By: John-Manuel Andriote
One of the most touching songs about AIDS over the epidemic"s three-decade history so far) never mentions the word AIDS. "Is it someone you know, or only a stranger?" sings Patti Austin. "If we have to ask, then we’re all in danger," she continues. "We're all in this together."
When Food & Friends, back in 2000, explored the idea of offering its meal delivery services to people with life-challenging illnesses besides AIDS, the agency was exploring unknown territory. Would clients feel stigmatized by receiving nutritional support from an "AIDS" organization? Would donors restrict their contributions only to serve clients whose particular diagnosis fit their own commitments or mission?
Eleven years later, Food & Friends has proved that when it comes to caring for and serving the nutritional needs of people with serious illness, the lines blur between who has what. What is most important is to provide nutritional support for those in the community who need it. Period. Making the agency's services more widely available has proved a fantastic thing for the community and for Food & Friends.
In conducting dozens of new interviews across the country for the new edition of my book Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America, I’ve observed many AIDS service organizations struggling to remain relevant as funding tightens and effective medical treatment means there are far fewer seriously ill HIV-positive people who require such services as home-delivered meals.
I've come to appreciate more than ever the foresight and generosity of spirit with which Food & Friends has been able to maintain its vital role in the D.C. community, and as a model for other organizations originally created to serve very ill people with AIDS that are now trying to sort out their role in the epidemic's changed landscape.
I’m grateful, and proud, that Food & Friends has so generously organized a special event on Thursday, September 22, to launch the "updated and expanded" edition of Victory Deferred. I can't think of any place I’d rather be than with these good folks whose work every day attests to their belief, which I share, that "we're all in this together."