In October of1996 I had the honor of being in Washington, DC for the occasion of the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display on the Mall between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument and march on Washington. That was probably the last time the Quilt will be in its entirety due to its growing size. At that time, the Quilt covered over 40 acres of land (that’s 29 football fields for you non-agrarians) honoring and memorializing over 45,000 lives lost to AIDS. Although I had previously seen the Quilt 4 years earlier in DC, and was involved in bringing a section of it to The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1994, its impact was still overwhelming and numbing to me. I kept finding myself walking through the sea of panels, and not seeing individual panels, but panels ‘en masse’. It was just so much to take in, knowing every panel over 40 acres represented one person lost to AIDS. During the candlelight march, when we were walking to the White House, to protest against Bush the 1st, there were the people I’ve seen at every protest, sometimes, social events, churches with their brand of hate mongering in the name of ‘their’ God. They had the signs and placards reading, “God hates fags”,. AIDS Cures fags” to identify a few. (That must mean Lesbians are God’s chosen people, as they've been passed over for HIV.) While I see this vitriolic sewage for what it is, there are many gay men who have heard corollary sermons and speeches in their home churches, schools, and other places that they start to believe it. The primary social activity for a lot of gay men in the early and mid 90s was attending the funerals of our friends and/or partners. Thanks to medical advances, this is no longer the norm. The flip side of this is that HIV is now viewed as a treatable chronic disease, like diabetes. “It’s no big deal if I get it. I’ll just go on a cocktail.” I’ve actually heard gay men say this! For many young gay men, ‘bug chasing’ (intentionally trying to get infected) has become seen as a right of passage, becoming a "Member of the Tribe", and HIV an inevitable consequence of being gay. HIV prevention programs still do NOT do a good job of addressing psycho-social issues. For those of us who have buried too many friends and loved ones, multiple loss syndrome and survivors’ guilt are very real issues. That teens and young gay men see HIV as ‘a given’ is a clear signal that the current message is not effective.
The continent of Africa is becoming a nation of orphaned children, who have lost their parents to AIDS. Teaching teenagers about safe sex is not 'giving them permission'. It's informing them of what they need to do to protect themselves and their partners. Needle exchange is not a moral issue. It's a HEALTH issue. And evidence shows that it works.
Of course when elected officials (and those granted office by the Supream Court) as well as religious (local, national and international) leaders who refuse to advocate the use of condoms, and responsible sex is unconscionable and morally & ethically irresponsible when prevention is so easy. To use god as a prohibition for condoms in a world wide pandemic is the highest form of hypocrisy and blasphemy of that god they purport to glorify. Clicking red Prada slippers 3 times isn't going to make it go away. Dorothy's not in Kansas anymore. If there is a god, then there should be a special place in hell for every last one of these people. THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE STILL GETTING INFECTED IN THE 21ST CENTURY! We are all busy. Our lives are hectic. On December 1, please take a moment, think of those who are gone. And think of what you're going to do to make a difference, to make sure that they didn't die in vain.