Friday, January 22, 2010

twenty years on...

So, I ran across a copy of "The Band Played On", Randy Shilts' book about the early years of the AIDS epidemic, and figured I'd go ahead and read it. It is thorough, grim, infuriating, sad, compelling, and enlightening. And, twenty years on, with AIDS still ravaging Africans and the drug cocktail that keeps it in check only available to the affluent, I can only believe it's this way because the people at the top *do not care* and have *never cared* about a disease has mostly afflicted poor people, gay people, black people, addicts, and sex workers.

And, furthermore, Ronald fucking Reagan? Was NOT a great president. He presided over what I can only call negligent genocide. His people kept calling AIDS his "number-one health priority" while refusing to fund it, acknowledge it, or throw any resources at it at all. The Congress had to force a tad of AIDS funding into the budget every year, but never enough. Never enough. That motherfucker, if I believe in hell, would be rotting there for sure.

There's also nothing like a week of reading about AIDS to turn one into a giant hypochondriac. I think of those years in the 80s, before they told us straight people could get AIDS, when I did not practice safe sex. I was on the Pill, what else did I need, right? I can't exactly pinpoint the moment when straight people realized we were at risk. For me, living in Texas, it was sometime between 1987 and 2001; I got married in 1987, and by the time I got divorced four years later, the sexual landscape had changed and condoms were mandatory. Before 1987, I don't think I'd ever used one. Birth control was the issue, not STIs. So, point being, every sniffle or new freckle I've noticed this week? Freaked. Me. Out. Which is absurd, considering I have been tested several times and been practicing safer sex for several decades. I cannot imagine the level of absolute terror gay men were living with in the 80s.

[I called this post twenty years on because the book was published in 1988 or so, which was 20 or so years ago, but in reality, the AIDS epidemic is much older. It's probably closer to 35 years old. The first MMWR report on what would turn out to be AIDS was published in the summer of 1981, almost 30 years ago]

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