Wednesday, July 11, 2012

BAR: SF Won't Fund 
$100,000 AIDS Plaque

 (AIDS/ARC Vigil in the 1980s. Credit: Bay Area Reporter.)

San Francisco's enormous AIDS Inc empire in May went through their usual "sky-will-fall" hysteria scenario about pending reduced federal grants for the care and treatment of people with AIDS, and how if the mayor doesn't make up a substantial portion of the federal cuts with city dollars it will have fatal consequences. The scenario plays out every year with the requisite death-specter quote from a service agency leader.

Lance Toma is executive director of the API Wellness Center and sounded this alarm at a news conference targeting Mayor Ed Lee on the steps of City Hall on May 16, if Lee didn't agree to AIDS Inc's budgetary demands:

"Without this network [of groups fully-funded by the city], HIV will be a death sentence for our most vulnerable residents. It will be the 1980s all over again, and it'll be our fault."

The next day the mayor made up the federal decrease and AIDS Inc leaders and queer Supervisors were happy and effusively praised Lee's financial gift to local groups.

Less than two weeks later the executive director of the AIDS Housing Alliance and a PWA, Brian Basinger, was in the Bay Area Reporter spearheading an effort to raise $100,000 for a plaque to honor the PWAs and their allies who maintained the AIDS/ARC vigil at the federal building in United Nations Plaza.

Basinger was committed to raising $25,000 for the project, and the bulk of the dollars necessary would hopefully come from the city-funded grassroots challenge grant program to beautify San Francisco. According to a comment from Basinger left at the BAR story's web page, our local homeless czar Bevan Dufty agreed to serve on the Host Committee for the AIDS/ARC Monument.

Last week the mayor issued a press release announcing which projects were awarded challenge grants and the AIDS/ARC monument that was to be installed at UN Plaza was not listed among the awardees. This is a laudable decision at any time but especially now with AIDS Inc having just pulled out all the stops to restore the AIDS budget with municipal money.

I'm not against a plaque or monument per se to honor the heroism of PWAs who staged the AIDS/ARC Vigil and spurred others into action and provide a big gay ray of hope through activism, but I find it troubling that the head of AIDS housing organization and our $140,000 housing czar were ready to raise up to six-figures for the monument.

I think of what $100,000 could purchase in terms of rental or hotel housing vouchers, and wonder about the tone-deafness of those who were pushing the plaque idea.

Now is a good time to embrace a one-year moratorium on any new LGBT or Harvey Milk or AIDS plaques or monuments or busts or the naming of any parcel of public property including plazas, steps, alleys, parks or buildings. Let's take a breather from all of the queer memorializing in San Francisco and think intelligently about plaques versus meeting the needs of the more than 15,000 city residents living with HIV or AIDS.

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