The Press on Marjorie Hill's Departure Had Us Thinking...

By Catherine Hanssens
Before we polemically assault a community leader, perhaps we should hold the feet of responsible government officials to the fire.

Today's homage to Dr. Marjorie Hill in the Gay City News ("A Salute to Marjorie Hill: An Open Letter to the NYC and National LGBTQ and HIV Communities") clearly is a reply to an October 4 New York Times article which savaged Dr. Hill, who recently stepped down after seven years as CEO of Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) ("A Pioneering AIDS Prevention Group Struggles to Stay Relevant"). It was sad to see Dr. Hill as the target of criticism to which other large HIV organizations – some run by men for decades, and still stumbling over the same stubbornly high HIV rates – seem immune.  

Most non-profit agencies that provide vitally important services to people with HIV are under siege. Keeping them alive and relevant requires the involvement, support and constructive input of community members and leaders alike. 

Chronically serious problems like HIV merit specific responses; the Times article contained nothing of the sort. Before we polemically assault a community leader, perhaps we should hold the feet of responsible government officials to the fire. We might actually make a positive difference if we demonstrate our concern about high HIV infection rates through some specific action directed at policy makers. 

Here is a modest proposal for two things that would help: Before the next World AIDS Day on December 1st, contact your state representatives and demand that they take concrete steps to 1) put a moratorium on the use of criminal laws that make it a felony for people who get tested for HIV to be sexually-active if they are HIV positive; and 2) require that all state-operated or supported youth facilities provide LGBT-inclusive sexual health literacy programs, starting with young people in detention centers who rely on their state custodians for their care.

It couldn’t hurt the cause, and it’s a reasonable alternative to personally hurtful rhetoric.