EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HIV, AIDS AND WORLD AIDS DAY

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by Cailen Rodriguez
Staff Writer

What is HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus, otherwise known as HIV, is a virus that attacks the immune system of the host. It does so by attacking and destroying CD4+ white blood cells; if too many are destroyed, then the host will have trouble fighting off diseases. Today, HIV is one of the largest epidemics in the world. [1]

What is AIDS?

AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the last stage of the HIV infection. People with AIDS are especially susceptible to get infections or cancers that seldom occur in people who don’t have it. This is because they have a low CD4+ cell count. It can be very deadly.

How are they different? (Symptoms, Contraction, Treatment, Facilities)

While HIV refers to the virus which attacks the hosts immune system, AIDS is the set of illnesses and symptoms that occur in the final stage of the HIV infection. If left untreated, the immune system of the person living with it will, eventually, be almost completely destroyed, and thus almost utterly unable to defend itself at all. It can be passed through semen, blood, vaginal and anal fluids, breast milk [2]; as such, it can be contracted through the sharing of needles, the use of dirty needles, from an HIV-positive pregnant mother to child (note: this is not a 100% guarantee, and if you or your partner is HIV-positive and are thinking about childbearing, there are HIV specialists that can inform you about steps to conceive safely), and, of course, through unprotected sex. HIV cannot be passed through casual contact, such as sweat, saliva, urine, or touch. In its early stages, about 40%-90% of people have flu-like symptoms within 2-4 weeks after having been exposed to the HIV infection, although symptoms are not always visible. [3] Currently, there is no cure for HIV, but there is treatment that can help people with HIV live long and healthy lives. If you do have HIV and are not on ART (antiretroviral treatment), eventually your immune system will be broken down and lead to AIDS. Still, the only way to know if you have HIV, is to get tested, and of course, the earlier diagnosed, the sooner antiretroviral treatment can begin.

A Timeline of HIV and AIDS since the 1980s

The 1980s

In the early 1980s, people believed that AIDS would only affect certain people: hemophiliacs, homosexual men, heroin users, and those of Haitian origin, also known as the four-H club. [4] By the end of the year, of the 270 reported cases of severe immune deficiency amongst gay men, 121 of them had died. [5] In the summer of 1982, officials began labelling the disease as gay-related immune deficiency (or GRID) because many believed its cause was sexual. That September, the CDC used the term AIDSfor the very first time. The following year, AIDS

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Figure 1: Timeline of HIV/AIDS beginning in 1980s.

was reported in the female partners of men who carried the disease, thus verifying that it could be passed on through heterosexual sex. In the summer, after the first reports of AIDS in children, people thought that one could contract the immune deficiency from casual contact, but by September, the CDC identified all major routes of transmission and ruled out transmission by casual contact, food, water, air or surfaces. [6] The following year blood banks began screening their supplies for the virus in the United States. At the same time, Ryan White, the teen from Indiana, who contracted AIDS through contaminated blood product which were used to treat his hemophilia was banned from school. [7] In February 1987, the WHO launched The Global Program on AIDS to, among other things, raise awareness, generate

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Figure 2: Timeline of HIV/AIDS beginning in the late 1980s.

research, promote the rights of those living in HIV, and in March, the FDA approved the first antiretroviral drug, zidovudine (AZT), as treatment for HIV. [8] By that December, the WHO received 71,751 reports of cases of AIDS, of which 47,022 were in the United States. [9] In 1988, the first World AIDS Day was declared by the World Health Organization on December 1st.

The 1990s

At age 18, Ryan White dies of an AIDS-related illness on 8 April, 1990. In June, the 6th International AIDS Conference in San Francisco protested against the USA’s immigration policy which stopped people with HIV from entering the country. [10] The following month, the United States enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including those living with HIV. The following year, NBA star Magic Johnson revealed he was HIV-positive, which helped dispel the stigma that it was a gay disease. At the same time, the FDA licensed a 10-minute testing kit which could be used by healthcare professionals to detect HIV-1. [11] In 1994, it approved an oral test- the first non-blood test- for HIV. [12] By 1997, highly active retroviral therapy (HAART) became the treatment standard of the time, causing a 47% decline in death rates. [13] That same year, the FDC approves Combivir, a combination of two antiretroviral drugs, taken as a single daily tablet, making it easier for people living with HIV to take their medication. [14] In 1999, the WHO announced that AIDS was the fourth biggest cause of death worldwide and number one killer in Africa, and at the same time, it was estimated 33 million people were living with HIV and 14 million people had died from AIDS since the start of the epidemic. [15]

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Figure 3: Timeline of HIV/AIDS for the 1990s.

The 2000s

In 2000, UNAIDS negotiated to reduce the price of antiretroviral drugs for developing countries, and two months later, the UN adopted the Millennium Development Goals including the goal to reverse the spread of HIV, malaria and TB. [16] In 2002, the FDA approve a rapid HIV diagnostic kit, which had 99.6% accuracy in as little as 20 minutes. [17] In 2003, the CDC reported that 40,000 new infections occurred every year, and that more than half of those transmissions came from people who didn’t know that they were infected. [18]

The 2010s

In early 2010, the US travel ban preventing the entry of HIV-positive people into its border, was lifted. In August, Comlera was approved by the FDA. In 2012, the majority of people eligible for treatment were receiving it (54%). [19] Then in 2014, UNAIDS launched the 90-90-90 targets that aim to diagnose 90% of those living with HIV, ensure that 90% of people with HIV have access to treatment, and have 90% of those with HIV achieve viral suppression for 90% by 2020. [20] In 2015, UNAIDS announced it had achieved its MDG related to AIDS and HIV six months ahead of schedule. [21] In 2016, the number of people living with HIV in Russia reached 1 million, culminating in data depicting that 64% of all new HIV diagnoses that occurred in Europe stemmed from Russia. [22] That same year, UNAIDS announced that 18.2 million people were on ART, including 910,000 children, and although good, the WHO released a report centering around the increased issue of greater risk of drug resistance. [23] As of 2017, AIDS has killed between 28.9 mill

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Figure 4: Timeline of HIV/AIDS from 2012 to now.

ion and 41.5 million people worldwide, and an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV, making it one of the most important global public health issues in recorded history. [24]

GRID, HIV, AIDS and Stigma

In 2017, homophobia and anti-gay sentiment, more generally, continue to be a pressing issue around the world. This was not any different, and in many cases much worse, when the HIV epidemic became a leading issue in the 1980s. In an interview with The Independent, Michael Penn, age 75 and one of the longest surviving people in the UK with HIV, recalls that back in the day it was very worrying. I had many friends dropping like flies. My partner and I lost friends and no one knew why so many people were dying. [25] In the space of half a decade, 20 of Michaels friends, and eventually his partner of 17-and-a-half-years, died, and later he would say, I think [he] knew it was going to be a death sentence. [26] Mass death quickly became the routine and checking obituaries to learn of friends or acquaintances deaths became the norm. As one man put it, I even did my obit scans during the workday, grabbing the paper in a local bar where Id stop after lunch… A lot of free time had to be sacrificed for hospital visits and memorial services, but [I] merged them into my schedule like haircut appointments.” [27] In 1982, AIDS was Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 11.53.19 AMreferred to as Gay Related Immune Deficiency, otherwise known as GRID. During that time, no one knew how you could get it and everyone was afraid. And while it certainly reformed the club scene and increased the advertisement for safe sex through condoms, etc., suspicion and discrimination against those with HIV was rampant. Californias Proposition 64 called for AIDS to be added to the CDCs list of communicable diseases. In 1985, Los Angeles Times poll discovered that 50% of Americans supported the idea of quarantining people with AIDS. [28] The governments response? Former President Bush brushed off a reporters question regarding HIV research by responding that most people dont agree with that lifestyle indicating HIV research wasnt a priority [29]; Reagan’s White House press secretary Larry Speakes insinuated a reporter was gay himself for even caring about the subject [30]; and many AIDS organizations felt that when HIV research was finally in place, money was diverted from communities that really needed it to combating the disease among college students, heterosexual women and others who faced a relatively low risk of contracting the disease. [31] Also under the Reagan administration, the White House slashed funding for the GRID budget in order to cut government spending, even as the disease continued to spread. In New York City, the only hospital that would admit GRID patients was the NYU Medical Center, but even that changed to admittance only through the emergency room. [32] William F. Buckley proposed to the New York Times that everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent victimization of other homosexuals. [33] Eventually, this sentiment diminished, but it wasnt clear sailing. Even with medication, the first AIDS cocktails often required the patient to take as many as 30 pills a day, some with food, other twice a day or every 8 hours, others on an empty stomach- it was like a full-time job, and the side-effects could be severe. [34] Gradually, however, newer and better medications were released and others were combined into one pill. Today, while most Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 11.54.02 AM.pngAmericans no longer consider AIDS a major problem,” in the U.S. alone 8,000 people are on the waiting list for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) due to underfunding, and currently there are 33 million people living with HIV, including 1.1 Americans. [35] In Africa, HIV/AIDS continued to devastate people in the region, constituting 60% of the global population living with HIV or AIDS; however, the WHO reports that the number of HIV-positive on antiretroviral medicines had increased eight-fold between 2003 and 2005. [36] The United Kingdom is said to be a world leader when it comes to HIV. It has both lower rates of undiagnosed HIV (at approximately 25%) and better access to ART (in 2012, 86% of those with HIV were receiving treatment). [37] Still, there is no room for complacency if we are ever to reach the goals of Getting to zero or Halving it.”

World AIDS Day

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 11.56.25 AM.pngWorld AIDS Day takes place on December 1st every year. The red ribbon is the symbol for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. [38] Despite such progress, lack of knowledge and stigma continue to surround the issue, and it is for this reason that World AIDS Day continues to be important. In the UK, in a survey by the National AIDS Trust in 2014, only 45% of people could correctly identify all of the ways HIV can be transmitted, and even more shocking, an increasing proportion of the population incorrectly believes that it can be transmitted via routes such as kissing. [39] At the same time, funding and structural barriers affect access and the understanding of how to receive treatment- particularly in the case of undocumented migrants. [40] Moreover, while public knowledge about HIV is very low in the United Kingdom, the government intends to cut funding by 50% for HIV prevention. [41] In Germany, there is concern that the focus devoted on HIV/AIDS over the past two decades has allowed for the proliferation of other STDs- of particular concern is Hep-C. [42] Even more concerning, in Russia, there’s a conspiracy theory claiming ‘HIV is not real’, despite the fact that the disease continues to spread. [43] In 2015, HIV screening was at a low at 19.3% in Russia, and although ART access has significantly expanded, new cases of HIV infection continue to outpace enrollment. [44] In China, Beijing Today noted that, “the government’s negligence and the societal stigma imposed on the gay community has made the group a more vulnerable target for HIV in China,” and as a group men who have sex with men are experiencing the worst spike in new infections. [45] In a 2010 study, more than 65% of respondents in Shanghai said they believed that people who contracted HIV or AIDS deserved it; moreover, 80% of respondents say they fear people who have HIV and AIDS. [46] In the United States, the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and anti-LGBT+ sentiment perseveres in, among other things, the inability of men who have sex with men (MSM) to donate blood if they’ve been sexually active in the last twelve months. [47] Moreover, the Trump administration’s hostility toward Medicaid and Planned Parenthood, and its hampering of efforts to develop cures and improve prevention and treatment will surely affect the success of further amelioration of the HIV epidemic. [48] In sum, World AIDS Day serves as an annual reminder to both the public and government that “HIV has not gone away- there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.” [49]

Footnotes

1.  “The History of HIV.” Healthline, Healthline Media, http://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/history.
2.  “What Are HIV and AIDS?” AVERT, AVERT, 27 Nov. 2017, http://www.avert.org/about-hiv-aids/what-hiv-aids?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIsJOYy_L21wIVEI5-Ch3kmQK5EAAYAiAAEgJIU_D_BwE.
3.  Content Source: HIV.govDate last updated: May 15, 2017. “Symptoms of HIV.” HIV.gov, HIV.gov, 31 Aug. 2017, http://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/symptoms-of-hiv.
4. “The History of HIV.” Healthline, Healthline Media, http://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/history#1981-1990s.
5.  Content Source: HIV.govDate last updated: May 15, 2017. “Symptoms of HIV.” HIV.gov, HIV.gov, 31 Aug. 2017, http://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/symptoms-of-hiv.
6. id
7. id
8. id
9. id
10. id
11. id
12. id
13. “The History of HIV.” Healthline, Healthline Media, http://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/history#1990s-2000s.
14. Content Source: HIV.govDate last updated: May 15, 2017. “Symptoms of HIV.” HIV.gov, HIV.gov, 31 Aug. 2017, http://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/symptoms-of-hiv.
15. id
16. id
17. “A Timeline of HIV and AIDS.” HIV.gov, HIV.gov, 7 Nov. 2017, http://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/history/hiv-and-aids-timeline.
18. “The History of HIV.” Healthline, Healthline Media, http://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/history#1990s-2000s.
19. Content Source: HIV.govDate last updated: May 15, 2017. “Symptoms of HIV.” HIV.gov, HIV.gov, 31 Aug. 2017, http://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/symptoms-of-hiv.
20. id
21. id
22. id
23. id
24. “World AIDS Day.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Dec. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_AIDS_Day.
25. Gander, Kashmira. “The Terror and Prejudice of the 1980s AIDs Crisis Remembered by a Gay Man Who Lived through It.”The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 6 Jan. 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/aids-crisis-1980-eighties-remember-gay-man-hiv-positive-funerals-partners-disease-michael-penn-a7511671.html.
26. Geiling, Natasha. “The Confusing and At-Times Counterproductive 1980s Response to the AIDS Epidemic.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 4 Dec. 2013, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-confusing-and-at-times-counterproductive-1980s-response-to-the-aids-epidemic-180948611/.
27. Mannen, Amanda. “5 Dark Realities Of Living Through The 1980s AIDS Crisis.” Cracked.com, CRACKED, 7 Sept. 2016, http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-2146-living-through-1980s-aids-epidemic-survivors-story.html.
28. “Poll Indicates Majority Favor Quarantine for AIDS Victims.”The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Dec. 1985, http://www.nytimes.com/1985/12/20/us/poll-indicates-majority-favor-quarantine-for-aids-victims.html.
29. Mannen, Amanda. “5 Dark Realities Of Living Through The 1980s AIDS Crisis.” Cracked.com, CRACKED, 7 Sept. 2016, http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-2146-living-through-1980s-aids-epidemic-survivors-story.html.
30. id
31. Geiling, Natasha. “The Confusing and At-Times Counterproductive 1980s Response to the AIDS Epidemic.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 4 Dec. 2013, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-confusing-and-at-times-counterproductive-1980s-response-to-the-aids-epidemic-180948611/.
32.  Butler, Isaac. “This Remarkable History of the Fight Against AIDS Is a Guide to the Battle Yet to Come.” Slate Magazine, The Slate Book Review, 6 Dec. 2016, http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2016/12/david_france_s_how_to_survive_a_plague_reviewed.html.
33.  Buckley, William F. “Crucial Steps in Combating the Aids Epidemic; Identify All the Carriers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Mar. 1986, http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/07/16/specials/buckley-aids.html.
34. 30 Years of AIDS – A Retrospective.” HIV Positive Magazine, Positive Health Publications, Inc., 2015, http://www.hivpositivemagazine.com/30years.html.
35. id
36. “The African Regional Health Report: The Health of the People.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/bulletin/africanhealth/en/.
37. 2013, The Pharmaceutical Journal20 NOV. “World AIDS Day Is 25 Years Old – How Things Have Changed for HIV Patients.” Pharmaceutical Journal, The Pharmaceutical Journal: A Royal Pharmaceutical Society Publication, 20 Nov. 2013, http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/comment/world-aids-day-is-25-years-old-how-things-have-changed-for-hivpatients/11130583.article.
38. “World AIDS Day.” World Aids Day – Powered by NAT, NAT, http://www.worldaidsday.org/about.
39. “HIV and AIDS in the United Kingdom (UK).” AVERT, 4 July 2017, http://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/western-central-europe-north-america/uk.
40. id
41. id
42. Wtopstaff. “HIV/AIDS: The U.S. vs. Germany.” WTOP, WTOP, 2 Feb. 2012, wtop.com/news/2012/01/hivaids-the-us-vs-germany/.
43. Sharkov, Damien. “In Russia, HIV Is Spreading, as Conspiracy Groups Claim It Does Not Exist.” Newsweek, 6 Dec. 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/hiv-not-real-claims-russian-conspiracy-theory-disease-keeps-spreading-739971.
44.  “HIV and AIDS in Russia.” AVERT, 13 June 2017, www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/eastern-europe-central-asia/russia.
45. Volodzko, David. “China’s Looming AIDS Epidemic.” The Week – All You Need to Know about Everything That Matters, The Week, 8 July 2016, theweek.com/articles/632926/chinas-looming-aids-epidemic.
46. id
47. “LGBTQ+ Donors.” American Red Cross, http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/lgbtq-donors.
48. ADIMORA, ADAORA. “How the Trump Administration Is Reversing Progress on HIV.” Time, Time, 23 June 2017, time.com/4830468/trump-administration-hiv-treatment/.
49. “World AIDS Day.” World Aids Day – Powered by NAT, NAT, http://www.worldaidsday.org/about.

Photos

  1. 1980s Timeline of HIV/AIDS. Digital Image. Healthline. Reviewed 30 November 2016, https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/history
  2. 1990s Timeline of HIV/AIDS. Digital Image. Healthline. Reviewed 30 November 2016, https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/history
  3. 2000s Timeline of HIV/AIDS. Digital Image. Healthline. Reviewed 30 November 2016, https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/history
  4. 2010s Timeline of HIV/AIDS. Digital Image. Healthline. Reviewed 30 November 2016, https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids/history
  5. 1980s Timeline of HIV/AIDS. Digital Image. Photo from the Chronicle by Eric Luse, in 1993, http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Gay-Men-s-Chorus-carries-on-A-quarter-century-2533823.php#photo-2660633
  6. Condom Ad. Digital Image. Poster from the Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum, in Los Angeles, 1985. Photo courtesy of the National Library of Medicine, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-confusing-and-at-times-counterproductive-1980s-response-to-the-aids-epidemic-180948611/
  7. World AIDS Day Photo. Digital Image. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 1 December 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/features/worldaidsday/index.html

THE PROMISE AND IMPERFECTION OF THE WOMEN’S MARCH

[THE PROMISE AND IMPERFECTION OF THE WOMENS MARCH]

By Staff Writer
Liliana Torpey

“The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance,” proclaimed legendary activist and UCSD alumna Angela Davis as she addressed the crowd at the Women’s March on Washington.

Hundreds of thousands attended the march in Washington, D.C., the largest of many marches that rallied a total of 4.8 million participants worldwide on January 21.

The list of national co-chairs of the Women’s March reads like a ‘who’s who’ of engaged activists and leaders of successful social justice initiatives. Among them are Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour and Bob Bland. Angela Davis, Dolores Huerta, Gloria Steinem, Harry Belafonte and Ladonna Harris were among those chosen as honorary co-chairs and represent long legacies of protest and activism on behalf of marginalized communities.

Some participants described the march as a celebration, others as a call to action and defense of human rights that many feel are being threatened by the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Though the Women’s March and forums like it are being organized to advocate on issues affecting women, the march expresses intentions both broad and inclusive, including the peaceful protection of rights for a wide range of communities targeted by Trump’s campaign and presidency. The mission statement published on the Women’s March website stresses the intersectionality of its following and the issues it seeks to address, most notably of “immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, [and] survivors of sexual assault.”

Outcomes for women are as diverse as the women experiencing them, and solving these issues must include a wide range of viewpoints and backgrounds.  

  • According to a Department of Justice report, indigenous peoples are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault. One in three indigenous women will experience sexual assault within their lifetime, compared to one in five women nationally.
  • A report from the Office for Victims of Crime found that, “One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.” This violence is especially prevalent towards transgender people of color.
  • The pay gap between men and women affects different groups of women to different degrees. While white women make 75 percent that of the average pay for white men in a similar profession, Black women make only 63 percent and Hispanic women make a still lower 54 percent of what white men make.

Addressing the marchers, Linda Sarsour advised, “If you want to know if you are going the right way, follow women of color, sisters and brothers. We know where we need to go and we know where justice is, because when we fight for justice we fight for it for all people.”

The diversity of experience at the march was further emphasized by the presence of police donning the march’s distinctive, pink “pussy hat.” Those officers have been the focus of withering criticism from activists who have not in the past received the same civility from law enforcement at protests over issues such as police brutality. The perceived double standard has prompted questions into which marches (and marchers) are considered peaceful and which are not.

While the march represented a historic gathering of voices demanding women’s rights, it was far from a perfect moment. Many women expressed their experiences of being excluded and marginalized even within the feminist parameters of the march.

The “pussy hats” themselves are part of a larger theme among marchers of using metaphors for female genitalia to express their views. Some perceived this emphasis as a  fixation on cis-gendered women, one that only further ‘othered’ transgender women and femmes by excluding them from one of the march’s thematic points.

One viral photo showed activist Angela Peoples holding a sign that said, “Don’t forget: White Women Voted for Trump.”

According to exit polls conducted by CNN, 52 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump in last November’s presidential election. In her interview with The Root, Peoples pointed out that, despite the effort to reflect through its speakers the experiences of people of color, the march in general still centered ‘white faces.’ Peoples was critical of the fact that, upon seeing her sign, white women were too quick to claim “Not me!” rather than reflect on their privilege and reorganize to advocate for all women.

Though the march’s incredible diversity gave rise to differences of opinion, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Alicia Garza encouraged activists to collaborate in the face of cynicism and be patient with new activists who “are trying to figure out what it means to join a movement.”

Garza reasoned with participants, “If we demonstrate that to be a part of a movement you must believe that people cannot change, that transformation is not possible, that it’s more important to be right than to be connected and interdependent; we will not win.”

Hopefully, the Women’s March has encouraged more people to continue showing up and raising their voices-or stepping back to make space for others.

Since his inauguration, Trump has signed executive actions limiting the Affordable Care Act, expediting the Dakota Access Pipeline, ramping up deportation efforts, committing to a border wall, blocking entry of refugees and nationals of several Middle Eastern countries, and pulling federal funding from sanctuary cities. The Trump administration has also stripped federal funding from organizations that provide abortions, a move specifically targeting domestic abortion clinics, because the Helms Amendment already restricts any such funding through US foreign aid.

Put in other words, Trump’s actions will cause suffering in many groups and on a wide range of issues. Working class Americans will likely lose health insurance coverage. Indigenous people camped out at Standing Rock will likely experience more violence from law enforcement. Hard working immigrants will be separated from their families. Refugees who thought they were safe will be propelled once more into uncertainty. Women in poverty will no longer have access to women’s health care.

The Middle East immigration ban has proven the most salient of these issues. Protests sprung up at airports across the country on Saturday, January 29, demanding that detainees, many of whom have greencards, be allowed to enter the country.

The Women’s March has created a list of 10 actions for 100 days to build on the momentum of the march, which can be found on the Women’s March on Washington website. The first is to write your congresspeople postcards explaining what is especially important to you. The Women’s March showed the Trump administration the collective power of women on day one. Approximately 1,427 days of resistance to go.

image by VeryBusyPeople

BUILDING BRIDGES: EUROVISION AND THE LGBT COMMUNITY

By Carla Diot
Staff Writer

On May 23rd, 2015, millions of people tuned in to watch the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest. The song competition, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, brings countries from both inside and outside of Europe to present performances hand-selected by each competing country. The final brought 27 countries together to compete for a trophy and the opportunity to host the competition the next year. Receiving 365 points total, Sweden emerged victorious, with its energetic and uplifting performance of “Heroes,” by Måns Zelmerlöw.

The song contest was initially conceived as a light-hearted means of bringing countries together after the divisive and destructive World War II. Countries who joined the European Broadcasting Union were eligible to participate, including countries outside of Europe’s geographic borders, leading to entries from Morocco, Turkey, and newcomer Australia. However, with its 60th anniversary, it seems appropriate for the European based song contest to return to its roots by honoring the theme “Building Bridges.” The theme is timely, given the state of Europe in 2015. The theme comes at a time where Greece and Great Britain’s possible exits from the European Union have become common points of speculation among the European press, and the European Union is fighting to keep those bridges from burning. Furthermore, instability in Ukraine has inflamed tensions between Russia and the European Union, causing Ukraine to withdraw from the 2015 edition.

While Eurovision is seen as a campy celebration that has brought viewers dancing babushkas, monsters singing metal, and an Ukrainian disco ball, it has also been considered a significant indicator of the political conflicts rocking Europe. Songs with political messages are explicitly banned from Eurovision, but countries often use song titles or other symbols to evoke political messages. The most recent example of this comes from Armenia, which has launched a campaign for political recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. The discourse on the recognition of the genocide seeped into the Eurovision contest after the Armenian entry for this year was forced to change the name of its song from “Don’t Deny” to “Face the Shadow.” This was due to accusations from Turkey and Azerbaijan that the song title was a direct reference to their denial of the Armenian genocide. The official music video also garnered controversy for featuring images of individuals in World War I attire disappearing. The group performing the song, Genealogy, includes artists who are reportedly descendants of survivors of the genocide. The group, as well as the head of the Armenian Eurovision delegation, have denied the song’s political involvement, stating instead that its themes of genealogy and family instead focus on love and unity. Regardless, the performance was controversial, and Armenia was awarded only 22 points (compared to Sweden’s victory, consisting of 365 points total).

One of the characteristics of Eurovision has been its inclusion of LGBT audiences and performers. A first milestone for Eurovision was transgender singer Dana International’s performance in 1998. Her performance of the song “Diva” dominated the contest, as she secured a victory of 172 points. Last year’s contest saw the victory of drag queen Conchita Wurst. Overnight, Conchita Wurst, Thomas Neuwirth, became a sensation, being invited to return to Eurovision to perform. Wurst was also able to use her fame to launch a political platform, addressing the European Parliament on the subject of discrimination across Europe. She was also invited to perform at the United Nations Office in Vienna. The timing of Wurst’s victory was poignant, considering that it came in the midst of debate over Russia’s law banning the promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships, a law that was interpreted as clearly targeting the LGBT population. Even after Wurst’s rise to stardom, she faced opposition from the Russian government. A parade honoring Wurst organized by Russian fans was banned by the Russian government, who argued that the parade would result in clashes between activists and their opponents. Subsequently, speaking in Saint Petersburg, President Putin claimed that while Wurst had the right to live as she pleased, her manner of portraying herself was aggressive and against traditional values.

The controversy over Russia’s anti-LGBT law and further debate over inclusive rights for LGBT populations across Europe continued to make its presence known in Eurovision’s 2015 contest. In Vienna, the city celebrated its tolerance by installing traffic lights that displayed images of gay and lesbian couples ahead of the contest. Wurst returned to Eurovision as a co-host, inciting another round of criticism from Russian politicians. When Polina Gagarina, the Russian entry, posted an Instagram photo posing with Wurst during the semifinals, she faced backlash from Vitaly Milonov, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg and anti-gay activist who argued that Gagarina had no right to speak for Russia.

The contest itself attempted to discard the anti-gay controversy, installing sound reduction technology in order to prevent booing of Gagarina’s performance. This came after Russia’s entry, the Tolmachevy Sisters, were booed during their performance in 2014. This year, Gagarina’s performance was immensely popular, securing 303 points. Despite the stunning results, hosts reminded the audience not to boo Russia, by stating that the results were about the music, as opposed to the politics. The contest continued to include symbols of acceptance, with Lithuania’s act including same-sex kisses during their performance. Although same-sex acts have been legal since 1993, the move was seen as progress towards acceptance of LGBT populations in Lithuania.

This year’s Eurovision was incredibly competitive, with Sweden, Russia, and Italy going head to head against one another. In the end, Sweden secured a victory with Måns Zelmerlöw’s performance of “Heroes.” The victory was seen as controversial among LGBT circles, however, as they had noted that Zelmerlöw was responsible for homophobic comments in the past, including an infamous appearance on a cooking show, where he deemed homosexuality abnormal. Zelmerlöw has since apologized for the comments, and demonstrated his support for the gay community through acts such as hosting events specifically for the LGBT community. In his acceptance of the Eurovision trophy, Zelmerlöw thanked his fans in an inclusive speech, stating in reference to his song that “we are all heroes, no matter who we love, who we are, or what we believe in”. Regardless, his victory stirred debate among LGBT circles.

Since its inception, Eurovision has developed into a safe-space for the European LGBT community. Europe has since seen a positive movement towards the protection of rights for sexual and gender minorities. In April, a groundbreaking law came into effect in Malta that recognized gender identity as an inherent part of a person. This provided transgender and genderqueer people with procedures that would allow them to change their gender identity on government documents. In the same month, the Council of Europe passed a resolution on transgender rights, encouraging members of the council to pass laws that would protect transgender individuals from hate crimes, provide them with adequate health care services, and allow them the opportunity to have their gender recognized by the state. Most recently, Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage via a public referendum, with sixty-two per cent of voters supporting the initiative. Although these can all be seen as victories for the provision of rights for sexual minorities, there are steps remaining. However, it is clear that despite Eurovision’s attempts to remain apolitical, its tolerance has allowed it to become a safe and accepting space for the LGBT community.

Photo by European Parliament