“If I Die of AIDS, Forget Burial, Just Drop My Body on the Steps of Congress”


Photo taken by Bill Dobbs at ACT UP’s FDA Action protest, 11 October 1988

The iconic photo taken by Bill Dobbs during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of David Wojnarowicz at ACT UP’s FDA Action protest on October 11th, 1988 shows Wojnarowicz’s jacket which reads, “If I Die of AIDS, Forget Burial, Just Drop My Body on the Steps of the FDA”. It has been almost 30 years since that photo was taken, although it’s message feels eerily relevant, as just yesterday the House of Representatives voted to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Today we have the means to end HIV/AIDS: we have the knowledge, we have the medications, but we are losing the resources needed to stop transmissions.

By a vote of 217-213, a narrow Republican majority passed legislation that could end the lives of thousands of Americans. The American Health Care Act (AHCA), which must still pass in the Senate before it is sent to the President’s desk, includes provisions that will roll back the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, and coverage of individuals with pre-existing conditions. Despite overwhelming evidence that Medicaid expansion programs have brought insurance and care to many marginalized communities, the AHCA will cut Medicaid by $880 billion over 10 years.

The cuts will prevent the most vulnerable in our communities from accessing appropriate, comprehensive and life-saving care. The AHCA will also allow insurers to charge people living with pre-existing conditions, including HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis C, more for coverage and treatment. This alone will set the fight against HIV/AIDS back 30 years to when organizations gathered and protested on the steps of the FDA. Today we have the drugs and medication that activists fought so hard for, but without comprehensive coverage of pre-existing conditions the cost of these drugs and treatments may become so unaffordable individuals will lose their lives.

The provisions of the AHCA will have a devastating and disproportionate effect on communities of color and individuals living with HIV. We know that the black community bears the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and that black and brown individuals are less likely to have access to the care and treatment needed to combat this very treatable disease, and yet our legislators have begun to make it more difficult to help those in need.

By passing this legislation Congress will be implicit in the needless and preventable deaths of thousands of valuable lives. Today the message on David Wonjarowicz’s jacket might read “If I Die of AIDS, Forget Burial, Just Drop My Body on the Steps of Congress”.

Call your representatives today at (202) 224-3121.