Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day

Today is always a sad day for me. I started having sex in the 80s (yes I'm that old - get over it) and a fun time was had by all until 1985 when Rock Hudson died. That's when AIDS became real for me and my peers. All of a sudden sex could kill.

A friend of a friend was the first AIDS patient in my hometown. They put him in a half finished hospital because, at the time, they didn't know how the disease was spread. So there he was, on the outskirts of town in a huge building with only a couple of nurses wearing masks for company. Not that they wanted to get close to him.

The list of people who could get AIDS seemed to grow every day. Gay men, intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs, straight women, straight men, babies of infected mothers... the list just kept growing. All of a sudden people had "risk factors". Gay? Move to the front of the line. Had sex in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco? Move right up the line. Drug addict? Up you go. Bisexual? Yes, you too.

For an assignment in university I went to the local STD clinic to get tested. The process took hours. I kept moving up in risk factor lottery - what? I told you I had fun. I had to listen to a nurse talk about safe sex and demonstrate how to use a condom. Then I had to talk to the doctor. Everyone was so serious. AIDS was a big deal. Unfortunately when I'm in a tense situation I have a tendency to laugh and make jokes. This worried the people in the clinic. Maybe if I'd kept my mouth shut I'd have been out of there much faster.

After a tense couple of weeks, my test came back negative. I shall forever be thankful that I dodged a bullet. So many others weren't that lucky. There came a point in the 90s that I didn't want to answer my phone because every call was someone telling me that someone else had died. So and so OD'd. So and so killed himself. So and so was just diagnosed. Happy shiny people who were there and then all of a sudden they were gone. Around that time I ran into a friend who had been a model in the 80s. She told me that EVERYONE she had worked with was dead either of AIDS or a drug overdose.

Then AIDS went away. Not really. The new drugs were helping people to live longer so the disease didn't seem as bad as it once did. The media moved on to bigger and better things. Most people just stopped thinking about it. They might see something about World AIDS Day once a year but then they forget about it.

Unless you live in Africa. There an estimated 15 million children have become AIDS orphans. Little girls are raped because the men believe that having sex with a virgin cures AIDS. 22 million Africans are living with the disease. 1.5 million die every year. Most are dead within five years of diagnosis. People are dying because they don't have access to the drugs the West has. (Source)

I guess you can see why the first day of December gets me down. I'll probably spend the day listening to my Queen albums and toasting Freddie Mercury and all the other people who aren't here any more.

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