Saturday, June 04, 2011

Thirty years ago...

Tomorrow will mark the 30th anniversary of the first report in the medical literature of the disease that was to become known as AIDS. From the CDC's MMWR Weekly:
In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California. Two of the patients died. All 5 patients had laboratory-confirmed previous or current cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and candidal mucosal infection. Case reports of these patients follow.
I was fifteen at the time, still struggling in a small Midwestern town with my conflicted sexuality. It would be four more years before Rock Hudson died of AIDS and brought the disease home to me personally, leading me to slam shut a door I was just on the verge of opening. I remember riding around in my car one warm summer night, taping myself on my cassette recorder: Why did this have to happen now? Just when I was thinking that I could finally express who I am? Will I have to hide forever?

Thirty years. In those three decades I've come out. Demonstrated with ACT-UP and Queer Nation. Had countless friends test positive and several diagnosed with AIDS (though miraculously, only a couple have died). I've walked to raise money. Danced to raise money. Rode to raise money. I've studied the disease in classes. Been tested for it dozens of times. I've seen infection with HIV transition from being a death sentence to something much more manageable... and watched attitudes shift as well. Throughout these years the virus and the disease have been constants in my life as a gay man. Something to be afraid of. Something to fight. Something to assimilate as a fact of life. But it's never over, and each year brings a change in how this disease affects my community and how it affects me.

THE TENTH ANNUAL AIDS/LIFECYCLE begins tomorrow: a couple thousand riders and many hundreds of volunteers making the 545 mile journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I rode that route in 2007, and last year I volunteered for the medical team. I so wish I were going to be there this year!

To all my friends who will be: "Know that you are heroes for countless people. Ride safe and don't forget to use the hand sanitizer. :-) But most of all, when the going gets tough, remember that I love you. I'm so very proud of all that you're doing."

From ALC6

(Click to see a larger image)

And as a reminder of the long road from where this all began to the future we still hope for, here's the "I just wanna be there" scene from 1989's Longtime Companion.

(Video link)

I just wanna be there.

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