The story I’m reccing is called “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” by T.A. Webb. It tells the story of Auntie Social, a drag queen who has made raising money for HIV and AIDS research her top priority in life. It’s a free download on Amazon right now and it’s most definitely worth the read. Check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Lets-Hear-Boy-ebook/dp/B00BXVLPJA/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1369677475&sr=1-6&keywords=ta+webb
After reading it, I did a lot of thinking. The story takes us back to the early 80’s when HIV and AIDS was discovered and the absolutely terrifying backlash the LGBT community faced. Gay cancer was one of the nicer things it was called and so many people were convinced that God had called it down upon the Sodomites to wipe them from existence.
It’s ridiculous of course. AIDS is just a disease…a horrible, terrible disease…but God really had nothing to do with it. Anyone can get it and no one is immune. Great strides have been taken and there’s hope on the horizon, I think, but it’s going to plague humanity for a long time.
One of the things that struck me after reading the story was that the whole awful situation back then was made so much worse by the fact that the gay community was mostly still forced into hiding. It occurred to me that so many of the lives that this disease has taken might have been saved if only people hadn’t been so afraid.
The governments who were afraid to admit that this was a problem that affected more than just the gay community. The men and women who were infected and died alone because they were afraid to tell their friends and loved ones what had happened to them. The members of the gay community who unwittingly made things worse with the lifestyle they were forced to live because they were so afraid of how they would be treated that they hid away in bathhouses and the back rooms of clubs.
And that’s what this post is about. The people we’ve lost. When I think of all the people who might have done something amazing if only they’d not had the chance snatched away from them it makes my head spin. They died before ever being given the chance to reach their full potential and the immense scope of that loss weighs me down sometimes.
The loss of those a little more ordinary is crushing as well. Mothers and fathers whose children never got to know them or who never got to be born. Or worse, moms and dads who no longer have children to parent. Friends whose deaths left gaping holes in the people who loved them and counted on them to make their lives better.
This was an epidemic born out of fear that has grown to a global pandemic and I wonder how many have died or will die that could have been saved with a little open-minded thinking and some courage on the part of the world’s leaders.
I remember the first time I saw the movie “And the Band Played On” in 1993. I was 24 years old and I remember being horrified by the stupidity of so many people involved. The meaning of the name of the movie escaped me until I watched it again recently.
I could be wrong but the first thing I think of when I hear the movie title is the sinking of the Titanic. The tragedy of the Titanic and the lives lost were the result of sheer arrogance. The people in charge were so sure that they were right, they didn’t bother to take the most basic of precautions. And as the ship sank, the band played on because there was nothing else they could do to save themselves.
And so it went. The government denied there was a problem and so refused to issue any warnings or take any precautions. So the disease spread and more people died.
This is one of those things that almost overwhelms me with feelings and I have so much to say, but can’t seem to find the words to express myself in the way that I want. The thrum of anger and sadness and frustration runs under my skin when I allow myself to think about it too much.
I don’t know anyone who is HIV positive. At least, not that I’m aware of. It’s another one of those issues that’s personal for me because it should be seen as personal for everyone. It can happen to anyone.
One in five people who are HIV positive are unaware they are infected.
Every 9.5 minutes someone in the US is infected.
More than one million people in the US are HIV positive.
50,000 people are infected every year.
Since 1981 619,000 people have died in the US alone as a result of contracting HIV. The loss of life is staggering.
27% of new infections in 2009 were from heterosexual contact.
61% of new infections in 2009 were in MSM (men who have sex with men)
Injection drug user’s made up the rest of the new infections in 2009.
Sobering statistics indeed from http://www.aids.gov/.
I think somewhere along the way people fell under the impression that the crisis is over. We became complacent and because of that, it somehow seem less important to find ways to educate people so that we could stop the spread of this killer.
It’s still so important. As long as people are dying from HIV related infections, we are losing something that can’t be replaced.
Somewhere along the way, the focus of this post changed direction a little for me. I started writing about fear, but now I want to talk about hope.
Most importantly, keep yourself safe…always. You are the only one who can every single time.
If you need help, look for it. I know that’s easier said than done, but please don’t let fear kill you.
Do what you can to help others. Support HIV initiatives, get involved in fundraising and awareness campaigns. Let people know that this issue hadn’t gone away or gotten better.
In Canada, go here to offer your support and to educate yourself. http://www.cdnaids.ca/welcome
So, this is my Monday Rant. I’m trying to spend less time focusing on making things better for me and spend more time focusing on making things better for others. I have a feeling that it will help me more in the long run.