Waking up on this World AIDS Day, I'm remembering those days when I went to a funeral five or six times a week, or made trips to Ward 86 at San Francisco General Hospital, or stood in the cold night air with hundreds of others, holding a candle. I'm remembering the rallies, the marches, the speeches, the quilt panels, and the meetings. I'm also remembering the work of Vito, Kelly, Cleve, Jason, Bill, Brownie Mary, and so many that don't come to mind immediately. Energized by how far we have come. Determined to make it to zero!
Reading a lot of online posts leading up to today, I noticed that a lot of people were asking questions. A very good thing. Information and education is so important. I have seen a number of people ask about PrEP (which means Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), and what it is briefly is the use of anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV negative people from becoming infected. Testing? Yes indeed. It's still very important. Know your status!
Today is also #GivingTuesday when donations to non-profits are encouraged, and because it is also World AIDS Day, I would suggest that AIDS-related organizations would be a good place to begin.
Reporter and writer Randy Shilts is also on my mind on this World AIDS Day. Randy was one of the very first people I met when I moved to San Francisco. At the time he was working in television and later moved on to the morning newspaper where he covered GRID, later called AIDS. Randy gave us the book and movie, AND THE BAND PLAYED ON.
Toward the end that film, Matthew Modine's character says "This didn't have to happen. We could have stopped it." Ian McKellen's character then asks "Can you still?" The answer is of course a resounding YES! And, we must keep at it. We can't waste our time on what should have already happened, but we must move forward and make sure it does happen.
I'm recalling one more thing this morning - the words of another activist who battled this disease and then lost his life to it. Vito Russo was one of those wonderful people I like to talk about, because he truly made a difference. His words should urge us onward:
"Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. Remember that. And when that day comes, when that day has come and gone, there'll be people alive on this Earth, gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free. So I'm proud to be with my friends today and the people I love, because I think you're all heroes, and I'm glad to be part of this fight. But, to borrow a phrase from Michael Callen's song, "all we have is love right now. What we don't have is time."”