Tuesday, May 30, 2006
AIDS 25: Lives lost and lessons learned
It's almost surreal for me as I realize that AIDS turns 25 this year and that I've been apart of it's lifeline from the beginning. What's most disturbing is the fact that I probably won't live to see a cure or vaccine of this life changing disease that has touch people around the globe. In the early days, there was so much confusion and misinformation about exactly what was know then as an un-named disease that was affecting men primarily on the coast. The interior of the US seemed unaffected and unconcerned about what we would later find out about how this infection would cross all paths of our daily lives. As I read as much material as I could find and understand, It seemed that this modern day plague couldn't be defined and doctors were baffled as to treatment. All around me opinions abound and the terror of this crisis was mounting with each passing month. We seemed paralyzed as to what to do as we partied on and watched the horrifying death numbers rise. Nationwide organizations began to form and speak out about how our medical community was being overwhelmed and how ineffective our government, most notably lead by Ronald Reagan was playing politics, as people continued to die. Finally, the disease not only had claimed victims, it had a name,AIDS. For me, the swiftness and agony of it's effects was demostrated as I watched a friend, Mark slowly disappear and ultimately die. At his funeral I was stoic and attempted to understand why his life was cut so short. There were so many unanswered questions, too many blanks that were not filled in and so much left unsaid. To my dismay, this first death had not sufficiently prepared me for the many funerals to come, especially, my best friend Will, who I sat bedside with on his last full day of life. I remember vividly my outrage and frustration about these lost lives as well as the subsequent fallout that reverberates throughout. My world, my community and long time friendships were simply vanishing from the earth and for the first time in my life I felt helpless. Locally I participated in various organizations, fundraisers and attended meetings, with the hopes that I could affect change. Unfortunatley, the results were marginal then and now. Thusly here we are 25 years later with effective, but expensive drug cocktails to help individuals to live longer. Researchers are aggressively pursuing a vaccine and potential cure. Groups are still having fundraisers and the debates over government funding, intrevention preceptions and faith based methods often cloud the basic issue. Neverthless, we still have new cases of HIV still occuring in sectors of society accross the world. The recent May 2 part PBS special about the subject is a comforting signal that we will not be allowed to forget this journey. A sojourn in the age of AIDS that has deeply affected my life through the lives lost and lessons learned.