AIDS TREATMENT NEWS Issue #213, December 23, 1994
December 20: The new Congress convenes in January, and most of
its members have little background or involvement with AIDS.
What happens to AIDS research, care, prevention, and human
rights depends on whether members of Congress hear from VOTERS
IN THEIR DISTRICTS that AIDS is important to them.
But so far the AIDS community has done poorly in grassroots
organizing -- in helping the millions of people who care about
AIDS to make their voices heard, by Congress, by city, state,
and other officials, and in the media. Most Congressional
offices almost never hear from their voters on AIDS. This must
improve -- quickly.
We need communication groups -- relaxed, friendly, non-
competitive, personally rewarding -- that also send dozens of
letters and calls from every meeting.
"Action alerts" from national organizations must be made easier
for non-specialists to use. Organizations should test their
alerts through informal focus groups -- asking people to
actually write or call, and report where the obstacles are,
while the organizer watches and listens without giving
The "AIDS Coffee Klatch" -- now being started by this writer
and others -- is a model for combining political defense with
social groups. The following explanation is from the voicemail
we set up this week for outreach. Feel free to use this
material (including the name AIDS Coffee Klatch) for your own
efforts to support AIDS funding and human rights.
Note that this kind of organizing costs almost no money;
funding is not required.
Hello, welcome to AIDS Coffee Klatch. We are developing small,
personal social groups which also write and call Congress,
local officials, media, and others, to support AIDS funding and
the human rights of people with AIDS and HIV. After the
November elections, our community needs this kind of strength
more than ever before.
To bypass this introduction and go directly to our action
alerts and schedule of San Francisco meetings, press '1' on
your telephone. To leave us a message, press '2'.
The central goal of AIDS Coffee Klatch is to create a kind of
organizing which is MASS MOVEMENT READY -- graceful and
workable enough to become part of everyday life, so it can
spread to many thousands of people, not just to political
specialists. A successful model could contribute decisively to
a more livable future, a more livable world.
We base this work on four principles. These groups must:
(1) Combine POLITICAL work with PERSONAL AND SOCIAL needs. The
same groups that send dozens of letters and calls from
every meeting will also be relaxed, low-key social
gatherings, places to meet people and develop friendships,
to be aware of each other and ready to help in adversity.
(2) Be easy-going, low stress, non-competitive, without
pressure to do more or guilt for not doing it. People write
letters or make calls as individuals, when it feels right,
not otherwise. There is no need to fight over policy, since
the group does not take positions on issues. Instead,
individuals support the issues they feel comfortable with
-- and pass when they don't. Anyone can bring their own
AIDS issues to the group.
(3) Work with high-quality action alerts -- and insist that
AIDS policy organizations deliver high quality. Action
alerts must speak to everyone, not just Washington
insiders. They must reflect solid research, strategic
thinking, a sense of timing, and widespread community
consensus. They must accurately portray the thinking of
both sides, including our opponents -- and show why our
position benefits the public as a whole, as well as people
with AIDS. And action alerts must be clear, explicit, and
complete about whom you can write or call, how to do it,
and what points are most important to communicate.
(4) Work in coalition -- with other organizations, other causes
and interests, and other communities.
For More Information
Call our voicemail at 415/241-1568.