05 June 2006

Progress and pain

Where were you 25 years ago today? I had just celebrated my 8th birthday, just finished a year of 2nd grade with the beautiful Mrs. Zander, and we were preparing for a family camping trip. In other words, a normal summer day ...

At the same time, a doctor in West L.A. was publishing a report in the M&M Weekly Report put out by the CDC. These words changed the course of history forever:
"the above observations suggest the possibility of a cellular-immune dysfunction related to a common exposure that predisposes individuals to opportunistic infections"
His report was prompted by "Michael" and four other men being admitted to UCLA with symptoms of fever and weight loss, all within several days of each other. A then-new blood test identified that each of them had missing T-cells. Each of them was gay.

June 5, 1981, marks the "official" start of the HIV/AIDS epedemic. Since then, more than half a million people have died in the U.S. -- and more than 25 million worldwide -- from this disease. Forty million men, women and children are living with HIV today. And although there has been progress (Michael and the other four men each died within a year of being diagnosed), the epidemic is far from being over.

Twenty-five years ago, I don't know that I ever would have believed AIDS could have happened. When you're 8, you've got the whole future ahead of you, and stuff like that just doesn't even factor. I wish I could say the same at 33, but it's an unfortunate truth that past mistakes do not always lead to future learning. Instead, I can only hope that the fight continues, and hope that those we knew did not die in vain.

Further reading: And the Band Played On; The Truth About Reagan And AIDS (it took Ronald Regan 6 years, 4 months to ever say anything publicly about AIDS); Angels in America (literature); Angels in America (HBO Films); Gay Cancer, Emerging Viruses, and AIDS; Rent on-line


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