World AIDS Day: In Memory Of

Today is World AIDS Day, and anything I say would be woefully inadequate. Instead of trying to come up with something meaningful to say, I’m going to use others who are unfortunately more experienced with this blight.

First is Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God. I usually post a little snippet to go with, but I’m making an exception today. Go to Joe.My.God to read Membership, a masterful piece that he republishes every World AIDS Day.

AIDS has cut a wide swath through the LGBT community. I look at people like Joe who came up in the 1980s and realize how much they’ve been through. It’s more than anyone should be expected to handle, let alone at such a young age. And it was made infinitely worse by so-called religious people either thanking God for the disease or just ignoring it. The biggest surprise isn’t that so few LGBT people identify as religious; it’s that any of us do.

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On July 17, 2009, the New York State Senate voted on a bill that would have capped “shelter costs” (rent, utilities) at 30% of monthly income for people living with HIV/AIDS who are receiving public assistance.

State Senator Tom Duane, who sponsored the bill, gave an impassioned 22-minute middle-of-the-night speech during the NY Senate’s marathon session. It’s uncomfortable at times, but you know what? So is watching your friends die around you while no one gives half a damn.

While the bill passed in the NY Senate, it appears unlikely that the NY Assembly will vote on it before the end of the session.

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Finally, I saw this video last summer and have been hanging onto it for today. It’s the closing song for last year’s Gay Men’s Chorus Los Angeles concert. The song is “He Ain’t Heavy.” As you watch, think of this: If you counted them up, how many friends, lovers, and family members have the men in this choir lost? How many did they lose before their 30th birthdays?

Today, HIV/AIDS is an equal opportunity disease, though much more treatable and much less a death sentence than it was in the beginning. Throughout most of the world, it is a primarily heterosexual disease, passed from mother to child. China has been hit hard by unsanitary blood plasma-buying schemes. Here in the United States, the disease still affects gay men more than any other group.

If you don’t know your HIV status, get tested. For the love of God, get tested. Today.

Regardless of your status or your orientation, use a condom. We want to have you around for a long time.