December 2, 2011

World AIDS Day, one day late

My special occasion posts are always a day late. It takes me a day to process, I think, and decide if/how I want to commemorate.  I apologize for my chronic lateness.

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I don't really remember a world without AIDS, although it didn't become widely publicized until the mid-late 80s, when I was already alive and quite aware of the world.  I remember hearing about it a little back then, some super-scary illness that was killing lots of people.  But those dying were always presented as some *other* from me...drug users, mostly. I have no memories of hearing about a "gay cancer," nor would I have understood what that meant if I had.  At least, not at the time.

In short, although I was vaguely aware of the chaotic world which sparked a man named Jonathan Larson to create the musical Rent, I was very, very far removed from it.

But still. At some point in high school, my friend Cheryl and I discovered the music from Rent, which was just beginning its award-winning run on Broadway at the time.

We...fell in love with it.  The music. The characters. The story.  That was it, we were hooked.  It was really my first view into the world of HIV/AIDS in the United States.

Later, I'd read Angels in America (Parts 1 and 2) in school.  I'd watch the news. I'd learn about HIV/AIDS epidemics around the world.  I'd become invested in a fight to stop this disease from spreading, from hurting the ones I loved (because by then, let's face it, I had friends of all races, sexual preferences, and drug-using-statuses).

Now, someone I know and love very much is HIV positive.  Yet, somehow, he's maybe the healthiest person I know. Never sick, always busy, always positive in SO many ways other than HIV.

It's not a death sentence anymore, which is amazing.  Bono wrote a piece in the NY Times yesterday to show some of the progress that's been made within the past decade, and it was eye-opening.  Exciting.  Invigorating.  Maybe someday soon we CAN stop this disease.

But until it's gone from the world, you can be sure people will still die.  And...it will break the heart of anyone who is touched by a person with HIV/AIDS.  Watch this clip from the movie version of Rent.  It's the song following the death of Angel, my favorite character, a drag queen with AIDS. She's beloved.

Just watch it.  I dare you not to cry.  We can still work harder to end this.  We can still fight HIV/AIDS.


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