Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Getting to Zero: World AIDS Day 2011

Getting to Zero:  World AIDS Day 2011

Red is one of the common colors seen in  December, however, on December 1st every year, the color red takes on a new meaning.  Red is the color of the AIDS Ribbon, which will be prominently displayed on Thursday, December 1st, as today is World AIDS Day.  The theme for World AIDS Day 2011 is "Getting to Zero." After 30 years of the global fight against HIV/AIDS, this year the focus is on achieving 3 targets: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.

On the first of December, World AIDS Day is celebrated.  This day is an opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, to remember those who have died of the disease and to celebrate accomplishments, such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.  This day is an opportunity to take action and to show your support for the 33.3* million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS.

Today, despite advances in HIV treatment and in laws designed to protect those living with HIV; many people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV or about the stigma and discrimination that remain a reality for many people living with HIV.  World AIDS Day is an important reminder to individuals and governments that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

People around the globe will participate in various events to celebrate life, to begin conversations, to show support, and to honor those that have died.  Such as Facing AIDS - "you and your community can help reduce stigma and promote HIV testing by putting a face to AIDS."

*As of 2009, 33.3 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS and of those, 1,178,350 are living in the United States.

Another nationwide project is the Road to AIDS 2012, which "is a nationwide tour that will engage communities on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and ensure community voices are heard in the development of a domestic platform for the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012).  The Urban Coalition for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services and Community Education Group are working with the International AIDS Society, convener of AIDS 2012, to increase participation of local communities in the 15 U.S. cities most adversely impacted by HIV."

2011's Theme is Getting to Zero
"World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.  Bunn and Netter took their idea to Dr. Jonathan Mann, Director of the Global Programme on AIDS (now known as UNAIDS).  Dr. Mann liked the concept, approved it, and agreed with the recommendation that the first observance of World AIDS Day should be 1 December, 1988.  In its first two years, the theme of World AIDS Day focused on children and young people. These themes were strongly criticized at the time for ignoring the fact that people of all ages may become infected with HIV and suffer from AIDS.  But the themes drew attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, helped alleviate some of the stigma surrounding the disease, and helped boost recognition of the problem as a family disease."  Taken from Wikipedia

Some Facts about HIV/AIDS

  • Nearly 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the U.S. (an estimated 1,178,350 adults and adolescents), and one in 
  • five of those (20 percent) are unaware of their infections.  Despite increases in the total number of people living with HIV in the U.S. in recent years, the annual number of new infections has remained relatively stable overall.
  • However, HIV infections continue at far too high a level, with approximately 50,000 Americans becoming newly infected with HIV each year.
  • More than 16,000 people with AIDS still die each year in the U.S.
  • MSM (Men Who Have Sex With Men) represent just 2 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 61 percent of all new HIV infections in the U.S. each year, as well as nearly half of people living with HIV (49 percent).
  • Individuals infected through heterosexual contact account for 27 percent of annual new HIV infections and 28 percent of people living with HIV.
  • While blacks represent approximately 14 percent of the U.S. population, the latest CDC estimates show that they account for almost half of people living with HIV in the U.S. (46 percent), as well as nearly half of new infections each year (44 percent).
  • Hispanics represent approximately 16 percent of the population and the latest CDC estimates show that they account for more than 17 percent of people living with HIV in the U.S., as well as 20 percent of new infections each year.
  • Read more facts from the CDC-HIV+AIDS in America

Why "Getting to Zero?"
This years theme for World AIDS Day is Getting to Zero, as mentioned about, and puts the focus on the need to prevent the spread of the HIV virus, to prevent discrimination of those with HIV/AIDS, and to reach zero deaths by HIV/AIDS.

It is estimated that 33.3 million people have HIV worldwide, with 1.2 million persons who are living with HIV in the United States, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) estimates.  This number is expected to continue to increase over time, as advances in treatments prolong the lives of those who are infected and more people become infected with HIV each year. Despite increases in the total number of people in the U.S. living with HIV infection in recent years, the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. However, new infections continue at far too high of a level, with approximately 50,000 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year.  Worldwide, the rate of new infections, or incidence, has decreased. In 33 countries, the incidence has decreased more than 25 percent since 2001, including countries in the hardest hit areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

The CDC estimates that one in five people living with HIV in the U.S. are unaware of their infection.  This highlights the importance of reaching all infected individuals with HIV testing and prevention services. HIV can be transmitted in three main ways: sexual transmission; transmission through blood; and mother-to-child transmission.  These three routes of transmission work in tandem to affect segments of the population.  The number of infections resulting from each route will vary greatly between countries and population groups. HIV counseling and testing are fundamental for HIV prevention, as is access to essential commodities such as condoms or sterile injecting equipment.

According to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, "Stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action. It is a main reason why too many people are afraid to see a doctor to determine whether they have the disease, or to seek treatment if so. It helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of speaking about it, or taking easily available precautions. Stigma is a chief reason why the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world."

Discrimination against those infected with HIV/AIDS includes both the fear of getting the disease and also negative assumptions about people who are infected.  AIDS-related stigma has had a profound effect on the epidemic’s course. The World Health Organization cites fear of stigma and discrimination as the main reason why people are reluctant to be tested, to disclose their HIV status or to take antiretroviral drugs.

"We can fight stigma. Enlightened laws and policies are key. But it begins with openness, the courage to speak out. Schools should teach respect and understanding. Religious leaders should preach tolerance. The media should condemn prejudice and use its influence to advance social change, from securing legal protections to ensuring access to health care." Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

More than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus worldwide, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.  In the US, nearly 594,500 people with AIDS in the US have died since the epidemic began. 

The goal of ‘Zero AIDS Related Deaths’ signifies an increased access to available treatments for all those infected.  Currently, only one third of the 15 million people living with HIV worldwide who are in need of life long treatment are receiving it. Universal access to antiretroviral treatments for those living with HIV will not only decrease the number of AIDS related deaths, but will increase the quality of life among those infected and decrease transmission.

World AIDS Day is an opportunity for all of us to learn the facts about HIV. By increasing the understanding of how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today-we can use this knowledge to take care of our own health and the health of others.

For more facts about HIV/AIDS, please visit the CDC website and here are some websites that list the various events in Austin, Texas

List of events in Austin

Staying informed and educated is only a start, to help us in Getting to Zero, you also have to get tested.  Here's where you can find service providers offering HIV Testing and a list of AIDS Service Organizations, such as AIDS Services Austin.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Remember, That's why I'm Voting in the 2012 Elections are You?

I Remember,
That's why I'm Voting in the 2012 Elections,
Are You?

That's why I'm not voting for any Republican for elected office.  I won't be voting for any career politician, for any of those that falsely invaded other countries, or any person that favors corporate personhood or religious sanctioning in government affairs.

Be informed, Vote Smart, and vote for freedom.  Freedom from corporate control, freedom of speech and the right to assemble, freedom from political corruption, freedom to renew the American Dream, and freedom from bad government!  This year is your chance to make a difference, don't forget to Vote and Remember who failed you!

This last November 8th, at least here in Texas, ONLY a shocking 5.5% of registered Voters actually took time to vote on many Texas Constitutional changes.  Anyone who didn't vote, for any reason, should be ashamed.  It is your lack of involvement that has allowed our current state of affairs, but there is hope, you can VOTE in 2011.  Here's the dates you need to know, and visit Project Vote Smart to educate yourself before you blindly re-elect bad representatives.

March 6, 2012 - Primary Election Date
Last Day to Register to Vote: February 6, 2012
First Day of Early Voting: February 21, 2012 (Tuesday after Presidents’ Day)
Last Day to Apply for Ballot by Mail: (Received, not Postmarked) February 28, 2012
Last Day of Early Voting: March 2, 2012 (unless county offices close for Texas Independence Day state holiday; check local schedule)

May 22, 2012 - Primary Runoff Election Date (NEW LAW: Fourth Tuesday in May)

May 12, 2012 – Limited Uniform Election Date

November 6, 2012 - Uniform Election Date
First Day to Apply for Ballot by Mail: (does not apply to FPCA) September 7, 2012
Last Day to Register to Vote: October 9, 2012 (Tuesday, next business day after Columbus Day)
First Day of Early Voting: October 22, 2012 (Monday, next business day)
Last Day to Apply for Ballot by Mail: (Received, not Postmarked) October 30, 2012
Last Day of Early Voting: (Received, not Postmarked) November 2, 2012

ELECTION DAY: November 6, 2012

Friday, November 25, 2011

Words, I am the One

Over the years, I've used words to express myself, so here are two poems I've written that express many things:

by Sebastian Barrett St.Troy

Words, spoken, written, heard, read.
I find the written word easier to understand.
Words spoken have diffent meanings,
both to speaker and listener.
People should think more before speaking
for a word spoken can cause such joy/pain.
I prefer the written word,
but there is life in the spoken.

I am the One
by Sebastian Barrett St.Troy

People, pain, pleasure, excitement,
joy, loneliness, fear, hope.
I see people looking for something
to make them feel needed, important, loved.
I hear people say, "you must first love yourself
before you can love another."
Do these people know how to love themselves?
Perhaps they need someone to love them for them,
to teach them to accept and love themselves.
It seems that most of us don't take the time
to accept others different from ourselves.
Perhaps if we took the time
the world would be a better place.
The people more accepting, friendly
and filled with love for themselves and others.
I am the one to start.
Most good things only take one person to start
and one act of kindness sparks another.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Life as an Adventure, Discover Yourself

Life as an Adventure, Discover Yourself

In life, as in business, there are times when we need to get away from the stress, find new points of view to help us grow, and to discover new experiences that challenge us.  Recently I was reminded of just how much my travels have helped me through life, so I wanted to share some of the many places I've traveled to and a bit about how these travels and experiences have guided my life.

Lets start with one of the most amazing adventures.

Just outside of Leon, Nicaragua, is a fairly new volcano.  This active volcano smolders with the smell of sulphur everywhere.  The steep slopes are covered in a fine volcanic ash, which makes it challenging to climb, but great fun for getting back down.  Here's the video of me Volcano Boarding on Cerro Negro Volcan.

The excitement and physical challenge allowed for a renewed belief that I could accomplish amazing things in life, even if I fail.  All it takes is to get back up, pull yourself together and keep going, laughing at the misfortune and walking forward with friends.

I've hiked volcanoes, I've hiked through Central American jungles to discover some amazing waterfalls, I've hiked across Canada and met some incredible people, and I've slept in Hostels where the lessons from fellow travelers were appreciated.  In all, my travels have allowed greater insight into the lives and cultures of others, have created new ways of seeing my own life, and have led to some great friendships.

Take some time and travel about, you might discover your true nature along the way.

Kim and I chatting while hiking up Cerro Negro Volcan
On the road to Toronto, Canada
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Mountain Biking in Banff National Park, Canada
Up close and personal with an Eagle in Salt Lake City.
Off the beaten path, the real country in Utah.
The painted Buffalo and the real Salt Lake.
Calgary Regeafest and a surprise meeting with my Australian friend Megan.
On top of the world while backpacking through Canada.
My friends love my attitude, Incorrigible.
My faithful friend and protector, Freckles.  He's a rescue from Austin Pets Alive!
Sunbathing and People watching in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  You can learn a lot just by watching people.
Hiking to the Mayan Ruins in Copan Ruinas, Honduras
Yes, real Lava at the top of the Volcan Pacaya, just outside of Guatemala City.  We roasted marshmallows over the lava, enjoyed the most amazing sunset and hiked down in the dark of night.
On the trail hiking up Volcan Pacaya in Guatemala.
Old world luxury in Granada, Nicaragua.  New places inspire new ways of living.
2 day Hike in Celaque National Park (at the peak you can see the surrounding countries and it is a Cloud Forest as you walk through the clouds to get to the top) in Gracias, Honduras.  Being alone with a friend with no other living person in the area really allowed for an awakening view of life, as if something happened to either of us, we were in real trouble.
Canoeing through the backwaters in Monterrico, Guatemala
And finally, through new friendships, knowledge, experience and desire grow.  We are ever changed when we experience new cultures, try new things, and become friends with people from around the world.  What we bring back is a new expression for those around us, and for me, a renewed sense of self and the strong desire to live!

2 of my 5 Wives.  Mis Cinco Esposas as they were called.  They are from Norway and we all hiked, traveled and learned Spanish through our travels.
You've heard the saying, "Life through rose colored glasses," well, life takes on new meaning when we take on a new way of seeing things.

Playa Maderas, Nicaragua, just North of San Juan del Sur
What have your travels taught you about life, 
friendships, and business?

For information on Home Staging and preparing a home for market
Austin Market-Ready Services provides comprehensive services to assist you in selling a home,
along with consults, tips, and guides to make homes go from "For Sale" to Sold.
Services for REALTORs and Homeowners
for any List Price of a home, including Luxury Real Estate,
all from the Creative mind of The Austin 'Feel Good' GuySebastian Barrett St.Troy

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Supporting M. in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure.

When a friend or client discloses their battle with cancer, it is often an unsettling moment for them and for you. You are faced with how to respond, should you respond, and how do you show support for them. My friend and client Melissa showed great courage over the last few years while dealing with cancer, so this year when she asked if I would support her by donating, I agreed. Not only agreed, but offered to continue assisting until she reached her goal.

I may not have been able to hold her hand or provide her comfort during her struggles, but this is a great way to show her just how much I support her. Now I ask you, the reader, will you help support Melissa as she embarks upon the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure?

Here's what Melissa had to say recently when she began asking for donations, which is always a slippery slope, but I hope you'll join in and give a donation of any amount.

After the year I had last year, I wanted to give back! This year, I'll be participating in a very special event called the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure.

I'll walk 60 miles over the course of three days with thousands of other women and men. Net proceeds from the 3-Day for the Cure fund innovative global breast cancer research and local community programs supporting education, screening and treatment. Virtually every major advance in the fight against breast cancer in the last 28 years has been impacted by a Komen for the Cure grant.

I've agreed to raise at least $2,300 in donations. So I need your help. Would you please consider making a donation? Keep in mind how far I'm walking - and how hard I'll have to train. You can give online at Just follow the link below to visit my personal fundraising webpage and make a donation. You can also call 800-996-3DAY to donate over the phone.

I am walking with a dynamic group of women, one of which helped me so much with my journey of cancer last year, Jennifer Wegmiller. Unfortunately, she has spent the past year fighting her own battle!

Somewhere in the world, a woman dies from breast cancer every 69 seconds. That's why I'm walking so far. To do something bold about breast cancer. I hope that you'll share this incredible adventure with me - by supporting me in my fundraising efforts.

Thank you in advance for your generosity!


P.S. Ask your employer if they will double your donation through a matching gift program!

Click here to visit my personal page and make a Donation.

If the text above does not appear as a clickable link, you can visit the web address:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Poem can change your Life Path

A Poem Can Change Your Life Path.

Today, after a rather exhausting day of working with a dear friend on her landscaping, I arrived home and checked email.  One thing led to another and a moment later I was reminded of a poem that changed my views some many years ago.  The poem was given to me on a plaque by an old boyfriend.  I'm grateful for the gift he gave, as it has indeed "made all the difference."  Now I want to share that poem.  It's by Robert Frost and is shared from the Poetry Foundation.

By taking the road "less traveled by" my path took me to many places, introduced me to many people, taught me many lessons, and encouraged growth, insight, and knowledge.  I am who I am today because of the path I chose and even though I acknowledge that I am a bit to handle, I love who I have become, as I am one of a kind.  Thank you Robert Frost for the poem.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

POETRobert Frost 1874–1963

POET’S REGIONU.S., New England


Thursday, November 3, 2011

We can't wait.

Oh yes, today I received an email from Vice President Joe Biden, well, I'll admit, I'm on the email list.  It's about time he and President Obama started putting pressure on the Republicans to actually accomplish something important (other than raking in billions in campaign contributions and passing absurd laws that only restrict our freedoms, continue tax breaks for big business, and causing the demise of the our country.).

If you aren't on the email list, I'm sure the White House won't mind me re-posting it here for your reading pleasure.

Good evening,
I want to make sure you heard a piece of news from Capitol Hill today.
This morning, Holly Petraeus, who has been leading an office at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect military families, went to Capitol Hill to highlight some of the most abusive practices our service members face in today's financial marketplace.

She explained that military families are the targets of predatory lenders. She talked about how many service members and their families struggle to make ends meet -- especially during deployments. And she said that the CFPB will help combat the lenders who try to take advantage of people with deceptive, unfair, and abusive lending practices.

But here's the thing: The Senate still hasn't confirmed President Obama's nominee to lead the CFPB, a former Attorney General from Ohio named Rich Cordray. The bureau needs a director to fully ensure that the debt collectors, private student loan providers, and payday loan providers are properly supervised and that consumers are not put at risk of falling prey to the same kinds of abusive practices that helped cause the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Rich has spent his career advocating for middle class families, and enjoys broad, bipartisan support from the elected officials, business leaders, and consumer groups who have worked with him.
Holly Petraeus is the daughter of a decorated general, wife of a four-star general, and mother of an Army soldier who served in Afghanistan.  I don't know if there's anyone who better understands what it means to be part of an American military family.
She just gets the stress and challenges that those who serve in uniform, as well as their loved ones, face.
And that's exactly why she joined the CFPB, to safeguard our military personnel and their families.
Republicans in Congress could be taking steps to grow the economy by passing the American Jobs Act. There is no reason why John Boehner should send his members home to their districts without passing a single measure President Obama has proposed to help put the country back on track. Nor is there any reason why the Senate should require 60 votes on these proposals. Republicans could be helping to ensure that every American family gets a tax cut. And Republicans should be working to protect consumers by confirming Rich Cordray.

We can't wait. That's why I want you to hear from Holly Petraeus. I want everyone to understand how much sense it makes for the Senate to put Rich Cordray to work.

Vice President Joe Biden

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ken Herman's article in the Austin American Statesman on Occupy Austin

Today I read an article in the Austin American Statesman by Ken Herman that showed a total disregard for what some hard working people are trying to do through the Occupy Austin movement, which is part of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  I was disappointed that the Statesman website didn't allow commentary on the article, which shows that they have no interest in the opinions about this topic and only desired to represent their (or should I say, his) views.  Thus, Ken Herman and the Austin American Statesman, here is my comment about the article:

Although I agree with what seems to be the key question, "does camping out at City Hall accomplish anything?" I have to admit I support the Occupy Movement for it's intended purpose of drawing attention to the lack of control and oversight of the banking and Wall Street systems, along with the fact that such banks and Wall Street are not being held accountable for causing the current financial crisis. They believe that something should be done to correct the social inequalities that our government and judicial system have created.

There are many increasingly frustrated people in our country who probably feel that they have no voice within our government (a very true statement of fact and a sad commentary of our representatives lack of being in touch with the people they represent). Thus with such frustrations, people are doing something, which is always good, as long as it is peaceful and nonviolent. The real issue of this article should have been about what is causing the movement to increase and gain momentum, it should cover the reasons Occupy Austin is demonstrating and camping out. If the frustrations are not allowed an outlet and the people have no voice in our government, then the next step could be civil unrest leading to violent actions.

When our freedoms are being taken away daily, when we no longer have a voice in our government, and when our government allows banks and other financial institutions to run a muck without regard to how their actions (and may I note, lack of taxes and fees on financial transactions) affect everyone in our country, then yes, "sleeping and waving signs" does accomplish something. It gives an outlet to the building frustration and helps people be heard!

We the people are responsible for what has happened, because we have not involved ourselves in our own government and now are paying the price heavily. We have to become active in our government by Voting, by being an INFORMED Voter, and encouraging others to do the same. This next year we will show our voices loudly when the career politicians are removed from office (click here to see how your representative is doing) and our new representatives favor the people, not big business, banks, and major interests.  Voting should not be suppressed by the radical Tea Party and the extremist Republicans, voting is our Right!

And the final note for Ken Herman and the Austin American Statesman:
"The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty." From the Society of Professional Journalists