Monday, June 6, 2011

30 Years of AIDS

In June, 1981 I made the four and a half hour drive from DC to Manhattan with three of my friends to celebrate Pride weekend. We had such a great time wandering around the city, shopping at thrift stores, sampling street corner food and partying the night away. Most of it is a blur to me now, so I know we must have had a good time.

On Sunday, we got up way too early for any seasoned New Yorker and headed out for breakfast at about 10 o'clock. You have no idea how hard it is to find a place to find a place to eat on Sunday in Manhattan before 12 noon. Along the way we passed the last surviving diehards from the night before stumbling out of the clubs, which seemed to never close.

We found a classic New York 50's-style diner, found a booth and sipped on the coffee, which was promptly poured by a no-nonsense waitress with big hair and black eye-liner named Flo. As we waited for our food, I scanned through my copy of The Village Voice and stopped at a story about five gay men from the LA area who had developed a rare form of skin cancer called, Kaposi Sarcoma. The The men had also developed pneumocystis pneumonia, which ultimately killed them.

A week later, I read a story in The Washington Blade about what had been dubbed Gay Cancer. Doctors still didn't know what was causing it, but because it was spreading in the gay community, they assumed it had to do with "the gay lifestyle", whatever that it. The life expectancy was six months to two years from the date of diagnosis.

During the 80's, it seemed like every time I ran into a friend, they had either just been to a funeral or were preparing to go to one. I remember seeing the Names Project/AIDS Memorial Quilt on the Mall in DC and marching in the streets at candle light vigils that stretched for at least a mile down Pennsylvania Ave, while the crowd chanted "SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!" at Ronald Reagan's White House.

Over the years I've lost a lot of friends and seen a lot of progress in AIDS treatment. Reuters reports this week that over 60 million people worldwide are infected with HIV and 30 million have lost their lives.

A recent Reuters article reports on new data from NIH showing that early treatment can also help prevent the spread of HIV to an uninfected partner.

There has been a lot of press recently about a Berlin patient who has been "cured" of HIV after receiving a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat his leukemia. The donor had a natural immunity to HIV, which transferred to the recipient.

There is more reason for hope now, but AIDS is still out there, just waiting for you to fuck up. Play safe.

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1 comment:

  1. Very well written Steve...and thank you for placing this out to our community. Although there is reason for hope,having Aids, for me, is a constant struggle against accelerated aging and increased cancer risks,bone loss,liver problems and some very nasty drug side effects including headaches,nausea,sleeplessness,and skin rash problems to name a few. Yes HIV is right here in little Roanoke,VA. It is waiting for you to be in the wrong place, with the wrong person, doing what feels good, while taking no precautions.I ask everyone, especially our young community, to think,get tested, take control, love and fully accept yourself--and stay out of oppressive, risk filled, dark closets!


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