Last week, the SFGN ran a story titled ‘Impulse Group Accused of Age Discrimination.’
(Find more stories about Impulse at SFGN.com/Impulse)
It lit a smoldering fire.
The story generated a score of comments and dozens of calls. It was picked up by three of the nation’s leading LGBT websites, Instinct.com, Advocate.com and Qweerty.com. This week, according to my editor, another story will appear about the growing controversy.
The central theme of the article was that Impulse, a group of volunteers dedicated to reaching out to young people to help stop the spread of HIV, was charging a fee at their pool parties to anyone over 40.
This practice, people have protested, constitutes ageism. Nonsense!
Last week’s article also noted that the Pride Center of Equality Park had earlier this year held an event titled ‘An Evening in Paradise,’ which offered a discounted price point for those between 18 and 35. The piece also stated that the purpose was to ‘divide the community.’ That subjective comment did not belong there. It too, was nonsense.
In fact, both groups, Impulse and the Pride Center, are doing a remarkable job at trying to unite the community and enhance testing outreach methods for HIV. The Pride Center not only conducts HIV youth groups and educational classes, it holds community forums weekly. Underwritten by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Impulse is an all-volunteer organization making HIV testing a component of every one of their events.
Few jobs in my own life were as rewarding as my three-year tenure as the executive director of AIDS Project Florida, which began in 2002. My primary task was not only to treat the thousands of patients who visited our clinic, but also to make sure we could stem the rates of growth of HIV in South Florida. ‘An ounce of prevention,’ we all learned as kids, ‘is worth a pound of cures.’ That is not age discrimination. That is common sense.
I set off a firestorm when I used some of our agency’s funds to acquire a 1966 Volkswagen van to use as a mobile testing vehicle at county fairs. I also tripled the amount of people we got tested for HIV on the weekends.
The reason you put a runaway shelter on the Fort Lauderdale Beach instead of in Pembroke Pines is because that is where the kids are. But I remember almost being lynched, when, as a young college professor in 1978, I proposed building a shelter on A1A. The thing about being run out of town is that you have to get in front of the crowd and make it look like a parade.
The reason you hold a beach party for HIV prevention is because 25 percent of all new infections occur between the ages of 13 and 24. Ages 24 to 35 are not much better. Infections are rising still. We must develop innovative techniques to reach out and educate this population. Whatever we are doing, we are not doing enough.
Next week, SFGN will be one of the many media sponsors supporting a $150 plate dinner at the Hard Rock Hotel to benefit the Pride Center at Equality Park and the Harvey Milk Foundation. Dare I say that there won’t be many persons 25 and younger there?
What you do as an AIDS advocate is try to reach your target population. The 10th annual Florida AIDS Walk got a lot more people tested bringing in Salt-n-Pepa than they would have by hosting Tony Bennett. They not only provided facilities for testing, they did so in a lively, fun, interactive environment that fostered HIV education.
You reach people more with fun than with fear. It’s Basic Marketing 101. So if some HIV group wants to hold a party for young people their own age, why can’t we just leave them the hell alone?
Not for profit AIDS agencies have a dual mission. They not only have to treat a disease that has spread worldwide, they have to stop it from spreading further. AHF knows this. They are in 33 countries, places where contracting HIV, let alone being gay, is a disgrace.
AHF understands a significant component of their mission is to reach out to people so they don’t get HIV. Prevention matters. If your target population is a younger demographic, you reach them with innovative techniques that go beyond expensive sit down dinners in hotels.
You use social media, music, beach parties, bar crawls, and any lawful technique, which finds young people where they are and where they like to be. You do what you can to bring those persons within the paradigm of care.
The argument that Impulse is practicing age discrimination is legitimately newsworthy, but fundamentally meritless.
You older folks, just settle down. You can get your senior discounts at the movie theater and bagel shops, but Impulse ought to be able to freely create their own agenda without you getting on their case.