MY NEW ROLE
8 June 2005
It occurs to me that I have a journal (in case you hadn't noticed) which gets read by a lot of people I've never heard from, a lot of people who may or may not have connections I can use.
I've recently taken on a new job. Well, a new volunteer job, at present (and probably forever!).
It's time for Steve to go back to the schools and start giving his AIDS presentation again. I volunteered to try and find some "gigs" for him.
It is estimated that nearly 39 million people around the world are living with HIV/AIDS. Since it was first identified in the early 1980s, the disease has killed more than 20 million people. In the United States, an estimated 850,000-950,000 people are living with AIDS and there are 40,000 new infections diagnosed each year.
There is much misconception about HIV and AIDS. There are still people who think it's a "gay disease," but the most rapidly increasing group of new cases in this country is among straight African American women, who may have contracted the disease from their partners, without realizing that they were at risk. The Well Project posts statistics that since the launch of their website in September of 2003, 3,475,979 women have become infected with AIDS (the number will be higher now, since it goes up minute by minute).
People feel that the rate of HIV infection in the states is dropping, but the awareness which began to turn the tide in the 1990s, where everyone knew countless numbers of people who had died of the disease, has subsided. The advent of new drugs is allowing people to live with the disease, not automatically die of the disease, and so people--especially young people--don't think it's any big deal. Even if they get HIV, no problem. They just take a pill and all will be OK.
Young people are especially at risk now that our beloved president has decreed that schools can only teach "absinence" and can't inform kids about how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases in case they do become sexually active. At the end of 2003, 10 million young people aged 15-24 were living with HIV/AIDS. Between 2000 and 2003, HIV/AIDS increased by 10% among young people between 15-24 in the U.S. Scientific evidence does not support the government's strategy of making abstinence only until marriage programs the cornerstone of its HIV prevention strategy globally and in the US.
In this day and age, it is more important than ever to have someone like Steve talk about the reality of living with AIDS. The difficulty (and expense) of taking all those pills, the side effects and the pills you take to combat the side effects, and then the pills you take to counteract the effects of the pills you took to combat the side effect of the AIDS drugs.
Steve gives a great presentation. When he speaks to high school kids, he says "I'm going to talk about AIDS and I'm not going to mention sex." He doesn't talke about do's and don't's. He lets them know that if they want that information, there are lots of places where they can get it. What he wants to do is to tell them what it's like to actually live with the disease. He sings his songs and he tells his jokes and kids are mesmirized.
Steve changes lives.
His presentation to colleges brings frank discussion of anything and everything. He holds back nothing. "I'll answer any question you want to ask," he tells the students. People line up after the presentation to get a hug or to ask a private question.
When he goes to a college campus, he can also speak on non-HIV/AIDS related topics. He could speak to the theatre department, for example, on how an unknown, unknowledgeable singer/songwriter was able to get a show to New York and win awards in less than 14 months.
He has one of the very first on-line diaries and can speak to the issue of blogging.
He has spoken to medical groups, to great acclaim, and to church groups, also to great acclaim.
He is also an ideal for some sort of "inspirational seminar," a guy who came back from the brink of death and a year later took an unknown show to New York and won awards. He is able to inspire people to understand that there are no limits, to learn how to use what you have to its maximum potential.
He and I designed a web page for his personal appearances.
So now I'm looking for help. Help in finding leads to places that might like to put him on their program for the coming year. When he is hired by a college to speak, he will often give a presentation to a local high school or church group for no charge, because his primary desire is to spread the word and hope that he can make a difference in the lives of some of the people who hear him.
If anybody has any connections or leads or telephone numbers, please write to me privately and let me know. I would really like to see him be able to start doing this program again. There is some hope that The Big Voice will open in New York this fall, but even if it does, he would still be able to visit venues which are within reasonable travel distance from New York. And if, god forbid, TBV does not make it to New York, well then the whole country is available to be approached.
I know that colleges are making their schedules for the coming year right now, so time is of the essence. I will love you forever if you help me get him a couple of bookings!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Steve speaks to a college group in San Luis Obispo, CA