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Can blood-red paint on yellow gloves save lives in a pandemic?

LESSONS LEARNED

Decades ago, during another deadly viral epidemic, protesters sought to awaken elected leaders during a public health crisis. People were dying from AIDS and there was no acknowledgment of the magnitude of the epidemic from the president or governor. The city council was far from unanimous in agreeing to help prevent or treat AIDS.

The protesters, many of whom were caregivers for the sick and dying, decided to wear yellow gloves dipped in red paint. This would be a very unsettling sight at the protest, especially when facing the police. The virus was passed by body fluids—including blood. No one told the police it was only paint.

The protests I attended at the state capital, city hall, in front of the federal building downtown and at the nation’s capital were part of a historical turning point. The gloved protesters were saying they could no longer remain silent as people lacked health care and many died due to apathy and benign neglect. An AIDS prevention policy — a plan to end the epidemic — was desperately needed.

There was a sense of urgency. The message was clear. Without help, there would be blood on the hands of elected officials.

The slogan “Silence=Death” was born. It was chanted in protests until a national, state, county, city and school board strategy was developed to prevent and treat AIDS and support testing.

And here we are. Lack of tests, lack of protection equipment for testers and lack access to timely care. Added to this we have economic disruption, joblessness and business closures. If you think things can’t get worse, they can. If there was ever a time to pay close attention, connect with neighbors, and take an urgent message to city hall, this is it.

Our silence won’t save us or our children. Our shouting and gloves might.

*The future is what we make it. Join the evolution.

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of Joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. If one of my illustrations looks like a real human, corn vender or three-headed hydra, that’s total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Questions? The Plan Forward awaits you here: www.tenvitalservices.org

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