The successes of the civil rights movement are rightly remembered as a major achievement of grassroots organizing—with crucial assists by Lyndon B. Johnson and a muscular White House.
But there’s another part of that history that you won’t see on the big screen: How philanthropists supported the civil rights push at key moments. As well—fast forwarding to today—for all the media attention on racial justice in the wake of police killings in Ferguson, MO, and New York City, there’s been little mention of how foundation money has helped frame the response to those events and articulate a policy agenda going forward.
The first female Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, is going to have her work cut out for her with requests for all sorts of things — funding for everything under the sun, reform ideas from every political perspective, and, oh yes, health care — that little elephant in the room, costing us all a fortune, wreaking havoc on middle class and poor families, and making us look bad internationally for having the most bloated, ineffective system in the world.
Enter Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and the Rhode Island Foundation, stage left. They bring with them many years of sustained investment in improving health care. Whitehouse founded the Rhode Island Quality Institute during his time as Attorney General and is a leading voice in Washington for health care delivery system reform. The Rhode Island Foundation has been funding health care initiatives since early in its history, and continues to look for and fund innovative ways to improve health care access and delivery.
When it comes to the big names in housing and particularly sustainable housing for the underserved community, one man stands out from the crowd fairly quickly. Michael J. Hanley, President of the Hanley Foundation, has been working for more sustainable housing, and housing for those in need, for over 15 years.
LGBT seniors in Philadelphia now have a new housing option in the “Gayborhood,” the nickname for the neighborhood where the William Way Residence opened. The 56-unit housing development, funded by the Dr. Magnus Hirshfeld Fund, is a haven for elderly LGBT folks who need affordable housing.
Since the emergence of HIV as a pandemic in the late 1970’s, good news has been rare. With remorseless efficiency the retrovirus has eluded decades of medical interventions. But there is cause for hope, and one huge lucky break. Although the medications that are effectively allowing people with HIV to stay healthy do not eliminate the virus, and in spite of the fact that it rapidly mutates– treating HIV reduces the risk of infecting others. From BBC News…
The [antiretroviral] drugs reduce the amount of virus in the blood, and cut the risk of an infected person passing HIV on.
Last year, at the UN General Assembly, governments agreed to set the goal of getting 15 million HIV-infected people worldwide on the life-saving antiretroviral medicines by 2015.
The WHO says this target could be within reach – provided countries can sustain current rates.
And it says about eight million people in low and middle-income countries are getting the treatment they need, up from just 0.4 million in 2003.
Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO’s HIV department, said: “The challenge now is to ensure that global progress is mirrored at all levels and in all places so that people, whoever they are and wherever they live, can obtain antiretroviral therapy when they need it.”
It was not until the 1980’s that it was possible to test for HIV, and in the 90’s a test was developed that could measure the viral load.
It was not a sure thing that treating people with HIV would reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Early drugs, like AZT, caused the virus to mutate into resistant forms and did not do much more than buy time for AIDS patients. Still, lives were saved and in time better drugs were developed. With the PCR test that measures the amount of viral copies in the blood it is possible to know how effective a particular drug is for a patient. There are more drugs, and cheaper, and easier to take.
Too long, and too much grief, but it is possible to see the end of this epidemic.
And a pandemic, like other natural disasters, shows how interconnected we are. It is not possible to eliminate the threat of HIV without caring for people across social and national lines. We are one human race and we succeed or fail together.