New from Direland: Why Has the Gay Community Walked Away from the AIDS Figh

December 01, 2007
CHARLES KING’S CHALLENGE TO THE GAY COMMUNITY: STOP IGNORING AIDS! The full text of King’s World AIDS Day keynote speech in San Francisco

Last year at this time, DIRELAND reprinted the important World AIDS Day speech in San Francisco by POZ magazine founder and longtime LGBT and AIDS activist Sean Strub (right) on “What’s Wrong With the AIDS Movement? Why We’re Losing theSean_strub_2 Fight to Stop AIDS.”. In that speech, Sean decried the purge of HIV+ people from the leadership of the nation’s AIDS service organizations, and argued for a renewed activist strategy for the AIDS fight. This year, at Sean’s suggestion, Sean recommended to the San Francisco organizers of the World AIDS Day observances there that they invite Charles King — the president and CEO of Housing Works, the AIDS service organization I most admire — to give the keynote speech at the City by the Bay’s observance of this day.

Charles King was an inspired choice — Housing Works, under his leadership, continues to unfailingly embody the activist spirit that animated the “first wave” of gay-led AIDS-fighting in the earliest years of the pandemic. After all, Housing Works — founded in 1990 — grew out of the original ACT UP Housing Committee, and was initially about taking responsibility for the 30,000 homeless then dying of AIDS in New York City.Today, Housing Works is the largest grassroots AIDS service organization in the country, with a $35 million budget and a wide range of programs — and its also the largest minority-controlled ASO to boot. Among the many movement- inspired activities at Housing Works, the organization serves as the headquarters for, and staffs, the Campaign to End AIDS, the exciting national activist coalition it helped to launch, which is trying valiantly to re-inject some life and militancy into the struggle against AIDS, in contrast to the often sluggish, arteriosclerotic, and self-serving institutional AIDS bureaucracy typified by AIDS Action — the largest Washington AIDS lobby that bills itself as the so-called “national voice on AIDS,”, represents the 3000-plus AIDS service organizations around the country, and which often seems to ignore most AIDS issues to concentrate on the Ryan White Act funding that pays the munificent salaries of those orgs’ e.d.s (it’s a burreaucracy which even a mainstream figure like Barney Frank has sarcastically condemned as “AIDS Inc.”)

If you do only one thing for World AIDS Day this year, read Charles King’s speech in San Francisco, reprinted below. It’s an impassioned challenge to the institutional gay community, which has largely turned away from the AIDS fight, and it analyzes the nexus of class and race that is at the heart of the gay community’s current AIDS fatigue.
Here is that speech:


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