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Letter from Tom Duane

2013 TAGupdate

December 11, 2013

Dear Friends of TAG:

When I ran for and won my New York Council seat in 1991, at the outset of my campaign I disclosed my HIV status by sending a letter to those I hoped to represent.

Among other points I made in that letter was that none of us could predict our future state of health and its impact on our lives—not on that day, the next day, or at any point thereafter. Whether any one of us would become sick was not under our control.

In the future, I said, there could also be treatments, medicine, procedures, etc., that didn’t yet exist that could save our lives or improve our chances to live and the quality of our lives. And thanks to TAG, I was right.

I have been HIV-positive for approximately 30 years. Even though I have lost a multitude of friends—so many close friends and loved ones—I and so many others with HIV have continued to hope, held tightly to those close to us, practiced self-care, and done our best to be compliant with medical recommendations. Many of us have also fought, not as if our lives depended upon it, but because our lives and the lives of those we loved and people we had never met and would never ever meet depended on it.

There was ACT UP/New York, civil disobedience, arrests, and brave, fearless, innovative, and technically brilliant actions that not only transformed HIV/AIDS treatments, but also transformed pharmaceutical and government policies for the well-being of everyone who was or would become sick.

And then there was TAG.

Since it was founded in 1992, I have had a habit of saying that TAG would save my life. I had faith that TAG and its incredible, brilliant work would keep me alive. No pressure there. But I meant it. TAG had to and would keep me alive. And so it has, for me and for countless other people around the world.

TAG is lean but not mean. Oh, for sure, TAG equals the fiercest fighters. TAG is not part of the government-institutional-pharmaceutical system, but it is so importantly and strategically smart about working within the system, no matter how they (or you or I) feel about that system. TAG leverages its modest 15 full-time staff and $2.4 million budget to unlock billions in support for research, and for domestic and global AIDS, hepatitis C virus (HCV), and tuberculosis (TB) programs.

TAG is action. TAG is responsible for cutting-edge, lifesaving, and life-improving treatments. Let me list just some of the incredible victories TAG has already won:

  • TAG is leading advocacy with the Obama administration to create a more ambitious, scientifically grounded National HIV/AIDS Strategy 2.0, with the explicit goal of ending the U.S. epidemic with a combination of universal access to high-quality HIV prevention and treatment, and continued research for a cure and a vaccine.

  • TAG is leading advocacy with the Cuomo administration in New York State and the incoming mayoral administration of Bill de Blasio in New York City to create a New York State and City Plan to End AIDS, building on the latest science, and on the rollout of New York’s ambitious Medicaid expansion in conjunction with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

  • TAG is working with New York and other jurisdictions to achieve negotiated price reductions in high-priced HIV treatments so that universal access can become a reality in the United States sooner rather than later.

  • TAG is working with its allies in Washington, D.C., and around the country to preserve the vital research budget of the National Institutes of Health and to extend authorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which supports HIV treatment for 6 million people around the world.

  • TAG is leading efforts by hepatitis C activists around the world to accelerate the approval of and universal access to new direct-acting antiviral (DAA) combination drugs that cure HCV without toxic, expensive, injectable alpha interferon treatment. New research indicates that all-oral DAA combinations can cure most forms of HCV within a matter of months, with far less toxicity than other, interferon-based treatments.

  • TAG is leading efforts by TB and TB/HIV activists, researchers, and policy makers around the world to prepare the way for elimination of TB as a public health threat, through a combination of more investment, better diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, and more research to discover, develop, and distribute an effective vaccine, shorter and more tolerable TB cures, and better integrated TB programs.

I am sorry I am sending this appeal to you so late in the year. The board, staff, and programs funded by TAG would never procrastinate the way I have. But accept my apology. Help keep me, our friends, and our loved ones alive, as well as those around the world that you or I have never met and may never meet.

All of us together need TAG, and TAG needs us. Please continue your generous support of TAG’s work, and if possible, please consider increasing it so TAG can continue to fight hard and smart to bring the end of the AIDS, HCV, and TB epidemics closer to today.

With deepest gratitude,

Tom Duane

Former New York State Senator from Manhattan