For 30 years, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has fought social justice battles against governments that fail to serve the people but are only too happy to help big-moneyed interests.
The foundation began in the 1980s in Los Angeles with a few friends who set out to fight a fear-based statewide initiative to quarantine the earliest AIDS patients. We set up the first full-service medical hospice in L.A. for AIDS patients, and it eventually helped 1,200 people die with dignity. But first, we had to fight to get Los Angeles County to wake up.
As we grew into the largest HIV/AIDS medical care provider in the world, we battled change-resistant bureaucracies both locally and globally. In South Africa in the early 2000s, for example, then-U.S. Rep. Diane Watson and I dissuaded the government from disastrous notions that the disease could be treated by healthy living. AHF's historic clinic there has saved tens of thousands of lives.
We are now fighting Washington, to address an increase of HIV/AIDS in the Deep South.
Our employees have taken on racism, gender inequality, inequitable immigration policies, public health threats, dangerous stigmas — and the dire demand for affordable housing. Indeed, after medical care, housing is our patients' greatest need.
We believe L.A. is in the grip of a social justice crisis over whom our city really serves. As we work to house patients in L.A., City Hall focuses on approving $3,500 apartments that sit empty.
Why do billionaire developers profit by tens of millions thanks to backroom favors from City Hall while our homeless population spikes? Why did we lose 22,000 rent-stabilized apartments without any discussion? Why does City Hall designate "open space" land for luxury developments when L.A. is the most park-poor of America's 65 largest cities? Why does City Hall promote gentrification in Boyle Heights, Frogtown, Westlake, MacArthur Park, South Central, West Adams, Palms, Venice and Van Nuys with no apparent concern for the elderly or working-class Latino and African American families who are displaced by it?
These and other reasons are why AHF is the primary supporter of the Yes on Measure S campaign. Our government and its corporate allies are defending a self-benefiting system. We understand the arm-twisting that goes on, the effort to amass groups against Measure S who rely on City Hall for funding, contracts, letters of recommendation and other favors. Other organizations see this abominable track record and are standing with us.
We must put a stop to the unmitigated greed and corruption that will forever change L.A. from a welcoming place to a city built only for the privileged.
Michael Weinstein is president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and a member of the Coalition to Preserve L.A.