NY State Senator Tom Duane Gives Gripping, Angry Speech on AIDS


At around 3 am last night, New York State Senator Tom Duane, who is gay and HIV-positive, delivered a mesmerizing, emotional 21-minute speech on the Senate floor at the end of a marathon session in favor of a bill preventing people living with HIV or AIDS and receiving public assistance from having to pay more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent.

The bill passed by a vote of 52 to 1. But not after Duane reminded people of the horrors of the early 80's:

"Visiting friends in hospitals. We'd go in. We'd go in one night, in the morning they'd be dead. I'd bring them food. My family, bring them food. My friends bring someone food. But whoever was in bed would be dead before they could eat it. We'd leave it - maybe the nurses would take it home. No! They wouldn't eat it! 'Cause it's contaminated. Contaminated! Wouldn't touch it. Wouldn't go into the room. Wearing masks. Gloves! Gowns! Someone gets sick in the afternoon. They'd be dead the next day. Dead! And that went on for months, and then years. Dead! Dead! You think if you got sick and your friends were dying that I would sit there and do nothing? No. But that's what happened. That's what happened. Every cold. Every virus. Every temperature. I thought I'd be dead, and so did so many people that I knew. Dead! You think you scare me? You think you can make be back off? Nothing scares me."

Peter Staley writes of those living with HIV and AIDS: "There's a Tom Duane lurking deep down in all of us, waiting to be heard.

Watch Duane's speech, AFTER THE JUMP...


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  1. Go fuck yourself with a rusty chainsaw, "Blake."

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jul 18, 2009 8:49:21 AM

  2. I agree with several posters here who question why PWA should get rent assistance when people with other life-threatening illnesses don't. Also, I think when this program was originally envisioned, people with AIDS were often so debilitated from the disease or side effects from the medications that they couldnt work.

    Now there are HIV+ people who are doctors, lawyers, state senators, etc. Why does someone like Tom Duane, who's well enough to philibuster at 3am, need a handout? Its important not to discriminate against people with AIDS and HIV, but its also important not to assume they're all invalids

    Posted by: dizzy spins | Jul 18, 2009 10:30:12 AM

  3. We need more speaking the whole truth about the early years of the AIDS epidemic and what it's like now.

    Posted by: Bill | Jul 18, 2009 11:58:15 AM

  4. I can't imagine anyone WANTING HIV for the minimal benefits.

    I know from my own experience, it aint worth it.

    I would gladly trde my health before in exchange for the beauruecratic nightmare I deal wth daily. In addition, due to medical costs, finding a job, which I am more than healthy to do, is almost impossible. You not only have to find a jonb, you have to find one with medical benefits that you can afford.

    It sucks. However, I don't have any self pity, I brought this on myself and do everything I can to help the Gay and straight community in return for the costs that I cause to the country.

    Posted by: Derek Washington | Jul 18, 2009 12:40:56 PM

  5. Miz Duane had what was commonly called a big ole' hissy-fit. Unfortunately the 1/2 hour of screaming like a crazy lady didn't really make much sense as pertaining to the issue she was screaming about. And after the behavior in recent weeks of all of our NY State Senators, I still plan on voting against each and every one of them in the next election.

    Posted by: Tom | Jul 18, 2009 12:57:22 PM

  6. Why are people saying this is a handout. All this does is cap the amount of rent you pay based on your income. No one is getting financial assistance, they are merely getting protection from not being able to afford their rent and their meds. While I generally agree that there is some lack of logic in providing such a protection for those living with HIV versus other debilitating diseases, why not start here. Then move to cover others. Personally I agree that if people living with HIV were covered under the existing programs like Medicare, it would probably save money in the long run and would put people living with HIV on more equal footing with those suffering from other diseases that get access to those benefits. Another big different I'd point out is often those who become HIV positive are gay men or minorities who don't have the family and social structures in place people who are hit with cancer or diabetes have. Look around you. How many people do you know who are in statistically high risk groups for contracting HIV -- how many are single, live alone and if faced with medical bills out of the ass from an HIV diagnosis would stand to lose everything. Simply because some people might seek infection out as some on here have suggested does not mean that those who don't deserve to be thrown into the gutters. Give me a break. What a sick sad way of looking at the world.

    Posted by: Alex | Jul 18, 2009 12:58:02 PM

  7. When the bill requires that anyone with HIV not pay more than 30% of income in rent, how does it do that? Does it steal the remaining amount from the landlord who has done nothing wrong except rent to someone with HIV? If this law were to become well known might it not incentivize landlords to avoid renting to people with HIV or who are perceived to be likely to contract it? Is this politiician inadvertantly encouraging discrimination against the very people he wants to help? Does the man understand zero economics or does he simply not care? A very, very stupid move.

    Posted by: cls | Jul 18, 2009 1:35:58 PM

  8. Larry-Bob: There are many ways to a compromised immune system. Altho, I shouldn't say immune system - if that was the case, then HIV people would die from a cold. It is an energy problem. Damages that involve intoxification or lack of oxygen from a variety of factors. AZT just accelerated it. Usually there are co-factors.
    I'd visit David at the Columbarium, but along the way I'd pass many more who bought into the system. David was a special case with very special circumstances.
    I know many with HIV who are healthier than me (negative). The tests are very unspecific and it's just antibodies. Doesn't mean a whole lot. Neither do the any viral #s. I can have my opinion. You don't have to have it. I don't care. I love how people like you get all riled up. No one denies suffering. But just disagree with how one gets there.

    Posted by: Otter | Jul 18, 2009 3:23:26 PM

  9. The last 45 seconds are stunning.

    As the speaker, weary at 3AM, routinely asked for additional comment, the chamber filled up and erupted in a standing ovation.

    That ovation was for all of us who survived and lived to give voice as witnesses. Watch it again and again.

    We all share the duty to remember and speak of it. It was and remains our Holocaust.

    Our children and our children's children must know.

    Posted by: Burly Truth | Jul 18, 2009 4:34:41 PM

  10. Dear Freddy: You are a walking, talking poster-queer for why a gay man could never,ever in all honesty if he has any integrity be a Republicon. Lefties? Um, HIV does not discriminate and as for Senator Franken, he was the ONLY Senator who asked any questions of substance to Judge Sotomayor. If it hadn't been for Mr. Franken, those hearings would have been a farce. As for Reagan, Sen. Franken is not in the position that the asshole Reagan held as President with the power and influence to have made a difference in those early years of the HIV epidemic. I, too, can recall just how HORRIBLE it all was and how frustrating it was to see your Rightie buddies and Reagan almost seem GLEEFUL that the epidemic was going on. Lots of righteous hypocrisy that continues to this day from the Republicunts.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jul 18, 2009 4:44:06 PM

  11. THE CURE for HIV/AIDS.......AMBUSH

    THE IDEA that AMBUSH cures AIDS
    is being proven by the more than 400 individuals who have taken a dose of 60 ml three times daily for 21 days. The result is that AMBUSH 'KILLS' the virus by causing the protein envelope to rupture and the viral particles are discarded by the white blood cells. AMBUSH is able to 'KILL' the virus that are 'hiding' in the lymph system by its 'natural radioactive' properties. This process allows the body to 'return to normal health' with a corresponding immunity to that or those strains of the virus.

    What is AMBUSH ?
    AMBUSH is a radioactive isotope of uranium that is found in the 'palm' plant of which there are more than 3000 species. When ingested, AMBUSH causes the body temperature in the trunk area to rise to about 102 degrees when the individual is sleeping. The preparation takes four hours per batch, which is then given to the individuals for consumption 60 ml three times daily for 21 days. AMBUSH is a herbal preparation in this form but it contains an active ingredient which is a 'NEW' crystalline substance, a drug from the 'palm plant' similarly to ASPIRIN originating from the willow tree bark

    After 21 days on AMBUSH, ALL the individuals experienced a decrease in viral load to undetectable, an increase in cd4, increase in RBC, an improvement in general health such as more color to the face, decrease in Buffalo hump, an increase in gluteal muscles, a decrease to having no joint pains whereby individuals can bend to touch their toes, and walk up steps are but a few examples. There is also a dramatic increase in their sexual appetite beginning after the first week of therapy

    In any plant concoction such as percolated 'tea', there are 30-40,000 compounds, whi ch would take the scientific community twenty years to isolate one particular ingredient if they knew what they were looking for. The LORD GOD has given me seven steps to isolate the active ingredient, which is soft and metallic in nature and has a carbon- uranium-sulfur-(classified)-phentolamine configuration or structure. This is similar to Federick Kekule and the discovery of the benzene ring where he dreamt the structure.

    As an antiviral and 'natural radioactivity' producing agent, AMBUSH is also effective against leukemia, lupus and HPV. Here I am saying that I have 'GIVEN' AMBUSH in the same 'strength' and dosage to patients with leukemia, lupus and HPV. A 35 year old male with HIV found it difficult to impossible to urinate was put on 'green tea' and water while the doctors contemplated prostrate surgery. One of the doctors gave him my number , I sent him a supply of AMBUSH an d he has not been given any more ARV's, since taking AMBUSH 18 months ago, is in 'good' health and has expressed a willingness to be examined by HIV investigators like many others who have taken AMBUSH.

    I have sent this 'IDEA' to most HIV research agencies, scientist of the field, universities, hospitals, clinics, politicians and news agencies to which it is REJECTED because the name of THE LORD GOD is mentioned. He has steered me scientifically through the processes such as which plant and how to produce the active ingredient. What are the odds of a Florida Pharmacist picking a plant would contain the CURE for HIV/AIDS ?
    I have never charged any of the people for their supply of AMBUSH but a life saving has been spent on the project with NO renumeration from any sources because AMBUSH falls outside the walls of modern medicine and research.


    My proposal is that I PROVE that AMBUSH CURES HIV/AIDS by giving it to a number of END-STAGE or DRUG-RESISTANT people and the scientific community watches their recovery. This proposal addresses the problem in that I have already outlaid the results to be obtained.

    This IDEA is unconventional in that the scientific community has rejected AMBUSH because I say it is GOD given. Secondly if I wrote it according to certain standards, then it might be peer reviewed. However, THE LORD GOD has also shown me that there are five enzyme systems associated with the virus, reverse transcriptase, protease, fusion and two more of which causes the virus to be AIRBOURNE. This means that without DIVINE intervention mankind and ALL warm- blooded mammals will be extinct in a number of years.

    The PROOF of what I am saying is found in scientific papers wherein it is found that when the protease cuts the viral strands, it cuts it at DIFFERENT lengths EVERY time, to which it should always be a valine at the end but is a different amino acid every time. This is why it is IMPOSSIBLE to produce a VACCINE.

    Since this is NOT a hypothesis but there are about 400 individuals who have taken AMBUSH, here lies a vast area in which to check, recheck and confirm that AMBUSH CURES AIDS. Let it be mentioned that during the HIV reproductive cycle, reverse transcriptase converts viral RNA into DNA compatible to human genetic materials. Thus the human DNA has been 'hijacked' and since each person has a DIFFERENT DNA, then the new viral copy is unique to that person which shows that each individual has a DIFFERENT STRAIN of the virus. Consider two HIV positive people swapping viral strains and increasing its complexity with multiple partners.
    It can also be proposed that they be revisited as proof that the strain or strains that they had were 'killed' at the time of taking AMBUSH considering that a person can catch as many different strains as there are people who are infected by HIV.
    I am also willing to work with the scientific community in identifying those individuals who took AMBUSH and wish to be identified with this process notwithstanding that some are stigmatized while others are jubilant,

    Once AMBUSH is verified as being able to accomplish that which is aforementioned then the next stage might be the natural and artificial synthesis of the substance.

    Finally, if this is accepted or not, believed or not, THE LORD GOD always wins and this is the heavenly truth to which AMBUSH was divinely given to mankind for the CURE of HIV/AIDS and it will be here forever. Apostle Shada Mishe.


    Here is a video taped presentation that I gave at t he Martin Luther King library in Washington


    Posted by: Apostle Shada Mishe | Jul 18, 2009 8:23:31 PM

  12. Apostle Shada Mishe you are full of shit. Radioactive isotopes do not occur in plant life. Go fuck yourself and all the God bullshit your spewing to promote your bullshit claims, asshole.

    Posted by: TooBoot | Jul 18, 2009 9:51:55 PM

  13. Wow. It is impossible to say anything on here without being attacked. The original post simply said Senator. It did not specify that he is a NY senator in the headline or text, though obviously there are no HIV+ US senators (at least that we know of). I'm an editor, and was simply clarifying a point. Andy could have deleted my post after he added the clarifications and it wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest. Suggesting that I'm not in support of the man is just, well, insane.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jul 18, 2009 10:45:11 PM

  14. "I, too, can recall just how HORRIBLE it all was and how frustrating it was to see your Rightie buddies and Reagan almost seem GLEEFUL that the epidemic was going on"

    Damn right about that. Remember the Legionnaire's Disease panic in 1976? Ca. 250 people got sick and 34 died for mysterious reasons at a Philly hotel and it unleashed a panic. Turns out, it was a virus that was cultivated in the hotel's AC units and transmitted via the AC system in the rooms.

    By 1982, when AIDS --or was it still GRID, Gay Related Immuno Deficiency then?-- had been named and made public for about a year, Legionaires Disease got $9 million in funding, AIDS GOT $1 MILLION. Something that wasn't a threat anymore but purely a matter of paying attention to cleanliness got more money than a disease that was ravaging thousands of people.

    If AIDS has first struck in the US among straight white middle class people, there'd have been millions upon millions poured in to the effort to fight. But, nah, AIDS was for faggots and people with dark skin, who cares, right?

    When Reagan died, I did the Snoopy Dance of Joy around the office I worked in. People thought I was insane --OK, I was, for dancing around an office at a big bank's corporate HQ-- but I told everybody why and they got it. I piss on Ronald Reagan's memory from a great height.

    Cue: rightwing cries of incivility and pearl clutching.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jul 19, 2009 4:19:18 AM

  15. Forgot to add, it took until 1985 (!!!!!) for Ronnie Raygun to mention AIDS in public; not give a speech about, just FUCKING MENTION IT (!!!!!!) Number of US AIDS-related deaths in 1985 alone: 5,636. Those t-shirts that say Silence = Death are kidding.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jul 19, 2009 4:22:58 AM

  16. "those t-shirts that say Silence = Death AREN'T kidding. Time for bed.....

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jul 19, 2009 4:23:46 AM

  17. Don't forget Patrick Buchanan, the MSNBC commentator, wrote a column in 1984 (he was a syndicated newspaper columnist back then) that appeared in newspapers all across the country where he predicted, GLEEFULLY, that HIV/AIDS would kill all the gays in America. He was happily looking forward to a "gay-free" America.

    Posted by: elg | Jul 19, 2009 6:56:54 AM

  18. QJersey asks "Why should people with AIDS get anything other than benefits directly related to medical care?"

    I feel there are many good reasons.

    For starters take for example the following case. After WWII it was discovered that California made the mistake of panicking and putting patriotic Japanese-American citizens in "internment camps". After the war many had difficulty getting jobs and having any kind of normal life. To compensate this injustice financial and social compensation was made and continues today.

    Likewise during the 80s AIDS was ignored until it took root in gay communities. When it did patriotic Gay-Americans were blamed. Then resources were denied and prevention dollars spent educating heterosexuals about a "deadly disease spreading out of gay communities to the general population."

    In gay community we live in a bubble where we like to think that such homophobic ignorance is a thing of the past yet the defamation that occurred from AIDS still hasn't changed. Even in liberal San Francisco.

    Last year in SF there was a story about a new virulent sexually transmitted strain of MRSA in the gay men's community which was set to "spread to the general population" and cause a deadly pandemic.

    Out here in the Bay Area gay men tried to get the message out that nowadays gay men are very healthy overall. We promoted the idea that "if gay sex was so unhealthy why are there so many healthy gay men??" Yet our press, even our gay press wasn't interested enough in gay men's health issues.

    An undesirable legacy of the AIDs disaster is that there is a social confusion about gay men's sexuality that doesn't allow for a concept of a community of healthy gay men. To turn this around will take years of work.

    Money for gay men with dealing with AIDS as a medical condition doesn't come near to repairing the psychological damage to gay men's communities worldwide that the poor response to AIDs has caused. What gay men are dealing with is a form of PTSD in which they can't imagine a healthy group identity. This is a problem that for many reasons doesn't get addressed. Many of them religious.

    We have many treatments for AIDS yet no cure. There are no gay organizations calling for a cure any longer as most get money from drug companies. Even our press is dependent on drug company money now. Also an AIDs legacy. This situation is ripe for change.

    Future activism on AIDS will say something like "More treatments are mistreatments we want a cure." Something like that. The lack of resources for gay men who deal with HIV illness is pushing in that direction.

    Meanwhile I have no problem with gay men with AIDS getting enough money to live on. Remember when people say "getting more than others" that probably isn't enough to live on anyway.

    Posted by: mark | Jul 19, 2009 8:27:29 AM

  19. I definitely get where the comments are coming from regarding concern for what can be viewed as special treatement for people with AIDS but what you might want to take into consideration is that there is no other chronic or debilataing disease (that I can think of) that also comes with a certain level of disdain, marginalization and discrimination. While many cases of diabetes and cancer are brought on by behavior, there is still a compassion for those afflicted that isn't necessarily there for those afflicted with AIDS. We have heard of countless lawsuits involving discriminatory practices against AIDS victims. The film "Philadelphia" was about that very subject. While New York City can be very liberal in areas, New York State is very conservative. This bill will not win points for most of the state senators. For the bill to pass by such an overwhelming majority, perhaps the state senators saw that there was indeed a need for such protections.

    Posted by: Kevin | Jul 19, 2009 8:55:29 AM

  20. Yeah, sure, um, anything you say, Apostle Shada Mishe, anything you say. Um, didn't I just see your messy self the other day mumbling around in Port Authority the other day?

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jul 19, 2009 11:24:40 AM

  21. Sadly, the slovenly State Senator from Greenwich Village is just a little bit, um, melodramatic. Um, Tom, dear, your comments and your chutzpah would have been much needed and lauded even ten years ago. Now, you are just a Janet-Come-Lately with your screaming, "Act-Up"-type, ersatz-diatribe. What will be gained? More red ink for our already in-the-red state budget I'm sure your constituents (if they saw this shameless act of self-promoting hysteria) will pat you on the back next time you're in the Village and will kissy-kissy-Betsy-Bloomingdale-you on both cheeks and you'll get to sign autographs at Manatus. You'll be an ever-so-in-demand luncheon partner up there in Albany. I'm sure other Senators will seek you out to make those deals that spread the pork around. Meantime, while you and the rest of that dysfunctional criminal gang in Albany exemplified the corrupt and deteriorating condition of politics in NY State, we the taxpayers slogged on in our daily lives, minus all the perks, the holidays, the vacations, the tax breaks, etc. etc. that you and the rest of you Senate gang enjoys. Perhaps you'll be able to avoid further increases on your rent-stabilized apartment. However it ends up--and forgive the bitterness at your self-aggrandizing display of mini-cojones--you'll have to accept the fact that the bus you were shouting at left town a long time ago. I recommend Zoloft and Alprazolam. After which, you might give a speech that actually says something instead of showing us just how self-righteously "angry" you are. I also intend to challenge your renomination and do everything I can to make sure your one-horse re-election show gets tossed into the recycle bin.

    Posted by: mike | Jul 19, 2009 11:40:42 AM

  22. Love the "slovenly," Mike.

    Obviously morality runs a distant third to fuckability in your book.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jul 19, 2009 12:48:49 PM

  23. Blake: Let me guess. You are not HIV Positive. You are less than 50 years old. You don't personally know anyone who died of this terrible disease. Could you also be a Republican? Your lack of rage, passion and compassion make you very suitable for Republicanism. Bet you're a Christian, too.

    Posted by: Jon | Jul 19, 2009 3:22:59 PM

  24. I absolutely agree Blake. As Jimmy Stewart said once in a film that I forget the name of "Screaming is the effort of a limited mind to express itself".

    I had to shut it off 2 minutes in because of this howlong. I understand his outrage but...

    Posted by: Palto | Jul 19, 2009 5:14:34 PM

  25. Blake - thank you. I agree. I couldn't bear to watch more than five minutes of the screaming. I kept thinking how I would present his points - in a much more clear and rational way. I think the Senator is a wonderful man. But his speech is SO angry. And so hard to watch.

    Posted by: Scott | Jul 19, 2009 10:45:04 PM

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