01 December 2013

World AIDS Day and...we're in the homestretch now, baby...

Today is World AIDS Day. 

According to amFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, since the start of the epidemic roughly 30  years ago, 75 million people have been infected with HIV/AIDS and 35 million people in the world are living with  HIV/AIDS right now.  EVERY DAY, 6,300 people contract HIV. 

amFAR was the first AIDS organization I was aware of-- it was started by Elizabeth Taylor and Swiss scientist Dr. Mathilde Krim in 1985. On Dec. 2, HBO will begin airing "The Battle of AMFAR, " about the early days of their partnership and how amFAR paved the way for a number of other organizations dedicated to AIDS research. 

On Friday, my sister and I saw “Dallas Buyers Club,” which is about the early days of the epidemic. Matthew McConaughey plays a straight man diagnosed with AIDS in 1985,  infected, most likely, from sleeping with an intravenous drug user. Once he’s diagnosed, his straight friends drop him, too fearful to be near him and also disbelieving that he isn’t bisexual since in those early days, especially in the U.S., it spread more quickly through the gay community. 

I remember those early days. The thought of having sex was terrifying. I remember counting the reasons I wouldn’t get AIDS: I wasn’t a gay man, I wasn’t an intravenous drug user, I wasn’t in Africa...all those crazy things you tell yourself to give yourself a false sense of security. I remember being scared to kiss anyone, drink from the same glass. Those early years were governed by fear. 

I moved to New York a few years after the epidemic started and it seemed like the gay community coalesced in a meaningful way against the disease...and against those who fought advancements and funding in research.  Even if you were straight, you felt swept up in the politics of the movement. It was a powerful time to live in NYC.  

If we ever, for a second, forget the power of celebrity and the good it can do, when Princess Diana shook the hands of  an AIDS patient in 1987 and then hugged a child with AIDS in 1989, it was as if the dam burst and it made it safe for us all to do the same. “If a princess wasn’t afraid... “

It seems like those days of fear are over, thank goodness, replaced by hope.  And the current generation coming of age sexually will never now a pre-AIDS time, put the next generation may very likely know a post-AIDS time. 

There’s still so far to go in finding a mainstream cure, although two people have actually been declared cured, both by different methods, so we are so close to getting there. And, in the meantime, for my friends living with HIV (some of them for decades now), it has become a manageable condition. 

In memory of all who have died from AIDS and in honor of all the men and women living with HIV/AIDS today, today’s $10 goes to AMFAR

I open up a new file at the first of each month for Causes & Effect and it hit me that this is the last file I’ll open up. Today is post #335. That doesn’t seem possible. We’re in the home stretch. If anyone has a charity they want me to consider that I haven’t already donated to or a burning desire to write  a guest blog, please let me know. Or if there’s something you’d like to see me cover, please tell me. Thanks!

Dec. 1: AMFAR

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