, and it portrays the kind of relationship we understand we would have with public health. One is the other and the other is the other. 

Personally, I have no faith in you whatsoever. Show me the money.

 

Tim Barrus: The term AIDS-FREE GENERATION is the most offensive dog piddle I have ever heard. And I am not going to shut the fuck up about it. When we reduce what is an extraordinarily complex paradigm down to the level of a slogan or a jingle, what we are really doing is discounting the hard work it is going to take to actually achieve something that is as it stands today, a feat IMPOSSIBLE to pull off unless CULTURE makes some pretty serious changes. We discount the struggles that are going on right here, right now. We reduce HOPE to a mantra as stupid as Just Get Tested. Sure, get tested, but get treated, too. Where is the mantra that says Get Treated If You Can. It is a fantasy. It cannot be done until we begin to face the reality of what those changes will be that we have to pull off. Today, only a small fraction of people in the US with HIV can even stay in primary care. Because there are OBSTACLES we make CHOICES not to remove. Like the COST, the outrageous rip offs, that  stand in the way of people getting treated. So instead of confronting what is real, we wrap it up in an illusion that makes hope another Disney Channel with singsong consequences pretending to be no consequence at all. It is truly pathetic. It’s the equivalent of hoping Bambi can find its mother. It is something sixth graders can endorse but in the final analysis it doesn’t matter what sixth graders do. It doesn’t matter how many bake sale they have. It doesn’t matter how many miles they walk. WE are the adults. It matters what we do.

April 18, 2013

If We Want an AIDS-Free Generation, Why Are We Cutting PEPFAR?

by Chris Collins

The vice president and director of public policy at amfAR explores why PEPFAR cuts continue.

Chris CollinsChris Collins

The persistent shortchanging of PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, is one of the more significant and perplexing trends in America’s global health policy. Funding for PEPFAR (America’s bilateral global AIDS program) has been falling consistently from its peak in fiscal year 2010. In fiscal year 2012, $250 million was transferred out of the program to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. For fiscal year 2013, the White House proposed cutting PEPFAR by $550 million (11 percent) and in March of this year Congress went part way, taking $176 million from the program in the Continuing Resolution.

Funding for PEPFAR has fallen 12 percent since 2010 in the State Department HIV bilateral budget line. Last week, the White House proposed an additional $50 million cut for 2014. When the mandated sequestration cut is taken into account, the program is now at its lowest funding level since 2007.

This downward funding spiral might make sense if there was a consensus that tackling AIDS has become less important, or if PEPFAR was not producing results. But the opposite is true. In November 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that achieving an AIDS-free generation was a “policy priority” for the U.S. government. President Obama went on to set bold new targets for AIDS treatment and other services through PEPFAR. In November 2012, the Administration released a PEPFAR Blueprint lauding the program’s accomplishments and affirming the need to “rapidly scale-up core … interventions.” Doing so, the Blueprint argued, would accelerate declines in HIV incidence globally.

In February of this year, President Obama inspired all those engaged in the response to AIDS when, in his State of the Union address, he reaffirmed his commitment to the goal of an AIDS-free generation. The same month, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) weighed in with their assessment of PEPFAR, four years in the making. It concluded that the program has been “globally transformative” and has “had major positive effects on the health and well-being of individual beneficiaries, on institutions and systems in partner countries, and the overall global response to AIDS.”

Why the mismatch between results, rhetoric, and financing? Budget deficit pressures do not explain it: total U.S. global health spending is just a quarter of one percent of the federal budget. Politics doesn’t explain it either, with PEPFAR maintaining a unique level of bipartisan Congressional support.

The more likely reason for steady reductions in PEPFAR funding is an Administration decision to gradually de-emphasize bilateral AIDS investments in favor of multilateral institutions and multiyear commitments to these institutions. Increased investments in the Global Fund and other multilateral health organizations are a badge of honor for President Obama. These institutions have demonstrated clear results in countries around the world, and U.S. funding leverages investments from others.

The question is not whether increased funding for the Global Fund is good, because clearly it is. The question is whether those increases justify year-on-year reductions in our bilateral AIDS program. It is not a matter of choosing between multilateral and bilateral approaches, but of marshaling sufficient resources to end AIDS.

One concern is that as Global Fund and PEPFAR funding trends head in opposite directions, net U.S. resources dedicated to tackling AIDS are in decline. Since on average approximately 57 percent of Global Fund resources are allocated to combating HIV/AIDS, the $600 million increase in support for the Global Fund since 2010 and the $543 million decrease in funding for PEPFAR during that time adds up to an overall decline in U.S. government funding to tackle the global AIDS epidemic.

Another problem is the lost opportunities to strengthen health systems when PEPFAR is cut. According to the distinguished IOM panel, the program is helping build health systems through improved laboratory capacity, supply chains, and staff training. The IOM observed that PEPFAR is “uniquely situated as a platform for research to spur innovation and to address knowledge gaps” in the global AIDS response.

And then there is the move toward to greater “country ownership” of healthcare financing and decision making. Clearly country ownership is an important goal and should be pursued at a rate that is appropriate for each individual country setting. But a reduced commitment to PEPFAR could lead to an accelerated and premature hand-off of AIDS programs with potentially disastrous consequences. Already there are concerns. A Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report released in March noted the “legitimate fears” that a rushed transition in South Africa could disrupt the delivery of AIDS treatment to people there.

In many countries where PEPFAR operates, those groups most severely affected by the epidemic, including gay men, people who inject drugs, and sex workers, are socially and legally marginalized. Last year UNAIDS reported that more than 90 percent of funding to address HIV among these populations in low- and middle-income countries came from external sources, not the countries themselves. Though PEPFAR still needs to pay greater attention to these most-at-risk groups, the program has been a leader in tending to their HIV-related needs. If PEPFAR is scaled back, real progress to address the epidemic among the most vulnerable could be in serious jeopardy. 

Congress has been broadly supportive of domestic and global AIDS funding for many years. And the President deserves praise for his leadership on AIDS, which includes game changers like the Affordable Care Act, the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, and funding increases for domestic AIDS and the Global Fund. The President is to be commended for being outspoken against HIV-related stigma and for equality for gay people, including young Black gay men, who are perhaps the most vulnerable in America’s epidemic.

With the end of AIDS within reach, it is time to think about legacy—the President’s and our own. The most damaging consequence of continual reductions in funding for PEPFAR is slower than necessary progress in pursuing the end of the AIDS pandemic. The PEPFAR Blueprint shows how expanded delivery of proven interventions will yield falling HIV incidence and mortality rates within a few years. The Global Fund has an essential role to play in this effort, and other donors and affected countries need to invest more.

But the honest truth is that the world won’t end AIDS without PEPFAR. Some will say, judge PEPFAR on its outcomes, not its funding. But when PEPFAR’s own Blueprint calls for rapid scale-up of effective services in order to show tangible gains, it’s hard to understand why now is the time to cut back. The urgency of delivering lifesaving services remains acute, with the IOM observing that there is a “substantial remaining unmet need for all services … that are part of an effective response to HIV.”

Congress and the President should not set the AIDS budget based on short-term expediency. Instead they should recognize the longer game: defeating a major infectious disease, and securing this generation’s legacy as beginning the end of AIDS. To achieve that goal, both the Global Fund and PEPFAR need appropriate funding.

The IOM panel assessing PEPFAR’s work concluded that the program “has the opportunity and the potential to once again transform the way global assistance for health is envisioned and implemented.” The question is, will we allow it to seize the opportunity and fulfill its potential?


Tim Barrus/ Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center

Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center works to eliminate sex worker stigma that marginalizes sex workers and their access to things like health care and housing. This goes a long way toward addressing the issues HIV brings to both male and female sex workers whether they are trafficked or doing sex work by choice. They are all people and people have rights. The more sex workers are empowered, the more they are able to provide protection for themselves whether it’s protection against violence or a virus. Sex workers who are empowered and able to more effectively control the safety levels in the environments they work in have a positive impact on public health.

Tim Barrus/ Social Networking on le Internet

Most social networking is ambiguous. How does it benefit anyone or anything. Especially when most of it is nothing more than social ritual. Good morning have a nice day. I seriously question the quality of those connections. Quality versus quantity. There is a lot of rah-rah rah-rah cheerleading out there concerning the interface between individuals and their social networking via the Internet. It feels like publicist rhetoric. It is, in fact, an embrace of what is fundamentally competition. Competition to be heard. Competition for resources; it’s disingenuously disguised as a modern, cutting-edge concept although it’s as old as the tribal cave it comes from. In the non-profit universe I live in, it’s facetiously the public-health paradigm choir preaching to itself. So what if I connect to a hundred other AIDS orgs. After a while, they all have the same thing to say. The politically correct mantras. Get tested. Get tested. Get tested. After all, it’s all your (underlying message) fucking fault. Get tested does NOT mean get treatment. Way too many people assume that if they get tested, they will find their way to treatment. Treatment is an economic dynamic, not a medical one. The AIDS-helper community thinks that the shock of having been tested (where you will now redefine yourself) comes from some kind of psychiatric imperative. This is more bugabuga. The shock is often a result of having just learned that everything you will have ever earned will now go down the AIDS-meds shit hole. A thousand of us or a hundred thousand of us sliding down that bankruptcy pipeline on a social network doesn’t change anything. Social networks do not so much as simply collapse, but they implode into the metastasis of the social institution. All social institutions have their own unique take on code, secrets of the tribe, and mechanisms referred to as order. Versus chaos (another tribe, not usually a friendly one). The status quo to social networks can be found in the extent to which the language of the tribe refers to reality as it is, or an agreement that we will all share the same values because if we don’t, the values of another tribe will evolve to predominate identity itself, and we could even have problems recognizing ourselves because our particular tribal affiliations are in name only where a numbers game is exposed as being what it is (the illusion that we exist or matter) versus finding validation in existence as a fact, and not a common consensus. Social networks can be highly amusing if only because what they reflect is the gargantuan stupidity of a species whose race with death continues to be a bargaining with the devil who is us. 

tim barrus: this street will be extended

The sad truth to it is that there are some kids who are going to live their lives on a dead end road. The educational suits are going to tell you authoritatively that they can somewhat predict who the loser kids are going to be, and who the winners already are. If you have the bad judgement of telling them that these assessments are not always correct; that they are inherently mean (and racist), and act as artillery in class warfare, the suits will blink, and in that blink of that one eye, they will turn the sizing up on you.

The suits will always win at any version of a numbers game. They’re suits. It’s what they do. Teachers are at the bottom of the prestige list suits make up. Although teachers are the people on the front lines on the ground. Doesn’t matter. No culture war is ever fought simply on the ground in the midst of any given battle. During the Second World War there were plenty of German suits in offices who did things like keep all the records and accounting (suits like accounting) up to date in the procuring of the chemicals that were used in gas chambers in concentration camps. The supplies and demands of concentration camps kept many suits employed.

In today’s culture wars, the kids who are going to do well anyway come to it with validation already built into the paradigms that move them forward. Every time Good Johnny throws that football, and it is received, Good Johnny knows what he looks like, knows who he is throwing to, knows how the set of actions necessary to perform this task will feel like, and everything about him from his sexuality to his social status gets reinforced. He’s only throwing a football, yes. But he’s throwing it right, and it validates him. He does not internalize: oh, I am being validated. He simply feels good because his brain has evolved to release feel good chemicals when he performs certain tasks correctly, and Johnny Good comes to understand that in life, he’s going to do okay.

Last week, the Smash Street Boys posted a video that has caused me to get feedback (and many questions) from parents. A few of these parents have asked me basically the same question which has to do with what IS my educational theory. It is my distinct impression that what these parents are really saying is: we’ve tried everything. I am sure they think they have. Usually, what they’ve tried is your typical follow the cultural rules stuff. Parenting as the status quo. You’ve done everything you’ve been told to do. Not everything that can be done.  These people come to it tired. My purpose here is not to beat them up. It’s simply to respond.

Thinking outside of the box isn’t easy. Usually, it involves the same kind of self-initiative we are asking for from the kids themselves.

There’s one history I have a hard time with. It’s personal. The parent who has thrown a kid out of the home because they can’t handle the news that a kid might be gay has little sympathy from me. The parent who goes into high shock syndrome because Johnny Bad was living on the street doing survival sex, and now has HIV, just makes me roll my eyes. You’ve pushed the kid into a corner. Teachers on the ground know this: not everyone should be a parent. This means you.

I don’t have a theory. I rock and roll. If I had a premise, it would have to do with validation.

Where do we even begin.

By construction.

Construct a football. Construct a process of throwing it so that when the kid does it — and I do not mean does it well, I mean just does it — he self-reinforces an image in his mind of who he is. The street doesn’t have a process other than rendering kids fundamentally worthless. If there has never been a process of validation for a particular kid, for whatever reason, then it’s up to you as the parent to invent one. Because if you don’t, the kid will. He’ll reinvent himself. Kids do it all the time. They reinvent the game. You’re either a player in that game or you’re not.

I listen a lot. A lot. No. I said: A LOT.

One of the things I hear very frequently is a dialogue between them that goes to who was the better sex worker and who totally flubbed it. Wearing obviously expensive designer clothes and flaunting it is not the sacred thing you might think of as coming from adolescents. The boys who do sex work well work hard at not being arrested, they’re understated. The concept is to look clean. The trick isn’t looking for the peacock. He’s looking for an object that isn’t going to redraw the lines of the trick’s status quo. The trick is usually a married man. With children. All whores know this: the trick always wants to get off, but he never wants to pay for it.

Being busted is paying for it.

HIV can be paying for it.

You play. You pay. Life itself makes no exceptions.

What I see are kids who are really very good at reconfiguring the paradigms of play. If HIV becomes a part of that, the usual response is to build a vast hall of secrets. What HIV.

Kids know.

They have us by the balls. They will tell you that we adults only want to bust them.

We remain indicted until we prove otherwise.

Our institutions exist to marginalize the nonconformists.

To assume kids are stupid is a big mistake.

At-risk kids have no mechanism and no directions in the box in terms of how to validated themselves. What adults and educators do not want to hear is that usually by five it’s too late to make real fundamental changes in the football team. If I am really going to reach a kid to the extent that he isn’t getting his dick sucked for peanuts, I need to be able to do that work before they’re two. This is rare.

If you are one of the billions of box builders out there who can only understand a thing by building boxes, I would build you a box called validation.

The rest of it is always rock and roll, and on the road. What Kerouac reinvented was Kerouac, not literature.  You can build that road WITH the kid right up to the presence of the stop sign. But if this street is to really be extended, that’s when the kid assumes responsibility not for the status quo you’ve taught him to respect, but this is where the kid begins to understand no one really knows where the road is going to go.



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