The Scholar and the Feminist XVI (Women and Public Policy: Making the Difference): Afternoon Plenary 6, part 1

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  • Speaker 1: We would do is introduce ourselves from the panel and if people here would say who they are, we can go around from the panelists around the room [unclear] saying who we are, whether, something about why we're here. We're trying to figure out what it is that people are people doing work around AIDS and have information about that. If people want that information so that we don't actually misgauge who it is that we're speaking to. And then we'll come back and do the actions of our talks and whatever we find out in that go around. And this is short, I mean we're not [unclear]. [laughter] Nan, you want to start and then we'll move this way? Nan Hunter: Okay, my name is Nan Hunter. I'm the director of the AIDS project at the American Civil Liberties Union and I'm a lawyer. Barbara Turk: My name is Barbara Turk and I'm not on the schedule. I'm pinch-hitting for Katy Taylor. I work for the Manhattan Borough President's office where I until a few months ago was a senior policy advisor. I'm now the budget director there but when I was doing senior policy advising I was working a lot on AIDS. Ruth Rodriguez: I'm Ruth Rodriguez. I'm the executive director of LOISAIDA Incorporated (Lower East Side Association) in the Lower East Side and I'm formerly the founder and executive director of the Hispanic AIDS forum. Amber Hollibaugh: I'm Amber Hollibaugh and I'm the video producer, educator for the for the AIDS Discrimination Unit of the NYC Commission on Human Rights. The other woman that was supposed to be our panelist, Maria St. Cyr and she's got strep throat. She is the executive director of WARN which is Women's AIDS Resource Network and the founder of the Haitian [unclear]. So I'm sorry she's not here to [unclear] board members and 50 board members here. Speaker 1: My name is Eli and I'm and outreach coordinator of [unclear]training birthing which is like the microcosm of New York City in terms of drugs, teenage pregnancy. And I work with Hispanic and poverty in women and our AIDS problem is getting worse. Our adolescent, our teenage adolescent is getting worse. Babies are increasing and I'm just wanting some, you know, support in some other ways [unclear]. And I'm also a student at Columbia University [unclear] in the School of Public Health. Speaker 2: [Unclear] My name is [unclear] AIDS, transitional homes [unclear]. And I'm a counsellor for [unclear].[laughter] Speaker 3: My name is Cathy [Vell] and I'm [unclear] Gay Men's Health Crisis Hotline Speaker 4: I'm Angela [Cecil] Speaker 5: My name is Doris [unclear] I work [unclear] senior citizens and they are losing their children to AIDS. Speaker 6: I'm Victoria [unclear] dying of AIDS [unclear] Speaker 7: My name is Susan [unclear] I do volunteer work at an AIDS related organization [unclear] Speaker 8: My name is Leah [unclear] and I'm a Barnard senior and I'm [unclear] Speaker 9: My name is [Jesse Gray] and I had a few people close to me that have AIDS. Speaker 10: I'm [unclear] and I'm a student here at Barnard Speaker 11: I'm [unclear]. I'm a nurse at the Presbyterian Hospital unclear] hospital AIDS education for all levels of staff. Speaker 12: I'm [Karen White]. I'm a graduate student at Columbia and I'm covering this conference for Off Our Backs [unclear] newspaper. And I came to hear a discussion in relationship [unclear] Speaker 13: I'm Carol [Banse], a teacher at Columbia [unclear] worked on AIDS and I especially think about the effect of AIDS on sexuality in women in particular.
  • Speaker 14: Hi I'm Hilda Proctor, Director of Education at a small agency in the South Bronx called [APCAP]. It's the Adolescent Pregnancy Care and Prevention Program. We do comprehensive services for pregnant and parenting adolescents and young adults. Some of whom have AIDS and some of their children are born with AIDS. And so I, we get a lot of information about AIDS at the agency but we can't give too much information about AIDS. So, I'm grateful to the university and Kim Burns [unclear]. Nan Hunter: You want to just start? Speaker 1: Yeah, just start. Nan Hunter: Okay, why not. Here goes. Um, okay. I want to talk a little bit about what I see as some of the overlaps between feminism, feminist work, women's organizing, and AIDS work. Especially AIDS policy work. I come to this as someone who has spent many years doing sort of, women's rights work including, I suppose most intensively, the issue of abortion. I was an abortion rights lawyer for five years before I became an AIDS, you know lawyer, rights lawyer for the last three years. So a lot of my thoughts about that tend naturally from my own personal experience to go in that direction. But I think also not just for my own personal experience, but some of the, the ways in which those issues especially overlap. And so what I would like to do is to point out probably about four or five specific areas and concerns and sort of points of overlap. And then talk a little bit about the discourse of AIDS and what the possibilities are I think for some kind of feminist voice in that. And a little bit about why there hasn't been much of a feminist voice in it. To just start with what has been I think, for gay men, and some of these points I think result, you know, pertain particularly to certain populations and some more generally. But the first point of overlap for me at least, is that AIDS is a social marker of sex. And it occurred to me in much the same way that for women, especially unmarried women, abortion is a social marker of sex. It's this public manifestation of what is otherwise a very private act, that otherwise would not be known to anyone else, perhaps. And both occur in the medical health arena; that is the public manifestations. And it also functions obviously as you, as one thinks about both AIDS and abortion, as socially as getting caught. The perception is that someone's getting caught in a very shameful act, you know. If you're unmarried woman and you know, you're pregnant, is your responsibility. You have to deal with it. You're the one who gets caught and you're the one who experiences the sense of shame. My own, my own sense is that one of the explanations at least about the sense of connection in, and the reason for why so many women have gotten involved in AIDS work-- and I don't guess this is the only explanation but I do think it's one of them-- is it, is that I think that women have in themselves a lot of residual anger. Many women do. At the accusation and the responsibilities that virtually every woman grows up with. Which is, as to heterosexual sex, you know it's your responsibility. You're going to be the one to blame. You know all of those sorts of associations with pregnancy, unmarried pregnancy with getting caught, it's God's punishment. All the rest of it. All of a sudden my sense is that men, perhaps for the first time, have gotten hit with the same kinds of associations. I feel, you know just from my own past experience - and I think there are a number of women to whom I've said this have said yeah you're right --that that, that that our sense of having been the objects of that kind of blame for sexuality is something that can carry over to a sense of empathy for the gay men who get the same kind of blame for sexuality.
  • Who are told that it's their fault that they got this disease. I think that's one particular point of overlap and one particular point of where a very basic sort of feminist CR principal and political slogan could carry us. In terms of things about AIDS and what AIDS has meant for at least some of the people who have been hit by that disease the most. The other, another point of overlap that I was thinking about was just the issue of speech about AIDS and speech about sexuality. This too is an area that I've been involved with in other kinds of issue arenas. But it occurs to me that again, very similarly, because again both obviously deal with issues of sexuality, you have a set of double function here. The function of censorship at the public level, and denial at the private level. A sense of internalized shame that, that is so deep that people who are affected by AIDS or fear that they are affected by AIDS are driven literally up to the wall to the point where-- the price of, it's only I think the fact that the price of silence can be deaf -- that people have been able to deal with it on the individual level is openly as they have. Again, thinking about the history of censorship at the public level in terms of issues for women, the whole history of censorship of birth control information. Of how difficult it was for women to get that information by disseminating the culture just less than a hundred years ago is very reminiscent to me on some of the issues that we're dealing with in terms of AIDS. And specifically, one of the cases that I'm involved with is a case that challenges the constitutionality of the Helms amendment. The Helms amendment was passed by Congress a couple of years ago to restrict the content of AIDS education materials. Along with the Helms Amendment, the Centers for Disease Control adopted regulation which required that all AIDS educational materials be inoffensive to persons beyond the target group. I mean that's the thing that I truly love about it. [sarcasm] That is to say that it was not that the materials be inoffensive to people in the target group which would make some sense. I mean, how can you educate people if you are offending them? You'd be turning them off and driving away. But no, they have to not be an offense at the people beyond the target group. That is, the people who would never see them would have to not be offended by it. And obviously that functions as censorship and was intended to function as censorship. It was intended to keep away from people the most effective kinds of information that could save their lives. I mean the principles there are are identical to the principles in the struggle that women fought a number of decades ago about birth control information which was censored not because it was inaccurate and not because anyone thought really be offensive to women. But it was censored because it would, it was considered you know offensive and to others. And I suppose ,empowering to women. And also an acknowledgement of sexual practices which were in fact going on. People don't like to acknowledge sexual practices that actually go on. So the the corollary to that I think too, I mean the positive corollary I would say, is probably that the campaign that gay men have fought, specifically gay men, around safe sex. Developing safe-sex campaigns, the openness to issues of sexuality that does exist in that culture probably I would say is popularly thought of most frequently in connection with AIDS as as the cause of death and tragedy. And is associated with the blaming impulse. In my sense, that openness is what explains the extraordinary success within the community, with virtually no help from anyone outside, at the safe sex education campaigns. And truly that openness I think is what is saving and has saved a lot of people's lives. But that certainly seems to me to resonate with, with connections to women's movement and to feminist insights.
  • The next point of overlap surely has to be, or one surely has to be the political nature of the negotiation of sex. That is the negotiation of sex between partners. This point of overlap I would say certainly does apply to gay men but applies much more powerfully to heterosexual women at risk of HIV infection and at risk for AIDS. Time after time I have read that in the educational campaigns going on, that it is easier to change people's behaviors around drug addiction which surely are not easy to change, than it is to change behaviors around use of condoms. That those behaviors are so culturally embedded and so difficult to address, to talk about, to negotiate, and that surely is an arena in which feminists can and should have much to say. Um, what, one of the things that's amazing to me, and it's one of those one of those, one of those points that doesn't come and get much attention. But in the studies that typically focus on heterosexual transmission of HIV and the use of condoms as a means of preventing that transmission, there are often data reported as to the number of persons who are in AIDS counseling programs who don't use condoms. And I'm referring now specifically to the number of typically studies involving married couples in AIDS counseling programs and which heterosexual transmission is being studied. One partner is infected at the outset, both partners had tested, they're in these research protocols, they're getting counseling constantly. And I saw another notation in the medical journal and just the other day in which sort of, as sort of, parenthetically it was reported that half of the couples in the study refuse to use condoms. Simply would not use condoms. It's daunting I think, that if in that situation people won't use condoms. That the prospect of sort of being able to effectively bring that about another studies is --- no small matter. Certainly, I mean, the last, the last point of overlap again we are feminist theory is, has much to say, would have much to contribute on issues of AIDS, concerns just the malleability of sexual conduct. of sexual practices. AIDS being again a marker of the extent for example, of bisexual sexual practices among men. The, the silliness is if you will or some of the rigid kinds of sexual categories that are often proposed in terms of the way people think about AIDS. You're either this or you're that. You're either gay or you're straight, you're either this or you..I mean, as though person's experiences don't change over the course of life. As though, as though the person's identity and their sense about the sexual practices in which they are engaging don't change [over night]. I have in my notes that many feminist theorists have, have written. And I don't know when [unclear] but very exciting works on that; deconstructing systems of sexuality and gender both from other systems and from each other. Including, for example, Gayle Rubin and Carol Vance. And, I'm embarrassed because Carol's in the room [laughter] [unclear]. So in thinking about these topics for, for today and sort of thinking about why hasn't there been sort of, more of an explicitly feminist voice. Not necessarily labelled feminist, but, sort of why haven't more of these ideas or more of these sort of, connections been drawn in the public discourse about AIDS. A couple of things occurred to me. One is that, first of all, I mean, just at the panic level about AIDS has been, has been so hot that it has admitted only a really a few different positions. The panic level now it seems to me has subsided substantially. There are good and bad aspects to that. I mean, the good aspect to that, that I see for example where I work, is that two years ago when I think the panic level was really at its height, hundreds of bills were being introduced. Literally hundreds of bills were being introduced in the state legislatures. [like those] that were social control impulse at its height. And the inclination seemed to be basically to try and test everything that moved. That, that level has subsided and the good aspect of that seems to me is that I don't see, that I mean, they're not hundreds of bills being introduced anymore. Just at the legislative level on, there's been a lot of education. There's some, some growth and some learning process that's going on among policymakers.
  • And so that particular hysteria, I think has passed largely. The issues about testing and about social control mechanisms certainly have not gone away. But they have been for the most part, refined. The problem with that is that along with the lowering of the panic level, which may have been artificially high to begin with, I think there's now a tendency to say well AIDS, you know, it's over. Big deal. You know, it's, it's only them, basically. It's not going to sweep through the country like wildfire. It's not going to hit the mainstream population and so it's only going to be those populations. And so I think the problem now is not the panic level. The problem now is the sense that AIDS is somebody else's problem. And that it's going to be an expensive problem but it's somebody else's problem. I also think that the discourse about AIDS has gotten pretty much frozen. I mean it seems to me it's been frozen into two camps. The, what I would call the public health civil rights camp-- the everything from the ACLU the civil rights groups, the American Public Health Association, the National Academy of Sciences, a whole range, a whole consensus has formed. That indeed you cannot have an effective public health intervention in a public health crisis by, by scaring people. By forcing people, by penalizing people. That consensus has formed. There is also the social control camp as I will call it who, who try to use the rhetoric of public health. But really what they're about is social control identification, isolation, quarantine, whatever. Using AIDS as an opportunity that I suppose none of us ever thought they would have, to argue that indeed there could be such a thing as God's punishment for sex. And they have certainly capitalized on that aspect for the last few years. But there are those two camps and I frankly don't see the discourse moving very much off those points. Which in some sense leads me to think that perhaps now is a moment for, for some new voices and some new ideas and some-- and to try and insert some new approaches to learn from some of the work that we have done collectively in the women's movement to suggest what some feminist insights about the issues raised by AIDS might be. So I'll close there. Ruth Rodriguez: Guess I'm next Speaker 1: You are next. [laughter]Ruth Rodriguez: Please bear with me if you don't want me to ramble, you'll have to put up with my reading. Louder, okay. I'm going to have to read my presentation. You'd thank me for it if you heard me trying to ad lib. One of the things that I would like to very much stress, and I'm not sure it's in here, is that you mentioned, you mentioned that AIDS is being used to isolate people that have been traditionally in groups that have been traditionally considered undesirables. And for women of color it presents a double whammy. And that's what I'd like to address. AIDS is the same for all women, but for women of color HIV infection and AIDS along with some of the other facts of life like racism, classism, poverty, poor housing and homelessness, a non-existent educational system, inadequate health care present a deadly picture. Some of the facts of AIDS for women of color in New York City are that nearly one-third of all women with AIDS are Hispanic. Over half of all women with AIDS are Black women. One third of all Latina women with AIDS in New York city became infected through sex with a man at risk. Over 60% of all women of color with AIDS are intravenous drug users.
  • In a study on the impact of days on Latina women which focused on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and which was reported in an article by Dr. Judy Worth and myself. Puerto Rican women in treatment for substance abuse [laughter] I lost it. Anyway, it was on Puerto Rican women in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. And Puerto Rican women in treatment for substance abuse indicated that the majority of them had been turned on to drug use at an early age that's 12 to 14 by men. I am loathed to promote the mistaken notion that Hispanic men and women are different from men and women of the dominant Anglo culture, or of any culture for that matter. And that's always the temptation but we try to go for a cultural sensitivity. The fact that we live in a male-dominated world is a fact for all of us. Nevertheless, the degree to which all woman's lives are affected by sex discrimination and male dominance values does vary. But the variance is due not only to cultural factors. Economic factors play a large role even among other than poor women. Women with children to raise even if they work and even if they're professional by the way, are often economically dependent on a man. The promotion of female acquiescence in Latino culture is not unique. Although I am personally a product or a byproduct, some people would probably say, of what I would like to call a combination of Doris Day and [Lamarque's] 50's mortality....[laughter] and.. morality! Mortality, [unclear] [laughter]. None of us is far from the cult; virginity, helplessness, and I'll have to ask my husband. In the age of AIDS virginity can kill. Teenagers are using anal sex as a way to protect their virginity. And some of them, because the confusion between contraception and AIDS prevention has not been qualified, are using anal sex to prevent AIDS and pregnancy. None of us is far from the fundamentalist morality which dictates that we spend our lives making a home for a man and children, and this includes men. The typical Latina woman is certainly closer to that mentality than most of us here, but how close are we to the typical woman of this country or of this planet? All our relative liberation from gender roles is direct, is directly related to our ability to advocate for ourselves and for all women. Advocacy, education, and care are sisters in love and struggle. And nowhere is this relationship more evident than in the war against AIDS. A war which we are now losing. In order for women to protect themselves against HIV infection and AIDS , in order for women to fight the disease once they are infected, and in order for women to access healthcare, social services and other entitlements, they must know that they are entitled. In short, we're working against eons of conditioning which tells women that they are entitled to very little. It is as simple and as difficult as telling a man to put on a condom. Or telling a receptionist that you can't wait because you're sick, or having to make one more phone call to get the medication you're supposed to be entitled to when you're sick and you can barely move. They're all, they all have a relationship to power and strength and being able to take over. Since we are traditionally debilitated by the notion of male dominance and this includes those of us that are fighting it every day, what must it do for women that don't have supports in that struggle? And that are also physically debilitated, and are also under the layers of judgment that Nan mentioned regarding sexuality. And regarding the isolation and the blame that has been attached to anyone that has been caught having sex and been stricken by God with this disease and it serves them right.
  • It's necessary to turn around a lot of thinking about what women are entitled to and that takes time and HIV infection is spreading fast. The notion that housing is a right was considered utopian and that's putting it mildly. The notion that has healthcare is a right, too expensive. That education and work are a right, too left wing. Well because the right to housing, healthcare, education, and work are not recognized, the quality of all our lives is horror. And all you have to do is get on the train and step over the bodies. And if you care, maybe you'll give him a quarter. Or maybe you'll stay well I like to work in other ways because of quarter won't do anything. But we're all offended by the smell of poverty and we've all become desensitized to some, to some extent. Because the rights of people not just people with AIDS, not just women with AIDS are not recognized, we are in the midst of a housing crisis, a healthcare crisis, an education crisis, a labor crisis, an economic crisis, a drug crisis, a crime crisis. And because women are caretakers to us all, we alternately bear all the layers of oppression particularly if our men are poor and can master little in their lives. Someone, I believe it was one of the women in the back, mentioned that they work with elderly. And that the elderly are affected by AIDS. Not only are there seeing, are they seeing their children and grandchildren dying of AIDS, they're having to care for them, They're having to raise grandchildren that are sick. They can barely make it to there, to access their own entitlements including appointments for their arthritis or for their high blood pressure. How do you make one more phone call when you could barely access services for yourself? And how do you get the kids to their treatments? How do you get the trip, the kids to services such as counseling on grief and loss when they don't exist? AIDS ultimately effects a woman whether she is sick or not, whether she is HIV infected or not. She is a mother, a mate, a healthcare worker, a social worker. We're in the business of caring whether it's for a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a friend or client. Whether it is our profession or not. AIDS is very much a women's issue and it is very much an issue of empowerment. I believe that empowerment is not something that we impart to others. That is self defeating. Empowerment allows power to take place. It creates the conditions it does not dictate it. It recognizes self-determination. It recognizes that each woman must find whatever strength she needs to fight her battle in herself and dig her own grave. And, and those of us that have to talk to women want to sometimes, you know, shake someone by the shoulders. [loudly] So why aren't you using a condom? Don't you realize you can die? And we, that's a whole other kind [of power]. It's very hard to hold back and let power take place and let empowerment take place, and let it not take place.
  • And that's respect. And that's very much, that's it highly valued. Respect and not being intrusive and asking permission is very very much appropriate to the Latino culture. But it's not that different from anyone else. It's just particularly [informed]. Empowerment doesn't dictate, it respects. That is the note that must ring in literature and conversations and counseling to women of color, and to all [unclear]. That's the note that must bring it on conversations with men. Respect is a prized Hispanic cultural value and a universe one. We must empower self-determination when we refer to communities. Be they identify, identify by culture, gender, sexual preference, lifestyle, or geography. People must identify themselves and their own boundaries and their own needs. The war against AIDS is a war for life and of life. Of men and woman living with AIDS in their bodies and in their [midst]. And I'm so glad in the last year or so we've seen the focus changing to living with AIDS. To the fact that there, that there will be treatments. And that there will be people who will still have strength to fight and to hold us all accountable. We're going to be living with this epidemic for decades. People with AIDS and HIV infection are alive. They share the same needs we do to housing, to education. They have kids, they are kids. They are fathers and mothers. Not just drug users. Not just gay. And not just men. We must make a commitment to survival as long as respect demands it. As long as respect is the tone. We must organize in loving rage. When we step over the homeless man or woman on the subway as we conduct our lives, we are less human and less alive. We cannot tolerate the disparities in value that we give some lives. We cannot judge, dehumanize, and discount some without paying the price. And we cannot compartmentalize people and their needs. We must decide that we will accept no less for all women and for all men than we want for ourselves, and that's how we have to fight AIDS. And I'm sorry if I sound a little preachy when I say that [laughs] I know I do. But I, I've been, I've participated so often in getting caught, you know, in the details and forgetting the old world values. There are a lot of turf issues in this, in this issue. For men, for women, for communities, for geography, [unclear]. And, and we have to remember that it's a common struggle. Barbara Turk: You'll probably wish that I had written my remarks out so I will, I will ramble a little bit. We will work on it. As I said earlier, I'm a policy advisor and I want to just talk for two seconds about what that's meant. And, and who I work for and what sort of, so you understand the relationship without giving you a long civics lesson. I work for the Manhattan Borough president. That is a position in the city of New York that is sort of an insider and an outsider position. We sit on something called the Board of Estimate which has a vote on the budget and it has a vote on city contracts. And the reason this is all important to know is, is when I say some of these things later it'll begin to make sense what sort of persuasive policy power we've had. But at the same time we're not the final say. The city administration, the mayor and his agencies have the final say. So in some sense we're also advocates and I just want to put that put that up front so you'll understand later when I start talking in frustrated tones about certain things, you'll know why. And I wanted to talk on a more specific level and also raise some questions and contradictions that I think would be kind of interesting to talk about given who's in the room. About government's response to AIDS and specifically government's response to AIDS as it relates to women. My experience of that has been that women have been largely if not almost entirely invisible in discussions that policymakers a government, local government level have about AIDS. And I think there's a couple of reasons for that. I think primarily there are two. One is, well they're invisible, and they're visible. I'll talk about both. They're invisible I think primarily because early on in the epidemic and still to a certain extent today, I think most of the most of the nation still thinks of AIDS or something affects certain risk groups of people who are drug users, people who are gay, people who are hemophiliacs [unclear]. Some people talk about Haitians as a separate entity I think [in some circles] as a group is affected.
  • The problem is, with that, is that from government's perspectives and certainly from the politicians' perspective, that makes it kind of easy on them, right? Because they treat it as a disease, a problem that affects specific constituencies. Rather than treating it as a health epidemic that potentially affects everyone. Because it's not about risk groups, it's about risk behavior, right? And we all know what that means. I mean, it's not just gay men who have anal sex. It is not, you know, we know that stuff. And so it made it sort of easy. It got a lot of people off the hook, especially early on when when was crucial to respond quickly and surely, to respond as it as though it was his constituency problem rather than health crisis. Because God knows that would have been much more difficult to deal with. And so, the way it was handled of course was to -- And of course within that the squeaky wheel got the grease. And to the great credit of the gay community there was a lot of early organizing, and vocal organizing, and people who were going to respond where the politicians and the policy makers who were not afraid of being associated with the gay community. And they were few and far between. Few and far between. And it allowed a lot of legislators, and I won't share with you some conversations that I've had to have been just totally amazing to me among very enlightened Black and Latin elected officials within the last two or three years who said "I really don't need to look at this, because I don't have any gay constituents in my neighborhood". I mean that was pretty much the attitude when I started doing this work for David Dinkins in 1986. When women are visible, the problem there is that they're visible in a negative way. Women are talked about as, you know, vectors factors of transmission. You know, prostitutes, drug addicts and had really, and all the assumptions, the negative assumptions about women and their sexual activity. You know, you were talking about the sexual markers and so forth. All those negative assumptions and myths about women and how they conduct their sexual lives were brought out and paraded forth and so on and so forth. So that's, the visibility has been negative if at all. And as Nan was talking about, the response has been, you know the control mechanisms. Control prostitution, control, control ,control. But for the most part it has been at a situation where women have been invisible and it's been a response that's mostly constituencies. I just want to just sort of highlight that for you and tell you that when the first really publicly visible institutional response of the city of New York to AIDS was to set up an office. Of course you must have an office to deal with this, right? So they set up an office of, special office of lesbian and gay health concerns. Which was, you know, strictly in the gay community and they were the AIDS unit. That's how they did AIDS. And attached to that unit were a couple of people that were funded by the CDC at that time to do surveillance cause if there's one thing they're very good at putting money into is counting bodies in this crisis. We're very good at that. And it was very interesting because just as an aside, I remember one of the two people who was hired to do that work. We used to sit around and sort of scratch our heads a lot and try to decide what a lesbian health concern was as separate apart from the women's health concern. But they had to put lesbians in there because this was after all a gay problem. It's all politics not real response. At the state level there was something set up that was called the State AIDS Institute and it was separate and apart from their Department of Health. Again, not a health crisis but an AIDS office. The policymakers there were by and large gay men and I think some of us in the room know some of the personal stories of some of the women who are in that office who tried to talk about the concerns of women. Tried to talk about the concerns of people of color generally, and who basically ignored and told to shut up. Moving right along. One of the other problems that I think government has had in dealing with this crisis is that government functions to a large extent-- policy development occurs in a competitive bureaucracy. In other words, the state and city don't talk to one another because the commissioner of the health department has to be one step ahead of the commissioner of the health department in the localities and vice versa. So that when the city was developing a five year plan for AIDS, the state was beginning to develop a five year plan for AIDS and none of them talk to one another at all. Similarly at an agency level, every agency finally sort of figured out or didn't figure out. I mean there's a lot of we can go into that if you're interested I could tell you stories. But agency directors will say "Ah, our agency should be doing something about AIDS" but that does not necessarily talk to other people. And because government is also set up so that their special offices to deal with constituencies, say an office of Youth Affairs for example, they may not be talking to the people of Juvenile Justice or the people at HRA. And it gets very confused and you end up with a lot of duplication and really no service and really no coordinated effort.
  • I will say to the credit of the City of New York that there is, and I believe this is pretty much through the initiative of the agency's themselves, an interagency task force that does meet on a regular basis. And one of the wonderful things that I think that they've done and maybe have to be, sort of, in this every day in dealing with the Office of Management and Budget to appreciate this. But the Office of Management and Budget in the City of New York are the people who, I mean I call them the agency that just says no. [laughter] I mean, that's sort of what they do all day. You know, the agency directors come in and they're supplicants in this process and they ask for more money and they go "no no no no". But they're set up to deal with agencies on a very specific basis, you know. Sanitation, transportation, help, [laughter] you know, it's all like in these little rows. You know, it's all like that. [Sound cuts off] Barbara Turk: ..... completely confused by this. But the result has been that they've actually hired somebody, whose I mean, the person is there now is actually quite good-- who tracks AIDS on a coordinated basis as a budget issue in [OMB]. This, believe it or not, is one of those small government revolutions that jaded people like me really appreciate. [laughs] I think the one thing I want to say about policy development thats real important, is that it's real simple. The more women are involved in it, the more you'll see policies that are related to women and AIDS. I mean, any of you could have said that, right? I mean, it's not a profound thought. But it's not in the best interest of anybody because they don't want to see this disease spread in the following sense. They don't want to see it spread so that it becomes a political problem across-the-board. They would love it if it was just something they could say is the problem with gay men because if they have to start responding to various constituencies who are affected - which is just like about everybody this point -- then they'll really have to do something. And that would be just too terrifying, and too difficult. And would demand too much resources, time, and energy. And they're really not prepared to do it. [Muffled talking] Speaker1: Is that true? Barbara Turk: Let me finish and then we'll open up for questions, okay? One of the other things that I want to talk a little bit about is skipping around a little bit. One of the things we've struggled with a lot in our office is, what is governments appropriate role in the AIDS crisis? And specifically our office's role, obviously. Besides the things that you might think of like, obviously you want to try to provide more resources, you want to provide more services and education, which all has to do with providing more money and targeting it in appropriate ways. And to that end we believe obviously that the people that you get that guidance from are people like that are here in this room. And people like [Ruth] who you work with all the time. That's my job is to listen to what Ruth tells me and then to try to do it. The other thing we try to struggle with obviously is government is: this is my most feminist theorist thing that I will say at this conference-- is that government is by nature, a paternal. And when you're talking about empowering local communities, what is it, what role can government play to try to empower local communities to respond to the crisis, if your policy is as we believe, that that's where you have to respond. That it doesn't make sense for government to make necessarily all the judgments about what should be in educational materials. It doesn't make sense for governments necessarily decide across-the-board what services are needed or appropriate in an individual community. It is up to the government to listen. And this again , this should not seem like a profound thought but it is these days. That it is up to government to listen to people in local communities who are seeing this disease ,and seeing what it's doing in those communities and to respond to those needs.
  • When government plans, and this is one of those other great faults I believe in the city of New York right now. When the City of New York put out of strategic plan for AIDS it was basically done by agency personnel. Not that they were not nice people and well-meaning in most cases, but they were paranoid to no end about including any kind of discussion with frontline, even recognized community-based organizations like GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis). It was very difficult to get any kind of input and their assumptions about what input they needed and who was out there doing the work was very limited. It was, you know, well there's a couple of AIDS organizations I guess we'll run it by them. When the reality is at this point in the crisis, it's every family health center. It's every maternal and family care clinic. It's every prenatal care clinic. It's every STD clinic. Every, I mean across the board. Which brings me to my last point, and there are several more than I didn't do but I'll stop here. One of the things that policymakers have to avoid is assuming, is making AIDS into something sexy if you will. I'm sorry, that's probably not a great way to put it. But AIDS the issue. AIDS the movie. It's like, um how do I want to say this? [laughing] Policy makers and elected officials feel like they should do something about AIDS now. Generally speaking. And believe me it's been a long haul. Not all of them are great, but in the City of New York there has been some progress, okay. So now they want to do something about AIDS but they feel like it's got to have the name AIDS attached to it. And that's not necessarily the appropriate policy response. It brings me back to where I was in the beginning. What we may need is more drug treatment clinics, you know what I mean? What we may need is more general community healthcare. You know, prenatal care for pregnant women that includes AIDS counseling. So that in the stuff that we're doing, and this is very important to get across to policymakers because they'll say, "oh my God it's another issue we have to deal with". Elected officials it's like, "Oh my God my I'm already in like 16 different crises". What you have to tell people is, look this is no. You know, when you're fighting for affordable housing, you're fighting for more drug treatment, when you're fighting for drug education for kids, when you're fighting for sex education for kids, this fight against AIDS -and I hate the military metaphors - the fight agains AIDS is the same fight we've been fighting for a very long time on a lot of those issues. And that's something that I think it pays - as we're all in this room - to remind people that were trying to influence policymakers and elected officials as we go about our work. A word to the wise from one who knows. Thank you. Amber Hollibaugh: When Nan and I started talking about doing this panel we weren't sure who would come. We were sure this was an appropriate panel for the conference. We were not sure who would attend it. And I want to talk about my own confusion about it and how interesting is doing it. That who is in this room is so so predominantly women that are already in some relationship, direct relationship around the issue. They're already thinking about the issue. I go out and do -- I'm the video producer and educator for the AIDS Discrimination Unit. But I'm also on the board for Women's AIDS Resource Network and I just finished a film on AIDS discrimination which includes a segment on women, on a woman named Marsha Rivera. And I'm about to make a film on women and AIDS. So I'm doing this work and I'm doing it everywhere. I'm doing it every day. One of the things that's been interesting to me is that I've seen two parallel things that don't match up happen. At the one time I've been seeing what Nan talked about which is enormously large numbers of women who are lesbians often, very clearly feminist, many of them affected by their own relationship in some way or another to women's liberation, a part of the AIDS network and a part of the ongoing dialogue. And work directly in front of the epidemic. And on the other hand I have gone out and done an enormous amount of like college speaking to places like women studies departments and other women's centers and as versus lesbian and gay centers. There's really different there. And am often confronted as a feminist and a lesbian about why I do the work. And what is it mean for me to be a feminist and what does it mean for me to be a lesbian and be doing AIDS work when there are so many things that are affecting women's lives and what does AIDS have to do with feminism.
  • So I've seen two very interesting things that I think are happening exactly at the same moment. Many women who consider themselves either feminist or deeply affected by the notion of women's equality, women's freedom are a part of your [unclear] fighting of AIDS. And then there's a whole lot of stratum of women that I've talked to who say that AIDS doesn't have anything to do with me except I may have some personal friends who have died, or sick, or HIV positive. But as a feminist I don't see it as part of the agenda that I have in front of me about women in particular. And also tell me that feminists are not at risk. I mean I really do have these conversations [laughter]. I'm going to tell you a few things that I'm told by women who consider themselves very committed an activists around women's issues. This is not like women who are more hostile somehow to feminism or feminist ideas. They tell me, A. That feminists don't shoot drugs. That drugs drugs and chemical dependency are not a major issue for feminists. Maybe for other women, but not for feminists. Inside the feminist community that's not something that we're struggling with. And we have chemical free space and chemical free dances and [laughter] [unclear]. And some women have some serious problems but feminism itself as an empowering movement is part of then resolving that issue of drug use. For sure they say maybe I'll call, but not, for sure we're not shooting. Nobody that's a feminists shoots drugs. So that's one thing we hear. The other two things that I hear are that feminists, I hear that lesbians don't sleep with men. And lesbians don't shoot drugs so they're not in this. And that feminists know the history of the men that they sleep with and are with men that are in committed relationships. Therefore, they're not at risk because their partner couldn't possibly be infected and feminists don't go home with men they don't know. [laughter] Because they're women who aren't perfect but they really struggled through those issues. That's not the point for women now that are activist feminists. And that's not where the struggle is. So although I find that a confounding argument [laughter] one of the things that it made me see is that in every single community that I go out and do the education in, there's a space between what the community mythology is and what really goes on. In every community. Feminists only have their own variety and depending on what group of feminists you're talking to, it has you know, interesting mutations. When I go into the lesbian community I'm told that lesbians don't sleep with men and lesbians don't use drugs. So that's what the silence is in that community. Often, I'll go --this is really changing- into a lot of very traditional Hispanic and Black communities I'm told there's no gay people in those communities and it's a problem with white gay men. But where AIDS can really be acknowledged is around IV drug use and what's happening in the community around that issue. When I go to talk to gay men, they'll tell me that the sexual transmission issues are really been struggling against, but that the issue is not the same to them around shooting. So wherever it is it I go and whether I talk to somebody that's in a rural setting, where I go into situations that are more rural or they're further away from the East Coast , West Coast , Chicago, major Urban space. Then I'm told it's not an issue in a smaller town. And then it's not an issue in white working-class settings. You know, the mythologies like [drift] in the wind. And it's interesting to me because it's a very delicate type of argument to try to figure out how to make. How to try and talk to people both about the strengths of their of their beliefs and respect people in why they have those beliefs. And challenge beliefs at exactly the same time. And so what I'm starting to do, is at least in the feminist community is to try and talk about what's feminist, what the mythology is about what the feminist movement is, and how it seems to me the feminist movement has expanded and grown a lot. A lot like what I think Eleanor Holmes Norton was talking about earlier today. That the feminist movement that could have been described when I was first in women's movement 25 years ago really is not the same as exists now. That it's enormously diverse and diversified movement. And that therefore, there is not one description of a woman in the women's movement, or a feminist. And that means that in terms of AIDS we have to have a much more diversified definition of feminism as well as outreach around AIDS. And a lot of what I see, the prejudices exist around are previously existing prejudices. That is, at least let me speak as a lesbian feminist. I've been involved in fights for a long time about who was a lesbian. Was a lesbian the women that are in the bars, or the lesbian a woman who is out in a lesbian positive environment? I'm trying to think of what a good description of that place would be. Speaker 15: A softball team Speaker 16: That's awful. Speaker 17: The military Speaker 18: The chemical free stuff I'll think about....[interruption]
  • Amber Hollibaugh: But I mean, that there are lesbian worlds. And that part of the mythologies that go on is like, that your world is [valued] which is different. You know, the worlds that we live in are really different in the world as it exists in totality. And to say there are large numbers of lesbians, large numbers of lesbians. And there are large numbers of lesbians of color. There are large numbers of working-class lesbians. There are large numbers of lesbians who shoot drugs. There are large numbers of lesbians who sleep with men. There a large numbers of lesbians at risk. If we include that description of lesbian, we come up with a very different picture than the particular picture we might want to draw if we were only looking at a lesbian studies program. And even there, let me tell you when I go out and do those talks, everybody sits and tells me how it's not a problem at Vasser (college). And then what happens, and it's really painful and it's really made me think a lot, is that I have the same fight about whether it's a problem and the them/ us dichotomy. The conversation continues then my talk ends. The majority of women leave. And there are six or seven women that are in dark corners and places that pull me aside and tell me about what their risk is that they can't bring up in the context of that setting because the rap is that there's no problem there. So for them to talk about what their issue is, would in some way isolate them at precisely the moment they most need support in their own communities, because they feel most vulnerable and are at risk. A lesbian who shoots drugs, or a lesbian for instance who slept with men and then came out and now has AIDS and cannot find out from any existing hotline what safer sex precautions would be for her because she's consistently told that there is no risk if you're a lesbian. So not only does she not know how to take care of herself, she does not know how to protect. She doesn't know if her lover, her female lovers or mail lovers are at risk, and she has no idea how to protect herself or those other partners. And when she tries to talk about it, it's isolated and left out. And it's truly, believe me only one tiny example if who I talk to. At precisely the same time what I also see is an unbelievable growth of women networking in the world of AIDS to make women's issues around AIDS so undeniable that it can't be forgotten. Because it has absolutely been left out. They're now meetings of women going on all over, certainly this city, and actually across the nation around specifically AIDS and women. And how to make that an agenda item that is so irrefutable that all the structures that have tried to isolate it into other particular communities have to take on how it's affecting women. Part of what I think is problematic is that women are affected in so many different ways and a lot of people have talked about that. Doing discrimination work means that I end up seeing a lot of the different settings that women are affected as caretakers. For instance a worker in an AIDS organization where they cannot find a place to rent because the nature of the organization is an AIDS specific organization. As a child care worker who has to advocate for a child that's suspected of being HIV positive [unclear]. As a grandmother in fact [unclear] is now about to start something called the Grandmother's Project. Which is to recognize that grandmothers and grandfathers, but a lot grandmother's are raising a lot of kids because they lost a lot of kids. And that they are effective educators around AIDS and AIDS issues and are believable in their own communities and directly understand was a major [magnicity] is.
  • And finally want to say that I guess what I'm hoping for is that the feminist movement, not each of us as individual women who may define ourselves as feminists, but the feminist movement itself, begins to say that AIDS is absolutely an integral part of women's survival issue. That like all the other issues that we deal with, it strikes different women differently in different settings and in different times in their lives. But the AIDS absolutely a feminist issue. Absolutely on the feminist agenda and absolutely has to be looked at as a key. Not only articulating how women are to face the epidemic, but also I think is a way for women to begin to be able to bring a feminist dialogue around this issue into the broad culture. Because if there's anything that AIDS actually is doing, is allowing a lot of us to go to places where we have never been asked before, to talk about why the epidemic is affecting who is affecting and what we can do to prevent it. So that I go to a lot of places that would never let me, you know, within a hundred and fifty yards of their buildings. I'm now solicited to do AIDS education. And I think as a woman who's committed around women's liberation way back when, that means that I get to talk about how an issue affects women. Women's empowerment, women lack of equality, what it means to negotiate or not negotiate safer sex without that thing isolated as though you can take that outside of the economics of women's oppression. And it means I think, that if the feminist movement begins to add its voice to the already existing voices and movements and communities that see themselves affected, what is originally described as marginal becomes the majority. And when it becomes the majority, then the way that we define the issue becomes the agenda that has to be set by government who has to respond. Instead of us being marginalized in the way that we have. That's it. Speaker 19: Well, we have more time so we would like to open it up for comments, thoughts, questions discussion, feedback. Speaker 20: I listened to every one of you and I agree with, and you know I hear what you're saying. But I'm beginning to feel like the end, I mean, we have all this literature, we have all this stuff that we give everyone. And if you know, it just, .... teenagers. I'll focus in on that. Like you say they're having anal intercourse so that they won't get pregnant. But I mean, my whole thing is women's sexuality in terms of some way or other we are not getting, you know as a health professional, we're not coming across with the right message. Or we're trying to help. Is your sense of empowerment was, if you start proselytizing then it says it happened. Nothing happened. But my whole frustration is that everyone's sexuality, I mean [Ron Dawe] said something that sounds cool, but he says that AIDS is the best thing that could have happened to the country. Because Americans have to deal with two things that they're terrified of, and that's sex and death. And we have no illusions of that AIDS does. But the hope, I find it's like we just, the sexuality. That being open about it like one of you mentioned with homosexuals does not happen on a heterosexual level. It does not happen with Hispanic women being respectful of the man. But they're not respecting their own persons, you know? They're not respecting who they are as women and that's false, that's artificial. So the hope is, I just don't know if we're coming at the right approach. I don't know, I'm asking, I don't know if there is a way. I don't know how to do it. I'm just going to point right now but I'm saying what do I do now.
  • Barbara Turk: Well, I mean why don't we sort of pose that as a question for the room. I mean I don't do health education, my fantasy is that CR, you know, like some kind of like postmodern CR one way to address that. I mean, it is.(Speaker 20) Empower ourselves because we're in a different level of who we are. But my whole thing is how do empower poor women who have no sense of who they are. I mean, it's very slow and I have done it. And it's very little steps along the way. Maybe that's what it should be, but I'm realizing the AIDS is something that you don't have that much time with. Maybe I'm getting to get into the whole -- you know I just feel like we don't have that much time anymore. It provides somehow to put besides a Band-Aid effect on on the whole, right? Ruth Rodriguez: I think that's much of what we've been saying is in the same vein as what you're saying. And it is that it's not going to happen overnight and it's not an answer. Because the fact that AIDS could hit us so hard is a result of so much neglect and lip service to human rights on any level. And that may sound Pollyanna-ish. I don't mean it to. What I'm saying is, all we can do right now is cut out losses. And the way we cut our losses is a process. And we cannot assault communities with information given the degree of denial about sexuality, about them. We can't assault them in our own need to come up with a solution and be effective. Because this is what we've chosen to do. And this is something every one of us grapples with. I only really remember it well when telling it to somebody else. So [unclear] all sorts of humility [unclear] believe me. You know that someone is not infected right now, what do you do for them. So that they won't be infecting you by the time you see them next time. And all you can do is put that [unclear]. The other thing we have to remember as I said before AIDS said is going to be with us for decades. And we're not going to clean up the problem if we only talk to one person with he perfect approach when we find them. We're talking about trying to mop up the neglect of generations of oppression. And that may sound pessimistic, but you know putting a pretty picture out there is not going to solve the problem, it's an ugly problem. And maybe what we need to do is look at it, and look at how ugly it is, and not look at it in isolation. The problem is not AIDS. The problem is the lack of education. The problem is that none of us has a right to housing. Lose your savings, get sick, lose your job. You don't have a right to anything. Maybe if you're white and literate you'll have, you know, might last you a little longer. But once you bottom, you bottom out. And in this society you're not worth anything. And those are not things that change over night. And we're not saying that we should change them, that we can, that we can get out there and change them overnight. But we cannot continue to neglect them and purport to be addressing the problem with AIDS because it's a very complex problem. Barbara Turk: You see, that's what I was sort of trying to get at. Uh, excuse me, I'm sorry. The woman in the back had her hand up. Speaker 21: I just wanted to leave two comments. One is that the [scene] is that I work with that are losing their children and grandchildren to AIDS. I've heard that some of them prefer to day that their son died because of a drug addiction [unclear]. Because of that machismo and they don't want to admit that their son, you know. and the other, this is an incident that happened not too long ago, a couple weeks ago. [unclear] teenagers who are history [unclear] teenagers. And this young Puerto Rican kid. I thought I saw him saying about why they're coming, what they think they're going to do [unclear] seniors about the choices that many have. And why Puerto Rican women live with AIDS, why they have [unclear] housing and education. And he said to me [unclear] I didn't know about women {unclear]. I didn't know about women not being able to get a job. So I took that opportunity to educate him. I don't know if that's the answer you're looking for, but every opportunity that I get to educate someone whether it's your son or your daughter , you take it. Because we assumed that people know. I saw these teenagers in [unclear] history department knew about, because they verbalized [unclear]. Dealing with Black and Hispanic seniors. I just automatically assumed they knew they experiences of their parents and grandparents. [unclear]
  • Speaker 22: I know that we're focusing on humane treatment of people in this epidemic. That's a concern and it should be. But I recall in the Dark Ages when I got married back in "58 a VD (venereal disease) test was required. And now I understand that there is no test, no kind of blood test required if people are afraid of marriage of any kind. That you know, for myself, I don't I don't know if I would love my fiancĂ© less, you know, if there was some kind of test that showed he has AIDS. But I think I would like to know that, you know. I don't understand why in this period of epidemic, there is less emphasis on testing, especially as people approach marriage. Barbara Turk: Do you want to respond to that? Ruth Rodriguez: Okay. If that were solution. if that were solution. I'm very pragmatic. If that were solution and I thought that that was going to truly protect some other people from being infected, I would say okay it's a national emergency, let's do it. But it's not a solution. You can be tested and in '58 people got married, kiddo. Are we then to take that step and then it's only one small step further to start legislating sexual behavior, you know. There were laws against anal sex. There are laws that may still be on some books in some obscure towns in some states against extramarital sex. I don't know, maybe they've all been knocked out. But maybe they're still. There are some things you can't legislate and when we begin giving permission to legislate them, we open up a can of worms because we failed to protect, which would be the intent of such a law. And we endanger so many other people because it's an opportunity to control. If that were a solution, you know we could look at it seriously.[murmuring]Barbara Turk: I mean, I think there are several sets of arguments in response to that. Some of them are practical as Bertha said, that you know that one of the reasons New York state did used to have STD testing before marriage, and it got rid of it the number of years ago, and the reason being that the the model was that you know, people got married and then had sex. And so this was a moment just practically speaking, where you could test people and sort of find out before sexual behavior began. And obviously that model is just sort of, to whatever extent it was ever true, it's not true anymore. And that has an impact on the policy arguments as well. If the efficacy of the testing is low, then one of the things one has to balance against that is the infringement on rights. I think though, that the issue you're raising is interesting at another level, too. Because it really goes quite candidly to the issue of using pre-marital testing as a proxy. And I think it's dangerous for another reason because I think it's dangerous because it displaces what the social response in terms of education and outreach and dealing with people. Dealing with the negotiation aspects of sex just as a very interpersonal, difficult level are, onto this state program of testing. Where you're really testing people not only at a point that, in some just doesn't make any sense anymore. Because sex and marriage are you know, disconnected in a very profound way. But in a way that in some sense takes responsibility away from where I think it ought to be and where the focus ought to be. In terms of both education and sort of pushing for that kind of interpersonal communication. So I think it's a very interesting question because I think it touches all of the levels from the public the [prod. I think we should go on.
  • Speaker 23: Yeah, I said that I'd come to this panel because I wanted to hear more advanced discussion about the particular relationship between feminism and AIDS. And I think I really got that from here. Except, maybe one reservation. And maybe it's the devil's advocate [unclear]. I think what I worry about is not, I mean honestly to say the least AIDS is a serious problem that feminism, I'm so ....I realize ..[unclear]Speaker 24: Yeah I know, I needed this information. Speaker 23: You said that you used to be involved in [unclear] and your career has shifted. Um, and it seems like you don't come from a position of like, the advocacy of a classic feminist position to the application of the feminist principle to a more general cross gender, cross... You said at the that [unclear]. It sounds like in a sense it's more about applying feminism to a social problem of another color [unclear]. Sort of. I mean what I was hearing, you talked about the problem of identity. And the problem of the lack of education of seniors who...I was thinking about how a feminist education or, or you used a a phrase, postmodern CR I think. I mean, I'm having really, it's a suggestion and that's that feminist education should, or CR groups, should be resurrected and used amongst young girls. I mean, I've heard of feminism for girls in England and other places. I've never heard of anyone in the United States accounting for this. Seems like feminism [unclear] a lot of women growing up these days only encounter in an important way in college if they make it that far. Why isn't, why aren't the Girl Scouts doing CR? [laughing] Speaker 24 (Barbara Turk?) Actually they are. Whats actually interesting is that I think a lot of the models that came and actually are still used in the feminist movement are now being applied in places that feminists have gone. Though I don't know that they're called feminist when they're there. So the Girl Scouts for instance are doing enormous amounts of education. And Big Sisters program and YWCA has been doing AIDS education to women's groups. Ongoing AIDS education and ideas of feminism, empowerment, and so forth. [unclear] admits that their AIDS education is [unclear] how they built the model, not just what medical information and transmission information you need to give. And so you can even see it as a drifting away from feminism. Or you can see it as an expansion. I think of it as much more of an expansion into much more diverse settings of the kin of beliefs that a lot of us have from that movement. And really, a very direct relationship to it. But the problem is that how do we link it to the ongoing feminist struggle? How do we expand the definition of that feminist struggle to include AIDS and the particular issues that women face in the midst of the epidemic. And how do we link that to the diverse communities that are affected? Speaker 23: Yeah, I've really learned coming here that a lot of traditional feminist questions can really help the AIDS crisis. Barbara Turk: Absolutely. Speaker 23: And just a one liner, how do you break through young people's sense of immortality? [unclear]Barbara Turk: Good question. Speaker 23: Everything I've ever heard of [unclear] kids, young kids who are just beginning to be sexual. If the opportunity came to have sex, and they didn't have a condom, I'm pretty sure they would do it.
  • Speaker 24: I have a question also regarding a test and I guess a few months ago read an article about a woman who had been raped. And you sort of answered my question but I still have more questions about it. She wanted, the man, they found the guy. She identified him, and she wanted him to be tested for AIDS. They argued no, that would violate his rights, it's not a venereal disease, and it's only a one-time encounter. And I thought to myself it's only a one-time encounter but rape can be very violent and you can draw blood, you can easily get AIDS from a one-time encounter that was a rape encounter. And number two, violating his rights what about hers? And I felt so angry and I felt so helpless. And I want to know, I understand the legalities of it, and I understand if we made a law that would say those people had to be tested and how would it affect everyone else, but can't there something be done for this woman and other women won't have the same fate? Speaker 25: What would knowing that do? Speaker 24: She could possibly...what if she wants to tell her partner? What if she has a possibility of infecting someone and want to know [cuts off]Barbara Turk: Well, I mean... [cuts off][multiple voices]Speaker 24: Yeah what if she's pregnant? There's a million reasons Well, I think that, I mean there are reasons why she wants to know whether she's infected, there's no question about that. But learning whether he's infected is going to be a different story. I mean there's so many issues [gets cut off] about that Speaker 24: I understand the problem regarding that. Right, I know it's very complex and I'm not saying that he should be required or that all rapists should be required. But what can be done in a case like this? Barbara Turk: Well, but the question is, the most appropriate thing in that situation seems to me, is for her to be tested. Speaker 24: Right. Barbara Turk: She ultimately doesn't care whether he's infected. She's making the assumption that she wasn't infected and now might be. Which might or might not be a correct assumption. Speaker 24: Right, right.I understand that. Barbara Turk: And whether it is or isn't, what she needs to know is whether she's infected. And she won't know whether she's infected until she becomes tested. Speaker 24: That's true. Speaker 22: What if she finds she is? Then when she asks herself, how did I get this? And he seems to be the logical person who infected her. I mean isn't there some kind of litigation or whatever? I mean, the man has endangered her life, truly. Barbara Turk: Well, if all of those assumptions are correct then yes there can be, you know, a civil action against someone. But there are a lot of assumptions there, I mean, that play into that. But what you would have to do, to do that, would be that she would have to get tested immediately to find out that she was negative immediately after the rape. So as to establish that it was the rape that made her positive. [multiple voices at once] Barbara Turk: I mean, that's right. She even could have been exposed prior to him and it didn't show up because of the latency period. But it's a very sort of, complicated thing when you examine all the factors and all the assumptions about it. I mean, because if you take the situation and its variations. You take a situation of a man raping a woman, the woman is the victim of the rape. It's very easy to put on to that the woman as the victim of the HIV infected man. Now, both of those scenarios might be accurate. Or the second one might not be accurate at all. She might have been seropositive before, you know. He might have been seronegative. I mean, there's no way. If you make that assumption, you make the the sort of rapist/victim assumption, that the AIDS assumption, maybe she infected him. Ruth Rodriguez: But I think this is the same [unclear] here. And what we raise is a classic example. I would react one way of AIDS educator or not. I would react one way if I were raped, and I were violently raped, and I were worried about this other person being HIV infected or not. And what the consequences would be to me and my status regarding HIV infection. That's one set of issues. Another set of issues is: is it good public health policy to confuse that, and attach more blame to being HIV infected? And more potential danger. You know, less people that are HIV infected all grow horns in the public mind. That's why if I were violently raped and I wanted to castrate this guy, test him. I would want to test him to find out what he what he has, to punish him, to mark him. That's why there are laws. so that my subjective anger and rage is not dealt with to the detriment of everybody else cause there are other issues involved.
  • Speaker 26: Well, to me, I think what's coming out here is the ways, many realistic ways that women feel frightened of men, particularly in the area of sexuality and the situation of male dominance. So, you know, the notion that women are victimized by men's behavior and then sort of add the layer, the possibility on top of it. It becomes another layer of injustice. And one strategy is to, sort of, in a sense, you know, cordon off the men, and find the men, test the men. Cross off men, insert the blank. People who are HIV positive, or it could go the other way that we could cross out the blank and some of the people would be putting in prostitutes. You know, what we call women. [unclear] [multiple voices]Barbara Turk: Right, but that whole strategy has to do with sort of, identifying in a way, the perpetrator who becomes equal to the HIV positive. And I think that there's a very alternative position which is to educate people about the facts as we know them. And to encourage them to protect themselves. That is, once you know how to protect yourself, well with the exception of rape where obviously, you're, you know, it's outside out of a condition where you're controlling what happens. But it most of the situations, it goes along with this idea of empowerment. I was thinking, I thin often about really the great strength of the gay mens community and what they did for themselves in terms of sex eduction. And in a way, the government did nothing. But what the government would have done would have been crummy because it's what the government is willing to do now for quote "the general population". Which is to talk in vague euphemisms, make sex sound scarier than ever, never use an explicit term, never show anyone a condom, never say 'this is how to do it", and never say "okay, these particular acts right now, given what we know are probably not a good idea, but wait a minute, they're are all these other acts." They're sexy, erotic, they're fun. We will become [interested] in doing that. [laughter] [Speaker 27] My question is where I see feminism in [unclear]. But then there's drawing from [unclear], drawing from the women's health movement where very much the idea was to empower each other and share knowledge with each other. And you know, draw on people's information and experience to make us more able to do things. To learn how [unclear]. I think here we should be filling that role in our own community for women the way gay men did for each other and develop a certain [unclear] about sexuality, sex education that is not embedded in shame and it's not embedded in fear. That gives women good information, that encourages us to stand up for ourselves, but also gives people the message that pleasure is a good thing and we're entitled to have it now, too. [Speaker 28]I feel like that's [excellent]. The other thing I'd really like to add to the discussion because I've been thinking about a lot in this discussion, not just today, is that there isn't just one woman [recording cuts off]