Friday, December 9, 2011

Hershey hate; demand the Hershey's Company intervene to reverse decision on HIV+ student and dismiss school officials

***Reprinted with permission from RiseUpToHIV***

How sad that this story continues and the school has not reversed course.  Each night for the past three nights CNN’s Anderson Cooper AC360 news show has made this a top story and has been giving it a lot of attention. Thank you Anderson. To view a clip of the story that appeared on AC360, click here.

However, this story has fallen out of news media and the public spotlight, we need to press on with story. We must not allow this school and the Hershey's Company to remain silent on this issue. We deserve a dignified and actionable response.  Below is my take on this incident and the various information that has been in the news.

The communications director of the school has made numerous on air appearances continuing to support statements coming from the school. Does Connie McNamara, Vice President of Communications at Milton Hershey School really stand behind these statements each night, does she really believe in the words in these statements, and is she THAT uneducated about HIV/AIDS?!? Or, is she trying to keep a job? If I were her I would do the right thing and resign my position immediately.  I feel this fear goes deeper into the administration at Milton Hershey and those NOT in support of this decision have a moral duty to walk away,  bring down the veil and reveal who the real fear mongers are at this school.  It is time for Milton Hershey Trust Company to intervene in this matter!

I cannot believe the ignorance surrounding this story, and why the parents of these children of the school are not in support of this boy?!? Have we really fallen back 20 + years on AIDS education and awareness? I am mad and saddened. If I had the organizing power I would organize busloads of protestors to descend on the school and we would hold out for days, or weeks. If not to force the school to accept this student, but to stand in solidarity with this student as reminder that HIV/AIDS is still around 30 years later, and that this kind of discrimination today, especially in America cannot be tolerated.

I am further outraged that a school founded by the Hershey Co.  in 1909 and financed by the Milton Hershey School Trust, which also holds the controlling interest in The Hershey Co. has yet to issue a statement or intervene in this matter. Below is part of the mission statement for the Hershey Co…..

"At The Hershey Company, we make the chocolate brands that people love. Hershey’s Mission Statement, Bringing sweet moments of Hershey happiness to the world every day, summarizes our company, our people, our past and our future. Our history of producing the world’s best treats goes back more than 100 years. We take great pride in our brands and in the fun and enjoyment our products add to the lives of our consumers.

Hershey has a distinguished record of supporting the well-being of children through our relationship with Milton Hershey School. The School was established by the company’s founder in 1909 and provides a nurturing environment, quality education, housing, and medical care at no cost to children in social and financial need. The School is administered by the Hershey Trust Company, Hershey’s largest shareholder, making the students of Milton Hershey School direct beneficiaries of Hershey’s success."

By denying access to this child to the Milton Hershey School, Hershey Co. has gone a 100 year back on its strong values, and distinguished record of supporting the well-being of children. Milton Hershey School and Hershey Co. have put the well-being of this child at risk, and the school and Hershey Co. should be held liable to the highest extent of the law. No longer will I think of Hershey as bringing sweet moments and happiness to the world every day. When I see a Hershey product it will bring me disgust and sadness. I will forever connect the Hershey Co Brand with this horrific display of ignorance.

I have started a petition on asking people to sign and leave a comment, regarding boycotting the Hershey brand and supporting a statement directly from the Hershey Trust Company.  Again, if I had the organizing power I would position protestors outside grocery stores throughout the country, asking shoppers to boycott Hershey products; especially during this holiday season.

I can only hope the community of Hershey, PA, surrounding communities, the students and the parents of the school take a stand, by rising up to HIV, dismantle the ignorance that lies deep within this schools administration. As a PLWH and in solidarity with those around the World; we must and will continue to educate the public on the very minimal risks of contracting HIV/AIDS. I would immediately call on and ask the Hershey Trust Company to intervene and issue a statement on this matter.

In the interim I have compiled a list below of all Hershey products you may consider boycotting, and remember to sign the petition!

With sadness in my heart and with hope for a positive outcome,  

Kevin Maloney
Founder: Rise Up To HIV
“Voices in Unity Strengthening Community”


If you would like to write a letter, send an e mail, and/or call the school and the Hershey Company a list of contact information is below:

Milton Hershey School
PH: (717) 520-2000
Admissions 1-800-322-3248
Fax: (717) 520-2117
Hershey Company
(A phone number is listed, and you can fill out an online form choosing which state in the US or where in Canada you are located)

Almond Joy Bars
Breathsavers Pucks
Breathsavers Rolls
Hershey's Chocolate for Baking Bars
Hershey's Cocoa
Sweet & Salty granola bars
Hershey's Bars
Hershey's BLISS
Hershey's EXTRA DARK
Hershey's Jar Toppings
Hershey's KISSES
Hershey's Milk & Milkshakes
Hershey's Nuggets
Hershey's POT OF GOLD
Hershey's Sundae Syrup
Ice Breakers FROST
Ice Breakers ICE CUBES Gum
Ice Breakers Mints
Ice Breakers Sours
Ice Breakers Stick Gum
Kit Kat Wafer Bars
Mauna Loa Boxed Chocolates
Mauna Loa Mix
Mauna Loa Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts
Mauna Loa Cookies
Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts
Mounds Bars
Mounds Sweetened Coconut Flakes
Shell Toppings
Scharffen Berger
Hershey's SYMPHONY
Reese's Crispy Crunchy
Reese's Peanut Butter
Reese's Peanut Butter Toppings
Reese's Select
Reese's WHIPPS
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Twizzlers Bites
Twizzlers NIBS
Twizzlers PULL N PEEL Candy
Twizzlers Twists

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Solutions, not Proclamations, are needed to ‘End The Wait’

Since 1987, December 1st has been dedicated to raising awareness about HIV/AIDS with World AIDS Day. In 2011, people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States have much be thankful about with respect to the progress achieved over the years. HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence with the advent of highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART); HIV/AIDS is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and President Barack Obama was the first president to unveil a National AIDS Strategy to combat HIV/AIDS in America. But not all the news is promising, and there remains much work to be done. Reflecting upon the millions of lives lost in the struggle against HIV/AIDS, it is important to remember that there remains negative stigma associated with the disease; thirty-six states have HIV criminalization laws on the books; and in the wealthiest nation there are 6,595 people living with HIV/AIDS in twelve states on waiting lists under the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs).

People living with HIV/AIDS have come to expect proclamations on World AIDS Day from the President, Congress, Governors, State Legislators, Mayors, City Councils, AIDS Service Organizations, State Health Departments, and so on. Whereas proclamations make us all feel good, they do little to solve the ongoing ADAP crisis that has allowed thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS to fall through the cracks of our public health system. So, it begs the question: What do these proclamations do to help the 75 people in Alabama, 3,213 people in Florida, 1,525 people in Georgia, 5 people in Idaho, 475 people in Louisiana, 9 people in Montana, 9 people in Nebraska, 95 people in North Carolina, 0 people in Ohio, 65 people in South Carolina, 13 people in Utah, and 1,111 people in Virginia presently being denied access to appropriate, timely care and treatment?

While there remain a few ideological "Talibangelicals" who view HIV/AIDS as God's "punishment" for behavior or lifestyle, Americans have mostly opened their hearts and their minds to accepting and helping people living with the disease. By in large, politicians of both political parties have recognized the importance of stable, robust HIV/AIDS programs - including ADAPs. That is why what marks the 24th celebration of World AIDS Day, how can thousands of people living with a potentially life-threatening disease be asked to WAIT for their life-saving medications?

Read related CNN Story, "The long wait"

Yesterday, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) sent a letter to State Department Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius seeking to find a solution to the lingering ADAP crisis facing thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS languishing on waiting lists. Their letter comes on the heels of similar requests made by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), as well as Representatives Alcee Hastings (D-FL-23), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-20), Ted Deutch (D-FL-19), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL-17) to HHS. Each of these lawmakers have been fighting to secure additional federal funding since the crisis started over two years ago.

[Photo: Burr-Coburn-Enzi-Isakson ADAP Letter]

And today, President Obama announced he has directed HHS to increase funding for domestic HIV/AIDS treatment by $50 million, including $35 million to ADAPs. This represents the second time in as many years whereby the President has reprogrammed funding to the cash-strapped program. While the additional funding is welcomed news, it remains short of the level necessary to eliminate the ADAP waiting lists entirely.

World AIDS Day is important because it highlights a disease that continues to impact millions of people in this country, and abroad. The proclamations are important because they symbol the national commitment to eradicate the disease. But more important are the solutions designed to help people (and help people help themselves) RIGHT NOW! After all, it are those solutions that are a true testament to nation's commitment to fight HIV/AIDS!