Tuesday, November 28, 2006

World AIDS Day -December 1

When asked to write something for December's International Carnival of the Pozitivities, a cooperative blog effort to help others understand how HIV/AIDS effects real human beings, I immediately agreed. I've lost (and am losing) too many friends and loved ones to a disease that no one talks about because of pride, fear, embarrassment, depression, or pain. We need to open up and talk about HIV/AIDS and how it effects our lives and the lives of those around us.

December 1, 2006 is World AIDS Day. On this day, I'll tell you about Chuck, a boy I grew up with and called a close friend. He was always a joyous person. A gifted musician and a gay male living in a town where his prospects for happiness with openness about his true self were dulled by prejudice and fear, he moved to San Francisco in the late 70s. Chuck was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the days when the public barely knew what the heck it was. Those were the days when President Reagan's response to the easily forseeable oncoming public health crisis was "halting and ineffective," according to his biographer Lou Cannon. "Those infected initially with this mysterious disease -- all gay men -- found themselves targeted with an unprecedented level of mean-spirited hostility." [source of quote]

I knew Chuck's mother and father all my life. They were good friends to my own parents and Chuck was more to me like family than just a friend. He was like a big brother to me. An only child, Chuck was luckier than some others of his time. He was "out" from the beginning. None of us who knew and loved him ever questioned his personal choices. He had wonderful, loving and supportive parents.

The disease took him quickly once the opportunistic infections begin to emerge. At that time, medicine could do little for him. There just wasn't enough known about the disease except what you'd hear from the so-called "moral majority" - that it was a punishment from God for the sin of homosexuality. When I speak about real values today on this blog - love, compassion, understanding, human rights, justice - I speak about the memory of the lack of compassion and the outright fear-mongering of the Religious Right toward a disease that stole someone I knew and loved.

Looking back, I wish I could have been mature enough to have been an effective listener in the many times when Chuck and his mother must have needed to talk to someone confidentially. I wasn't old enough, nor was I educated enough at the time. I remember my own parents explaining it all to me. I didn't learn about HIV/AIDS from my own government. Instead, I learned it the hard way, and believe me, I realize it was a lot harder for those who had to suffer the night sweats and the never ending body pains - hardly realizing what was slowly killing them. I made a journey West ten years ago just to visit Chuck's grave. I wish to God Chuck could have been standing there - alive. Thankfully, there has been good progress in medical research that allows for HAART (anti-retroviral therapy) that can improve the quality and length of life for many HIV-positive people. The importance of early detection is key to survival. If you are not sure, please go and get tested today.

On December 1 - World AIDS day - I see that there are many people in this world who have taken up the cause because our leaders abdicated their responsibilities so long ago. President Reagan could have chosen to end the homophobic rhetoric that flowed from so many in his administration. Dr. C. Everett Koop, Reagan's surgeon general, has said that because of "intradepartmental politics" he was cut out of all AIDS discussions for the first five years of the Reagan administration. On June 1 1987, after being booed at an AIDS conference, then-Vice President George HW Bush wondered aloud in front of a live mic: "Who was that? Some gay group out there?" We're way behind the eight-ball, but I give former President Clinton credit for really opening up the gates of knowledge about HIV/AIDS during his administration. With a foul scent of the old "moral majority" foolishness, the current Bush administration seems to have closed some doors and brought back some of the fear and ignorance about birth control and how it can stop the deadly disease in our own nation as well as overseas.

A leader who understands values from the most human perspective would scramble to push an agenda that would include real and complete sex education for the protection of the children of this world. If you think that frank talk about sex causes children to lose their innocence, just wait until you see what the effect of AIDS will do to their sense of innocence. I was no more than an innocent child when Chuck died of AIDS-related complications. It is realizing that Chuck was an innocent child that makes me so sad as I write these words today. We're all innocent children.

Break the silence.
If we want to know all we can about HIV/AIDS, go to the World AIDS Day website.

Please say a prayer for Chuck and promise me you'll teach your children well.


See Royce Hardin's moving, honest and beautiful testimony to the trials of HIV/AIDS, along with the mysteries and wonders of love, life, death, and the spirit.

See outgoing UN secretary-general Kofi Annan's statement for World AIDS Day.


Ron Hudson said...

Very touching, Jude. Thank you for sharing Chuck's story with us. Many today do not remember the 1980s and what this disease was really like back then. If they did, they would be less complacent and a bit less indifferent.

Barbara said...

Pass this link around too

Light To Unite

Kevin Hayden said...

I suspect we've all known a 'Chuck'. I also know that ignorance in defense of religiousity has proven deadly and it represents the hubris of blasphemous little men to proclaim the shortcomings of their own hearts upon any God.

Let us hope their children will be more enlightened and compassionate than they ever had the courage to be.