To the Editor:
On more than one occasion, Dan Savage argues that current drug therapy has changed the face of AIDS. Of course that's true. Based on that argument, he goes on to conclude that services to people with AIDS should be withdrawn. That's false.Protease inhibitor-based drug therapies don't cure AIDS. They merely slow viral reproduction. When the virus stops reproducing, the immune system recovers part, not all, of its function.

Protease inhibitor-based cocktails don't work for many people simply because the drugs are so toxic. People would rather die than go through the nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and nervous disorders that accompany their use. People who choose to use the medications often have good spells, whole days or weeks even. They may feel well enough to go to a movie, shop, clean the bathroom. They may not have enough energy after that to cook.

The sad truth is that all protease inhibitor-based drug therapies will fail. Dan Savage should pull his head out of his ass and look around.

M. J. Alcantara, PWA


Dear Stranger:
Why should an organization founded by sick gay men to help sick gay men be guilt-tripped into helping sick women who are apparently too stupid to help themselves? Why sick women would look to a gay community organization instead of just doing it for themselves--JUST LIKE GAY MEN DID--is beyond my ability to comprehend. Why haven't they started an organization to serve their needs? Actions speak louder than words, my poor dumb chicks.

Take a real clue from gay men and HAVE SOME PRIDE! Take care of yourselves!



To the Editor:
Bravo to Dan Savage for taking on another of Seattle's sacred cows. Chicken Soup Brigade has been everyone's favorite charity, and not without reason. They've got a concrete, tangible product. Plus, they've got great PR with great events--Gay Bingo, Dine Out for Life, and Care to Dance--that make people feel good about supporting their work.Now that the urgency of the AIDS crisis has dimmed a bit, the community is asking CSB to expand their services and share with other unfortunate folks, especially home-bound women with cancer. It is a shame CSB is resisting. I would concur with Dan and others that a pilot program serving 50 folks after they raise the full $60,000 is a slow and inadequate response.

Women are asking our brothers to share the pie--a pie that we helped create. How sad that women must remind men that we have been on the front lines of AIDS services since day one.

Carol Sterling founded and ran CSB for 10 years. Linda Pippin and Charmaign Slye directed programs and the food kitchen for CSB for a combined 20 years. Judy Werle raised millions of dollars through her ingenious events for CSB. Chris Andrews ran the volunteer program and went on to launch Ride for a Reason.

Nancy Campbell followed Bea Cleigh as the director of the Northwest AIDS Foundation, leading the organization through huge growth in the 1980s and early 1990s. For 9 years, Hazel Van Evera has served as the Deputy Director of NWAF, and oversees staffing, operations and programs. Molly McCormick built and for many years managed In Touch. Christine Hurley directs Bailey Boushay and has led them to expand their mission to others beyond PWAs. And thousands of women volunteered to care for our brothers, making meals, holding hands, calling doctors, and running errands.

We are just asking for a bit of caring in return. The pie is big enough. CSB could be a model of sharing and giving back, just as it has been historically a model of service provision. CSB--rise to the challenge!

Valerie Reuther
Former Executive Director of the Lesbian Resource Center


To the Editor:
Ever since he stopped doing Gay Bingo and Care to Dance a couple years ago, Dan Savage seems to harbor ill feeling toward the Chicken Soup Brigade (CSB.) He reports the feelings of a few women who question why CSB has not yet expanded their services to women with breast cancer. All of these women have successfully organized volunteer-run fundraisers before, and the obvious question is "Why haven't these very capable women started a fundraiser to aid women with breast cancer?"As for Chicken Soup's future services, I am glad to see that they are easing in with a pilot program. A drastic change of services would require a major re-write to their Mission Statement, which requires the approval of their board, volunteers, and donors, not to mention approval with the State to maintain their non-profit status. Plus it is unethical and illegal to use money gathered for people with AIDS/HIV for some other group.

With the possible exception of the Northwest AIDS Foundation, I have yet to see Dan Savage scrutinize any other agency with the tenacity that he has attacked Chicken Soup Brigade. He must have really been hurt by not being able to do drag at Gay Bingo and Care to Dance.

Earl Bergquist
Former Employee of Chicken Soup Brigade


To the Editor:
Ignore the hate mail you're bound to receive from Chicken Soup Brigade and its gay male groupies. Kudos to Dan Savage and others with the courage to speak out against institutional sexism, bureaucratic foot-dragging, and strategic paralysis.Groups like Chicken Soup Brigade blossomed because of the generosity of our community--men and women, young and old, gay and straight. But arguments to the contrary, the AIDS crisis is over. People living with HIV, primarily gay men, are generally living healthier lives. It's time to share the institutions we've created with others whose needs aren't being met. Bailey Boushay House and Multifaith AIDS Projects have expanded their services to people with other life-threatening or terminal illnesses. Why can't CSB?



To the Editor:
I want to call your readers' attention to the facts that (1) I was misquoted in Dan Savage's recent article on services for women with end stage breast cancer, and (2) His pitting the needs of AIDS patients against the needs of breast cancer patients.As the Program Manager for Breast Cancer for the American Cancer Society, I responded to Savage's question regarding services for end stage breast cancer patients with this comment: "Family and friends care for dying breast cancer patients for the most part. Hospice organizations provide services as well. The American Cancer Society has no services specific to women in end stage breast cancer, but all of our services are available to them. Rides to daily outpatient treatment, nutritional supplements, durable medical equipment such as bedside toilets, $50 emergency food vouchers, qigs, breast prostheses and bras, one-to-one visitations, and a limited amount of housing, are some of the ACS services available to all cancer patients, including end stage breast cancer patients." Other services might be provided by other agencies. I said I didn't know of any. I did not say there weren't any.

Disease is disease and cancer and AIDS are both killers. Pitting one of these dreaded diseases against the other for patient services is irresponsible.

Deb Spence Schiro
American Cancer Society

Dan Savage Responds:

1. Neither myself nor anyone quoted in my story suggested that services to people with AIDS who are dying be withdrawn, rather that these services should be made available to other people with terminal illnesses.

2. If the new drugs and treatments are as an ineffective as M. J. Alcantara claims, why aren't more people dying? There are new drugs coming on line and breakthroughs in AIDS research almost daily. Research didn't stop in 1996.

3. Earl Bergquist suggests my scrutiny of CSB has something to do with my no longer being "allowed to do drag" at CSB fundraisers. I stopped doing drag a year before I stopped doing CSB fundraisers, and I stopped doing CSB fundraisers of my own accord. I was not dismissed, as some have suggested. I sent a letter to CSB's board when I stopped working for CSB, arguing two years ago that CSB needed to expand services to non-HIV/AIDS clients. That letter is too long to print, but it is posted in the letters section on The Stranger's website (

4. The American Cancer Society's Deb Schiro stated emphatically to me that, "the care-giving that AIDS patients get--the delivery of meals, movie and theater tickets, home chores, that sort of thing--isn't currently available to people with cancer." The nutritional supplements she mentioned (and that I mentioned in my story) are canned liquid supplements, not fresh meals, and the services she lists above are piddling compared to services available to people with AIDS. Finally, it is not irresponsible to point out that a disparity exists in services available to people with AIDS and people with other terminal illnesses.