Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving, 2008: A lifetime of people & events deserving of thanks

By Steve Villano

This has been an amazingly historic year in the nation’s history, in Cable Positive’s life, and in my own. I cannot get through a single day without ticking off a “top ten” list of people and events for which I am grateful.

Inevitably, any list of “thanks” is an incomplete one, in a life as full and fulfilling as mine, where I am touched by the grace of good people every day. Here’s my, admittedly, abbreviated attempt:

  • I’m thankful for Barack Obama, his tenacity, his even temperament, and for bringing this country back to its common senses, and injecting us all with a great sense of promise and possibility, especially during tough times;
  • I’m thankful for the inspiring work done in the area of HIV/AIDS by Dr. Helene Gayle, President/CEO of CARES, whom Cable Positive honored in March, along with MTVN’s Bill Roedy and Insight’s Michael Willner, whose lives have also been bright lights to us;
  • I’m thankful to Showtime’s Matt Blank, who I have on record saying that a Cable Positive POP Award is more important to him than an Emmy—although he’s done pretty well in that department as well;
  • I’m thankful to Ann Carlsen, whose generosity jump-started Cable Positive’s “One-for-One” program, bringing much needed anti-retroviral drug assistance to children and families throughout sub-Saharan Africa;
  • I’m thankful to John Evans his untiring efforts to find a cure for this disease, and his incredible support for me, for Cable Positive and his critically important work on the Boards of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the Institute for Human Virology, and the NCTA.
  • I’m thankful for Cox’s leader-by-example Pat Esser for always showing up—despite his incredibly busy schedule-- at every Cable Positive Atlanta Chapter event, a practice he began well before he became President & CEO;
  • I’m thankful for Dan Moloney’s passion for education, and how he translated that into a Motorola Foundation grant—the largest single grant in Cable Positive history—which created our Youth AIDS Media Institute, to teach teens how to educate their peers about HIV/AIDS;
  • I’m thankful for the cable industry giants serving on Cable Positive’s Board of Directors, from past chairs Lela Cocoros, Dennis Mangers, Rob Stoddard, David Wicks and Bonnie Hathaway, to present chair Ray Gutierrez, and Cable Positive founder, Jeffrey Bernstein, and to Stuart Benson, Cable Positive’s treasurer, who has become a treasured friend;
  • I’m thankful for Moe Berger, Joel Berger’s father, who passed away this year, and supported the work of Cable Positive after his death, as he had done for 13 years following the death of his son to AIDS-related illnesses;
  • I’m thankful to NBC-U’s Bridget Baker and her incredible colleagues who did an extreme make-over of two HIV/AIDS facilities in New Orleans during the NCTA show;
  • I’m thankful to Rainbow Media’s Josh Sapan, for donating his “discarded artwork” to Cable Positive to sell on E-bay, and making a gift of 35 pieces of artwork to the residents of Lazarus House in New Orleans, changing some lives in the process;
  • I’m thankful to Rainbow’s Ellen Kroner, who, without a moment’s hesitation, made a gift of $500 to New Orleans’ Lazarus House, to purchase a camera for a resident who loved amateur photography, and lost everything he owned during Hurricane Katrina. Josh Sapan’s artwork and Ellen’s gift, ended the HIV positive’s man’s 3-year long depression, renewing his zest for life;
  • I’m thankful for having a terrific team of people to work with at Cable Positive, day-by-day, committed to the cause of HIV/AIDS education and awareness, and of improving the lives of people ;
  • I’m thankful for having seen my mother live to 92, battling Polio and paralysis throughout her lifetime, deeply understanding bias and stigma, and remaining relentlessly optimistic and hopeful in the face of great obstacles;
  • And, I’m thankful for the gift of being unafraid to love profoundly, and for the people I love most—Carol, my partner in life for 37 years through all sorts of storms and sunshine, and my son Matt & his wife Nicole, who already have brought us much joy, and will bring us still more in the Spring of 2009, when we become grandparents, for the first time.

I am, above all, thankful to be alive, and participating in a time of great change, challenge, promise and hope for the future.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Another Wake Up Call

By Steve Villano

World AIDS Day is less than two weeks away – December 1, 2008 – I think it’s a great time to review where we stand in the fight against the disease and remind everyone that we can do something about these terrible truths:

- There’s still no cure, in fact, two important vaccine trials were abandoned in 2008.

- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were wrong about how many new HIV/AIDS infections are happening each year – by 40%!

- African Americans account for 55% of deaths due to AIDS.

- Hispanics account for 14% of the U.S. population yet account for over 20% of new HIV/AIDS cases.

- Women account for nearly 1/3 of all new HIV infections – most of those infected are through heterosexual contact.

- Teen girls, ages 13-19 represented 43% of aids cases among young people.

- World-wide young people represent HALF of all new HIV infections.

It’s also a fact that HIV/AIDS is 100% preventable; it’s just a matter of getting the word out! So for this World AIDS Day, if you’re too shy to talk to your friends about HIV/AIDS, tell them to turn on the TV where, thanks to the cable industry, they’ll see our PSAs and learn more on our Video-on-Demand (VOD) service, or tell them to visit our newly redesigned web site,, where they can connect with other people in the fight to end AIDS.

We have work to do and we know it, do you?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Positive Change, Flowing Both Ways

By Thomas Henning

The essence of change this year--both for Cable Positive and for the American political process--has come from the ground up; from community activists to national leaders. The common link in this chain of change across the country and throughout our industry has been forged by whole new applications of technology, designed to make entire governments, as well as non-profit organizations, much more accessible to individual stakeholders.

Barck Obama's incredibly successful campaign for President pioneered use of the internet, not only for political fundraising--where small denominations of contributions amassed to a total of $750 million--but also established the use of websites and social networking sites as superb tools of community organization. It's a lesson that non-profits need to learn well, especially during tight economic times, when usual methods of raising funds for life-saving programs become more & more difficult.

Cable Positive has worked hard to keep pace with sweeping changes in technology, to be more response to the people who support us throughout the Cable industry, and to better serve people with HIV/AIDS in local communities across the country. Last week, at the CTAM Summit held in Boston, Cable Positive unveiled its new, more interactive website as part of a powerful new campaign focusing on Cable Positive as a "public service of the Cable industry," aimed at improving the lives of people in local communities wherever a cable system is located.

Last year, at the NCTA Convention in New Orleans, scores of volunteers from NBC-Universal, Time Warner Cable, SES Americom and other companies, donated huge chunks of their time to help improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS at AIDS residences in the Lower Ninth Ward. This year, MTV Networks provided a team of their talented staff to renovate and redesign part of Iris House in Harlem, NYC. And, as we prepare for the NCTA Convention slated for Washington, DC, in April, 2009, cable companies and networks are already lining up to do volunteer work in community-based AIDS organization's throughout the Nation's Capitol, in collaboration with Cable Positive.

Change has been reshaping the Cable industry over the past several years, and the internet has been growing into as powerful a communications tool as television. Combining the enormous resources of both and using them to deliver--and receive--urgent messages of HIV/AIDS awareness and education to millions of individuals in hundreds of communities, is the kind of positive change we need.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on leading us to put our “hands on the arc of history and bend it, once more, toward the hope of a better day.” Your election as President of the United States on November 4, 2008, was a magical moment many of us only dreamed was possible, as we continue to work hard on matters of great urgency, like conquering HIV/AIDS.

We believe deeply in the “new spirit of patriotism” you have summoned; of “service & responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and word harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.” That’s the spirit that drives us each day in the work we do.

We put our faith in your word, given 6 weeks ago to the United States Conference on AIDS, when you expressed your “commitment to developing a National AIDS Strategy to decrease new HIV infections and improve health outcomes for Americans living with HIV/AIDS.” We applauded then, as we do now, your call for a comprehensive approach, for “aggressive federal actions, including investments that are matched with State & Local initiatives. . .preventing the spread of HIV, getting people into treatment, and expanding access to testing and comprehensive education programs.”

Those goals are the essence of Cable Positive’s mission, as is the equally important one of overcoming the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS—a stigma, which you have said, “is too often tied to homophobia.” You boldly stood that stigma on its head, when you and Michelle took HIV tests on a trip to Kenya.

Now, we need you to break still more barriers. We need you to act as the passionate Editor-in-Chief of Poz Magazine Regan Hofman has urged you to act—to move swiftly to develop and implement a National AIDS Strategy, as HIV/AIDS rages out of control in many communities of color, which, if located in communities in Africa instead of America, would be eligible for PEPFAR funding to fight the disease.

Establishing America’s first-ever National AIDS Strategy need not have any fiscal implication in the initial phase of creating it, and making it as powerful a creed as “Yes, we can.” We want you to apply the same focus, intelligence and organizational follow-through on defeating HIV/AIDS, as you did on winning the White House, and earning, as you eloquently expressed, “the chance for us to make that change.”

We know that eradicating AIDS will not happen overnight. Many of us have been foot soldiers in this war against this disease for more than two decades. We agreed with you, when you summoned the inspiration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stating that “we may not get there in one year, or even one term.” But we, too, are hopeful that we will get there. Working with you, we are ready for the enormity of the task that lies ahead.


Steve Villano

President/CEO, Cable Positive