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
“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
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