Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS day...And The Unbroken Thread Of Memory



Today is world AIDS day. While many of you who watch our Youtube channel already got a heads up about this, today is the actual day.

I'm having a difficult time today, thinking about how to talk about how AIDS has touched my life. I have been extraordinarily blessed, not to have lost someone I loved to this disease. However, just because I haven't lost anyone doesn't mean that AIDS hasn't marked my life in some way. It has touched all of us. Its always been there and in all likely hood will continue to be a factor of our lives long after my time on earth is done.

My memories of HIV and AIDS come from the stand point of a child, back in the early eighties. I remember hearing about a "mysterious disease" that seemed to be taking out the gay population. Sometimes it was referred to as "Gay Cancer" but even then no one really sat up and took notice...that is, until Rock Hudson died. AIDS was now outing people and Rock Hudson's death shocked the public. He always evinced the image of movie star masculinity and no one saw it coming. But that didn't stop us from turning on him.

Now...being a kid, about the worst insult you could throw at another kid, was to call them gay and I did my fare share of that(I was kind of a bastard). We all told horrible jokes that we had heard from others, about Rock Hudson and AIDS and jokingly accused each other of having it. Not one of us understood what we were doing...we were just kids then. Thankfully, I can't remember how those jokes went, which is just as well...I never want them to be told again. We would never have used AIDS as a joke if we hadn't first heard it somewhere else and derision for being gay and having AIDS was easy to come by.

Recently Rock's partner passed away and it made me remember all the terrible things I said and put me in mind of all the terrible things he must have had to endure. First, with the death of his partner and then derision at the hands of a vicious world that had absolutely no sympathy. I don't know how he dealt with all the comments people made about Him and Mr. Hudson. I only know that he sued Rock's estate because Mr. Hudson concealed his HIV status from him and still continued his relationship with him until he could not hide it any longer....but that's Hollywood for you....forever in the closet.

It probably doesn't matter so much now...but I humbly apologize, not only to Rock Hudson but also to everyone who I painted with the same brush then. I am deeply regretful for the truly awful things that I said during those times...even being a kid. I understand now the loneliness and terror many faced as they died and the helplessness of those that could only watch them go, not understanding why.

as time went on and we discovered more about HIV and AIDS, attitudes toward those that suffered from it changed considerably...though the perception that it was still a "gay disease" never really went away. Now, we realised that it was hitting every community and that if we didn't educate ourselves, there would be no stopping it. During my teen years I remember being clearly away that it was unprotected sex and exposure to blood that transmitted AIDS. We saw the first public awareness commercials targeting teens, played after school. They taught us: "Where a condom...get tested". This is the mantra we have been reciting ever since. And now it didn't matter matter what your sexual orientation was, AIDS was killing everyone...even housewives with philandering husbands. While the drugs got better, they were still as bad as the disease sometimes and no guaranty of a long life. Many still died young.

This is why its truly sad that today in many countries...AIDS continues to flourish because education and prevention takes a backseat to religious dogma...and so people still die young. Many,... women and children.

Lifes little ironies....I discover I'm gay...

After all my crappy attitudes to other human beings maybe GOD felt like I need a taste of my own medicine.

Coming out and learning the truth about what it means to be gay, meant also facing the realities of what HIV has done to the community it has hit the hardest. At this point, frank discussions about HIV status were a part of dating and Sex became anything but just sex, it always comes with the specter of awful possibility.

I saw men that survived the first years of the disease with the saddest most haunted eyes I had ever seen, even as they continued to smile....But they lived. That itself was a miracle...HIV was no longer an automatic death sentence...though it did nothing to mend survivors guilt, or to fill tho void left by those we lost who's memories continue to burn.

What brought it home to me was watching "And The Band Played On" with my first boyfriend. It was an old movie by then. It told to story of the first days of the AIDS outbreak and the horrible things that happened to the first sufferers. It goes on to detail the fight to discover what AIDS was and how to combat it in a society that wanted to turn a blind eye to it. So many people died in that movie....

At the end two of the surviving main characters are walking along the breach holding hands and they see friends who had died walking towards them. Not believing their eyes they all run toward each other and embrace...then the scene is FILLED with those who died, all in one great reunion....I cried so hard...It can still make me do that today. How awesome would it be to take down the barrier of death and see everyone again.

AIDS is still with us today and Regardless of what religious leaders say, its not a punishment from GOD....but maybe it still contains an important lesson about the value of life. Don't be afraid of sex, don't be afraid of being gay...but DO value your life, treat it like the very brief gift that it is. love as hard as you can....and never forget...

6 comments:

  1. I don't even know what to add.

    The only thing that helps is hope, a great deal of hope that there will be a vaccine & maybe even some medicine that will at least help people already infected with HIV to live as long as their natural life could ever be.

    In the past 30 years we've come from times when people were literally dropping dead from AIDS never even knowing what hit them, to the times when (well, in USA, anyway) new drugs let HIV-positive people to live relatively normal lives with relatively low viral blood count, delaying the time when the whole system goes haywire into the full-blown AIDS. And I for one believe that our medicine can do more, that future hold new discoveries that will help fighting the disease.

    The only thing that makes me wonder is what's gonna happen in those countries that won't be able to afford new treatment? Even now AIDS treatment costs a lot of money, poor people without health insurance cannot afford it, especially in the third-world countries. Same countries that can't even afford to cure everyone from TB (tuberculosis), a disease that is no longer considered a threat in developed countries, just because they can afford $10000 treatment per one citizen. The same is gonna happen with AIDS, no doubt.

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  2. My best male gay friend is HIV positive. He just found out this past summer. He contracted it sometime in the past year because he was negative one year ago. I knew something was wrong because every time I spoke with him he either had a cold or flu or something else. The good part of the story is that this is the present. He lives in Ft. Lauderdale and there is a very large gay community there with a lot of physicians that specialize in HIV. His doctor mapped the genetic makeup of his strain of the virus and immediately put him on some super drugs. He is like a different person now!! His immune system now is incredible-no more nagging illnesses.
    BUT!!! He still is HIV positive and will be for life unless a cure is found...
    So-people out there..play safe!!!! It is not worth putting yourself at risk....

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  3. Bryan, I think the scene you were describing where the 2 lovers were walking on th beach and suddenly all their dead friends appeared is from the movie "Longtime Companion"

    The scene made me cry like crazy. I just broke up with this guy and I discovered he had AIDS.

    Thank God I tested negative

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  4. Hi,
    I've been reading your blogs for a while now. I would like to thank you for being so open and sharing your life with the world.
    I would also like to thank you for posting today. I have been directly affected by HIV/AIDS because my uncle has been positive for like 16 years (I am 19) and so it has been a part of my whole life.
    It is truly a gift that he is still with us and I thank God every day that we live in Canada where he can get the treatment and medicine he needs to stay healthy! This past summer he switched medications and since then his T-cells are within normal range and he is feeling amazing! Even though he is healthy right now, my whole family still remembers all of the times when that has not been the case. We also all remember that there are many people in the world who are not as lucky.

    I guess I would just like to say thank you for being so courageous and I would also like to send a little prayer out to my uncle donald that he is happy and healthy for many years to come!

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  5. Holy mary mother of frank!

    Yesterday I came to this blog and posted a comment on this video and today I come back and see it didn't work. This means that a blog post almost got by without a comment from me.

    This is quite possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to me since I weed the bed on the first night in my college residence.

    I think I said something like:

    If AIDS is a punishment from god then he must really hate little christian children in Africa.

    The sooner that certain religious groups stop applying stigma to this disease the better as this actually does harm. There are people in Africa, a great many people, who think wearing a condom is worse than having unprotected sex with people when you know you have HIV.

    That is a direct results of Christianity.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Holy mary mother of frank!

    Yesterday I came to this blog and posted a comment on this video and today I come back and see it didn't work. This means that a blog post almost got by without a comment from me.

    This is quite possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to me since I weed the bed on the first night in my college residence.

    I think I said something like:

    If AIDS is a punishment from god then he must really hate little christian children in Africa.

    The sooner that certain religious groups stop applying stigma to this disease the better as this actually does harm. There are people in Africa, a great many people, who think wearing a condom is worse than having unprotected sex with people when you know you have HIV.

    That is a direct results of Christianity.

    ReplyDelete