August 22, 2008
IN THE FAST LANE
Lane: stigma-fighter extraordinaire
This is the first in a series of Update profiles of men and women who will be leading activist caravans as part of the Stand Against AIDS, a multi-arm, multi-week advocacy roadtrip aimed at getting presidential hopefuls Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain to commit to taking meaningful steps toward the creation of a National AIDS Plan within 100 days of taking office. The caravans kick off in mid-September and converge in Oxford, Mississippi on September 24 for three days of action. The first debate between Obama and McCain takes place in Oxford on September 26.
Although Quintara Lane, 21, has been HIV-positive since birth and taken medications her whole life, only recently has she experienced firsthand the patchwork nature of the U.S. health care system. After she took a job working part-time at University of Miami Hospital, she was cut off of Medicaid. "I'm going through a lot of problems, and I'm able to fight for what I need and what I want. But it shouldn't be a fight," she said. Lane is the East Gulf caravan leader for the Stand Against AIDS.
Lane's Medicaid troubles deepened her commitment to fighting for universal health care and a national plan to end the AIDS epidemic. "That we don't have a plan to end this disease after more than 20 years is uncalled for," Lane said. "We need to bring awareness to the presidential candidates that this is a really serious issue and it needs to be addressed."
Lane was 17 when she first dove into activism. At a 2004 conference in Washington, D.C. for HIV- positive people, Lane went on a lobby visit. At first, other people did the talking. Then something hit her: Her voice mattered as much as anyone else's. Lane told the conference organizers that at the next lobby visit, she wanted to speak. "Before I always thought activism was not my place, or that older people should do it," Lane said. "But I realized I am someone living with AIDS and this is important to me."
Lane's caravan will depart from Ft. Lauderdale. Among the dozens of riders will be two other "Cool Kids"—members of a support group of HIV-positive youth in the Miami area who have grown up together and served as a support network. (Another member, Chakena Conway, has since moved to New York and will be caravaning from there).
Lane's mother died in 1995, and she is the only one of her siblings who is HIV-positive. Cool Kids has served as a second family to Lane, and lately, they have also served as a fierce cohort of activists for C2EA, participating in the Youth Action Institute in 2007 and last summer's swim-in against stigma with Caleb Glover in Silver Hill, Alabama. There, Lane gave a rousing speech thanking the Glovers for standing up to stigma. "We all support each other and pump each other up," Lane said.
In addition to her advocacy work—and planning the countless logistical details of the caravan trip—Lane studies sign language at Miami-Dade community college. "That's a whole different world that also needs a voice," she said.
For more information on the Stand, go to c2ea.org or call 877-ENDAIDS (363-2437) or contact Valencia Robinson at (601) 944-1403.