Tuesday, January 9, 2007

an epidemic of complacency?

Seven years ago, during the summer before my senior year at USC, I was a DC intern. I interned for a major AIDS activist organization and was supervised by a local, renowned DC activist. My internship was a dream. I wasn’t stuck inside of a room all day, filing papers. I shadowed my supervisor everywhere. I conducted valuable research. I hung out with Ted Kennedy and Jim Jeffords. I had breakfast with Dianne Feinstein. I had lunch with Eleanor Holmes Norton. I was even in a protest (over the patients’ bill of rights). My supervisor was amazing and inspired me every day. He wore many hats and one of those included the director of NORA—or National Organizations Responding to AIDS.

I remember my first NORA meeting like it was yesterday. I met a lot of fellow activists. The meeting was held in a big room and it was filled to capacity. I met activists that I was completely in awe of. I began to realize that I wanted to be in their shoes some day.

Fast forward 7 years later and here I am doing policy work for an organization promoting sexual health. And yesterday presented an unexpected opportunity—my second NORA meeting. Needless to say, I was excited about the opportunity. I couldn’t wait to meet and network with fellow activists. I felt that it would be a good gauge of how far I've come professionally.

When I arrived, I was the 8th person there. I was 5 minutes early. By the time the meeting started (15 minutes late), 3 more people showed up. There was a total of 11 people at the NORA meeting. If the room had been smaller, perhaps it wouldn’t have felt so empty. And considering that 5 people were from the same organization, that means only 7 organizations were represented. I was disappointed.

The show of support at the meeting was a total letdown. The meeting itself was fantastic. After all, we had much to celebrate. The Ryan White CARE Act had been reauthorized in December. Sure there were some bad cuts, but at least some important items will keep their funding. And we were all hopeful about the Democratic majority in Congress. The future appears rough yet positive.

After the meeting, I couldn’t shake away the feeling of disappointment. Why did no one show? Has NORA become irrelevant? Have the activists become complacent or worse, indifferent? There’s so much more we need to do. Whatever happened to strength in numbers?

I may be disappointed but I’m not disillusioned. Until AIDS is over, there will always be something to fight for.

1 comment:

DCWeddingPhotog said...

I think people are "over" AIDS. They think it's now just an African thing and that we know better here. Sad thing about that is... it's not true. More people have HIV in DC than in most Sub-saharan African countries. The numbers are crazy.

I'm still with you on the fight against AIDS, though! I ran the AIDS Marathon last year and I studied abroad in Zambia and saw the destruction AIDS has caused there with my own eyes. There are no people ages 15-30 walking around the streets. It's chilling.

We have to keep fighting!