A few words from Randy Shilts, which he wrote back in 1982. AIDS was called GRID then. We didn't know much about it. Randy's words were important to me. Randy was someone I knew - in fact he was the first person I met when I moved to San Francisco. Later he would be one of the first persons I knew who died from AIDS. Randy was just one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, that I knew who died from AIDS, and sadly there will probably be more. For years I have walked in AIDS Walk San Francisco. Read Randy's words below. Perhaps this will help you understand why I walk.
A 45-year-old San Francisco man looked at the purple spots covering his arms, face and chest and contemplated the death sentence they might foreshadow.
"Every time I see a new spot, I think I'm a step closer to death," said Jerry, a former waiter. "I don't even look in the mirror any more."
Jerry is a victim of one of a series of baffling diseases hitting primarily gay men with increasing frequency across the country.
Scientists have lumped the various illnesses together under the acronym of GRID -- for gay-related immuno-deficiency diseases -- and public health officials have come to view them as the most startling health problem to hit the United States since the first outbreak of Legionnaire's disease in 1976.
The numbers of gay men struck by the GRID disease passed epidemic proportions long ago and are now frightening public health officials for a number of reasons.
-- In the 11 months since the first American case of a rare skin cancer known as Kaposi's sarcoma was reported to federal authorities, the cancer and the other GRID illnesses have reportedly struck 335 Americans, almost all of them gay, killing 136 -- a higher death toll than both toxic shock syndrome and Legionnaire's disease combined.
-- The diseases, most of which were previously unheard of among healthy young men, offer few hopes for survival. Only 15 percent of the men diagnosed in 1979 for Kaposi's sarcoma, now colloquially known as "gay cancer," are alive now, say federal officials. Two-thirds of the reported 1980 victims have died.
-- The overall death rate for patients with Pneumocystis pneumonia, the "gay pneumonia," which is the deadliest GRID, now stands at 50 percent.
-- Public health officials are also discovering that a laundry list of other strange diseases are striking gay men, apparently associated with a dysfunction of the patient's immune systems. These "opportunistic" diseases now account for one-sixth of GRID victims.
I would be honored to have you as one of my sponsors in this year's AIDS Walk SF. To donate, just go to my secure fundraising page by clicking the link at the top right of this page or HERE - and thanks for your support!