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The Powers That Is

The Powers That Is


At age 77, Mary Powers Miller, a former Amherst, Ohio, kindergarten teacher, would seem an unlikely AIDS activist. But the 5-foot-4 self-described 'maverick Republican' is used to bucking expectations. Miller traces her interest in AIDS issues back to her somewhat surprising work as a gay rights activist in the early 1980s, when AIDS was limited largely to gay men and was still known as GRID'for gay-related immune deficiency. 'A man with AIDS spoke at a program held at Oberlin College, and I was so affected by his talk and how he spoke of being alone and isolated,' she says of the roots of her AIDS activism. 'Right there, I said to myself, I'm going to see what I can do about this.' What she has done is become one of the leaders in addressing AIDS in north central Ohio. Miller coordinates the HIV/AIDS Work Group of the Western Reserve, a five-county branch of the United Church of Christ; frequently speaks on AIDS issues as a volunteer for the Lorain County AIDS Task Force and the county's HIV/AIDS Ministry; and helps collect food and clothes for a church AIDS outreach program targeting HIV-positive Latinos in west Cleveland. And although she is officially aligned with the Republican Party and is an active participant in her faith-based community, Miller could not disagree more, she says, with conservative and religious groups' push for abstinence-only sex education for youth. 'Teaching abstinence only, to me, is a form of genocide,' she asserts, calling the outcome of such programs an 'open invitation' to HIV infection. 'People need to wake up and admit what's going on'that young people are having sex'and join together to provide the comprehensive education that's necessary. If we don't, I fear we're never going to get rid of this virus.'

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