I first met Tom Duane in 1993 when he opened his district office in Chelsea on the same floor as our headquarters at 275 7th Avenue. That was in the “early days” when AIDS was still considered a death sentence and even our landlord put us and Tom and later APICA all on the same floor in case it was “catching”. Ah, the old days. Somehow they seem more honest despite the terrible suffering. We knew where we stood. There were no illusions.
Today many believe that HIV stigma has been eradicated. I am not sure I agree. But more about that later. I loved Tom from the first minute I met him. He was big and Irish and he bear hugged me and called me “honey” and he was the first openly gay, openly HIV positive legislator in the nation. He was alright by me. And he loved Jones Beach and Field 6. We were a match made in heaven! After Tom was elected to the Senate, his office moved and I missed running into him on my way to the hallway bathroom. It’s those times when you really get to know people because you talk about the real stuff … politics, family, kids, life, and death. Tom saw my daughter grow up and when he met me, I was pregnant with my son. Now my daughter is almost twenty and the son I gave birth to back then is almost 15.
Bailey House is older too and so is our relationship with Tom. That’s why we have been really proud of his leadership over the years on behalf of homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. Tom has been fiercely out front on the floor of the Senate and elsewhere on issues like “HASA for ALL”, a campaign that seeks to put a legislative cap on the percentage of income homeless men and women living with AIDS have to pay towards their rent in housing programs subsidized by NYS and NYC. A couple of weeks ago, Tom gave an extemporaneous speech on the floor of the NYS Senate about this issue that rocked the house and made its way to You Tube and around the world. Tom’s our hero and we hope after seeing this video, he’s yours too!
If you would like more information about this campaign go to www.nycahn.org. For information about how housing is HIV prevention go to
www.nationalaidshousing.org. Let us know what you would like to hear about ……