First Published: December 2002
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
More people have become infected with HIV over the last twelve months here in the UK than in any comparable period since records began. New government figures released ahead of Sunday's World AIDS Day also show that rates are particularly high amongst gay men, around 1500 getting infected each year. 41,000 people now have HIV and nearly 3,000 were diagnosed in the past twelve months, 25% up on the same period the year before. With a fourfold increase in Syphilis infections, a new government safe sex campaign, The Sex Lottery, is being launched.
Though the spread of AIDS in Europe is tiny in comparison with the human tragedy that's been unleashed in Africa and increasingly in Asia, it's plain that more has to be done to educate a new generation here about the risks of unsafe sex. For OutUK B.Andrew Plant considers what on earth you can say about AIDS that hasn't already been said a hundred times before.
A new worldwide campaign is being launched by the UN to fight prejudice and discrimination experienced by people with AIDS.
When I told my partner Bill I felt compelled to write something for World AIDS Day but that I wasn’t sure I had anything fresh to say on the subject, he seemed quite entertained.

“YOU never run out of something to say or write,” he said.

Bill was kidding - well, at least mostly - but the truth remains: It has gotten harder and harder to write something stirring and worthwhile for the worldwide day we share to commemorate those lost to AIDS and to rally hope for an end to this pandemic.

In some ways it seems there is little new information to relate. I know that is an overstatement - that we have had some great advances in terms of pharmaceutical developments, understanding of treatment, advocacy expertise and so on - but it is none the less a statement reflecting the mood of many.

As we progress through the early part of our third decade with HIV, it seems prevention, education and treatment advances are still outnumbered by setbacks and bad news. Young gay men are infected at a rate that is unacceptably high. Women and minorities suffer disproportionately to the larger population. Economic and sociopolitical structures prevent adequate education and treatment of people with HIV in this and other countries.

Some of those other countries want to turn a blind eye toward the pandemic and the people it affects directly; still, too many countries sincerely want to stem the onslaught, and they are begging for help from more privileged countries around the globe. And, while there are many great efforts toward providing help, we can’t get there fast enough and we can’t do enough.

I also know that my seeming inability to think of new and inspiring messages about the war on AIDS is due in great part to battle fatigue. Although, as a gay man, my personal space was miraculously untouched by the pandemic during much of the 1980s, I ended the decade as caregiver to my partner. He lost his battle in early 1991 and I barely had time to take a breath before becoming part of a team that cared for my best friend, who also soon thereafter lost his battle with AIDS.

Then another friend was lost and another, and so on. I began writing more about AIDS (it was therapeutic; it was what I could do…). I began giving time and, when possible, money to AIDS service organizations. I began writing more letters of advocacy, sometimes shaming politicians and bureaucrats who don’t do enough toward control of HIV. Sometimes I wrote to praise the brave souls who truly want to stop the modern plague.

And I am doing so much less than other people - particularly those who work in AIDS care professionally or who are directly supporting a friend or family member who is dying from HIV-related illness. I know there are folks who are doing more and who are much more tired than I am.

They carry on and do what they can for at least one of the same reasons I do: We don’t have a choice.

In the days just after my partner died. A well-meaning friend-of-a-friend said, “HOW can you go on?” I remember being as irritated as I was touched. While I appreciated the sympathetic inquiry, I found it a little inane too.

After all, you can either let a catastrophic loss destroy you, or you can pick up the pieces, push yourself forward and pledge to do all you can for others in similar circumstances - if for no other reason than to keep alive the memories of other wonderful souls lost to AIDS.

For this year’s World AIDS Day - December 1 - I hope you will remember those we have lost and reflect on those who are at risk, and find the inspiration you need to do your part in whatever way you can. Because, in the words of pioneering HIV activist, educator and publisher Sean Strub, “Until no one has AIDS, we all have AIDS.”

World AIDS Day Events


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