12/02/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Universal Healthcare -- Change has to Happen

Apparently the word this season on Million Dollar Password is "Change". I constantly hear it out of everyone's mouths -- We need change -- This all has to change. Its true, our world cannot stay the same - we have to make some changes. In my mind I keep going back to something I learned in college - some lines from Chekhov's "Seagull" "We need new forms of expression. We need new forms, and if we can't have them we had better have nothing." But what I also know is this; nothing ever stays the same, no matter how hard we try. That does not mean it gets better, it just "changes".

I cannot help but think back on to another pivotal election - the one in 1992 when Clinton was elected. I was working precincts in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles, which meant knocking on doors and making calls to ensure that every possible person in my assigned areas voted. When Clinton won, I just stood there in our office and cried. I was fighting for my boyfriend, who was not only illegal but also recently been diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. I thought this was it -- we were not only going to get healthcare, but we were all going to be treated as individuals, equally and with the respect we deserve. For the first time in a presidential election, gays and lesbians became an important voting block that was consulted, respected and sought after. Both conventions had an HIV positive person speak during prime time. I was excited and relieved - for once we were not going to be riding in the back of the bus.

I was wrong. We all know how this story ends - the insurance companies made sure that universal healthcare tanked and "Don't ask, Don't tell" was the policy of the land. I cannot help but look at this current election with more than a touch of skepticism, and, frankly, fear.

A few weeks ago those of us in the HIV/AIDS community had a reason to celebrate - the individuals who discovered the virus that causes AIDS, Francoise Barre -Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, were recognized with the Nobel Prize for medicine. In an interview after receiving the prize, the scientists said that they were concerned for the current state of the worlds financial markets because they would impact medical research. Without necessary funding for vital, life saving research, the pipeline for new drugs would slow down to a virtual halt. This change would mean fewer lives saved and more unnecessary suffering by innocent individuals.

Another change - this time in China. The Chinese officials announced a large incidence of a drug resistant form of HIV. No, the Chinese are not have huge amounts of unsafe sex - they simply do not have access to life saving anti-virals, hence they are at risk to develop a resistant virus quicker than the rest of the world. By taking only a few of the drugs, or the wrong drugs, HIV is allowed the opportunity to develop a immunity to the drugs - making it a stronger, more deadly form of the disease, which, unfortunately, is currently untreatable. Hence, more change. As a note, most States do not offer full access to all HIV medications, with South Dakota offering the least choices. Without offering the full selection of drugs available, we risk having the same problem as China.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow discussed in his paper, A Theory of Human Motivation, the four groups of basic needs that propel us as individuals. If these groups are not met, a human feels great anxiety and psychological stress. One of the very first needs that Maslow discusses is breathing. I interpret this as health. Without your health, you have nothing; the rest of life is meaningless if you cannot enjoy it in good health.

When I was in the fifth grade, our teacher asked the class what we could ask for - above anything else - just one thing. I, being only 10, asked for the riches of kings. Another classmate asked for good health until the very day he died. He was not the smartest one in the class - rather he was quite the opposite. Obviously, however, he was wise beyond his years. I think of that statement many times now as I go off for my blood work, when taking my drugs, while making my various appointments. I, clearly, asked for the wrong gift.

I believe for a society to be truly civilized and to allow for the full potential of all individuals, it must help its citizens meet the first few levels of Maslow's hierarchy. I believe we have an obligation to fellow Americans to provide an adequate, fair and easily accessible healthcare system. When it comes to healthcare, we cannot allow our class structure to decide the level of care - we need to go back to those Christian values so many of our Countrymen are constantly spouting - and think about what they really mean. To get really right wing on you, the Bible states very clearly in Luke 6:31 "And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them." We all want the best health care possible for ourselves, so why not offer it to everyone? Universal healthcare is ultimate form of respect for yourself and others. To provide others with a means to take care of themselves, and for a means to take care of yourself, would only mean that we would all win in the end.

If individuals cannot move on and develop their full potential, then we as a society cannot go beyond our current standards and achievements. We remain as stagnant as one of those pools in the many foreclosed homes throughout this country.

We are all asking for change. We are all craving change. But I think first we must first be specific in the change we want to see happen, and then fight like hell to make it happen. Change is not voting for a new person. That is simply called an election. Change is not going to happen unless you make it happen - in our daily lives we must constantly strive for that change we so very long for. After we vote this Tuesday, realize that one man in one white house does not mean change, rather it only influences change. We need to be the change first before we can expect it in others.

Getting back to healthcare, we all need to lobby our elected officials and keep abreast of their voting records and what they are doing (or not doing) to affect the change we so very much need and deserve in our society. The change we so long for is going to involve much responsibility, hard work and vigilance. We need to get involved in the most basic of community activities. We need to treat others as we expect to be treated. We need to get back to our roots - back to the much used line by Jefferson - "All men are created equal" and give each and every one of us equal status in all things - and, of course, equal access to healthcare.

So for this election, I am hoping for a more equal and just society, one in which we all have equal access to the basic needs we all need to fulfill the potential we were put on this planet to achieve. We all need access to decent, clean, and safe housing, adequate amounts of nutritious food, and yes, we all need fair, equal and affordable healthcare. Let's try and remember that the real work starts on November 5th.

"In the universe, nothing remains permanent and unchanged but the spirit."
Anton Chekhov