As I wandered the tents at CNY Pride 2010, I noticed something about the tables that were set up in all the tents. I saw people selling rainbow colored items, bumper stickers and pins with all sorts of messages on them. I saw people representing companies and organization that were gay friendly insurance, gay friendly churches, gay choruses and choirs, gay health, gay friendly politicians and MANY organizations for gay rights. But I saw very few tables that dealt with anything to do with HIV or AIDS. Yes, I realize that same sex marriage and Don't ask, don't tell and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Defense of Marriage Act are all fights that we must win to have the same civil rights as heterosexuals, but HIV and AIDS didn’t go away. In fact, with our borders being so overwhelmed, the infection rates of many diseases have skyrocketed since 2000 all over America, not just along the borders. President Barack Obama signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, a bill that lifts a 22-year-old travel and immigration ban on HIV-positive people and people with AIDS. People claim the ban was homophobic, I happen to think the ban was just common sense. It’s not like we didn’t have enough infections in America without importing new infections. Yes, I realize it kept any major international AIDS conferences from taking place in the U.S. because HIV-positive activists and researchers could not be granted entry. I still think it was better to be safe than sorry. I recently heard on the news that bombs are being built containing hypodermic needles to try and infect soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. This brings the term “dirty bomb” to a whole new low.
I grew up watching AIDS go from something sounding like the plot of a movie to a disease spread by means that were unknown for years, and only rumors, fear and homophobia spread faster than the disease itself. Ryan White was fighting to have the right to go to school and was all over the news. Rock Hudson died, entertainment news shows and late night comedians had a field day. My mother lectured my sister when she was dating a man from Haiti. When a kid in my class cut himself repairing his lacrosse stick in study hall, people fled from the room as his blood pooled on the floor. The jokes people told about AIDS died down a little when Magic Johnson announced that he had tested positive for HIV, and players from other teams openly refused to play in the same game as him. At the time, only a small percentage of HIV-positive people had contracted HIV from heterosexual sex. Now the face of AIDS was a popular NBA player and not a drug user or a homosexual. It seemed to be the vast majority of HIV and AIDS jokes finally died down a lot when Freddie Mercury of Queen died and rock stars all over the world openly mourned his passing and showed their admiration with The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness on April 20 th, 1992. I myself think seeing Metallica lead singer James Hetfield and Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant praise Mercury onstage helped to convince a lot of young people that the jokes were no longer cool.
But most people to this day don’t seem to realize how long HIV and AIDS has been infecting people and how far reaching the disease has actually spread. Did you know the first known infection of what was to be known later as HIV happened in 1959? How the first infections happened is not yet known for certain, but they do know it originated in Africa as Simian immunodeficiency viruses, which researchers believe could have jumped to humans sometime in the 1930s. Considering how long HIV can be in your system and never show a symptom, people could have been stationed in Africa during the second world war and been infected and have no idea they were sick until the late 1950s. I’m currently reading The River by Edward Hooper. If he's right, everyone who ever got/gets HIV or AIDS is a victim of negligent homicide.
I’d like to leave you with a list of a few people who have been infected with HIV. I want you all to Google and Wikipedia any names you don’t recognize. You’ll be shocked at the widespread categories of people. I was shocked at some of the names I saw when them. I’m putting them in here to remind us all that HIV doesn’t care who or what or where you are.
Amanda Blake, Jim J Bullock, Merrit Butrick, Christian Haren, Rock Hudson, Antony Perkins, Robert Reed, Stephen Stucker, Rebekka Armstrong, Joey DiPaolo, Stephen Gendin, Alison Gertz, Elizabeth Glaser, Bob Hattoy, Nkosi Johnson, Cass Mann, Eliana Martinez, Ryan White, Johnson Aziga, Henry Cuerrier, Carl Leone, Andra Chad Parenzee, Trevis Smith, Nushawn Williams, Richard Hunt, Melvin Lindsey, Lance Loud, Pedro Zamora, David Cole, Robbin Crosby, Bobby Debarge, Eazy-E, Tom Fogerty, Ray Gillen, Gene Anthony Ray, Liberace, Billy Lyall, Freddie Mercury, Chuck Panozzo, Michael Kuhnen, Gaetan Dugas, Robert R, Arthur Ashe, Mike Beuttler, Glenn Burke, John Curry, Esteban De Jesus, Rudy Galindo, Bill Goldsworthy, Magic Johnson, Greg Louganis, Robert McCall, Ondrej Nepele, Tim Richmond, Roy Simmons, Jerry Smith, Tom Waddell, Robert Wagenhoffer, Michael Westphal, Alan Wiggins, Alvin Ailey, Wayland Flowers, Rudolf Nureyev, Gia Carangi, Perry Ellis, Robert Mapplethorpe, Frank Moore, Isaac Asimov, Harold Brodkey, Tory Dent, David B. Feinberg, John Preston, Larry Kramer, Manuel Ramos Otero, Vito Russo, Barbara Samson, Severo Sarduy, Nicholas Schaffner, Randy Shilts, Leroy Whitfield, Victoria Arellano, Kuwasi Balagoon, Dean Faiello, Kendall Francois, Althea Flynt, Eve van Grafhorst, David Hapton, Michael Lupo, Christine Maggiore, Steve Maidhof, Leonard Matlovich, Ed Savitz, Michael Shernoff