This is a little long, but you seldom see a legislator get so hot on the floor of a chamber, and if you aren’t familiar with the old days of the AIDS epidemic it might be instructive. Tom Duane rises to speak on behalf of a state senate bill that would keep HIV/AIDS patients from having to paying more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Duane starts by telling his colleagues that they can’t scare him of his advocacy of the bill (from his tone, it sounds as if someone may have tried). He recollects “The early 80s, visiting friends in hospitals. They’d go in one night, in the morning they’d be dead… I’d bring them food… but whoever was in the bed would be dead before they could eat it. We’d leave it, maybe the nurses will take it home — No! They wouldn’t eat it! Because it’s contaminated. Contaminated! Wouldn’t touch it! Wouldn’t go into the room! Wearing masks, gloves, gowns!… and that went on for months and then years.”
He talks about his own struggles with HIV. “Every cold, every virus, every temperature, I thought I’d be dead! And so did so many others that I knew. You think you scare me? You think you can make me back off? Nothin‘ scares me! ” Also: “You’re not killin’ my bill, you’re killin’ people!”
Duane got a standing ovation from his fellow Democrats, and the bill passed 52-1. The Assembly, however, has yet to approve it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 17, 2009