Posts Tagged ‘AIDS’

I’m back. It’s been awhile and the depression got worse and darker but I think I have turned the corner and understand the roots. The shrink gave me some meds that made matters worse. I remember joking about the warning on antidepressants, warnings that they “increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior”. Wow, they were not kidding. There are a few of us that can have these reactions and it is unbelievable to me how dark it can get.

The good news is that I think I have discovered a root of the problem and can go about fixing it. One part of the problem is that I never wanted to be an attorney. As I mentioned earlier, I went to law school so my obituary would not read waiter. I never thought I would live to see graduation. Now some 25 years later I am in a situation where I can do what I want and I am going to start doing that. Piano, Photography and continue with the athletics and training. Most important is writing. While I reorganize my life a bit I will update regularly. My this weekend the blog will pass 50,000 views. Thanks for your support.

Though I’ve never been through hell like that
I’ve closed enough windows
to know you can never look back

There has been a break in blogging over the past few weeks due to the difficulty in seeing clearly in the darkness of a real depression. It has been a number of years since I have been in this deep a depression. For the first time in almost twenty years I am actually seeing a professional.

I had forgotten the difference in being depressed and hitting depression. Sad is ok because it makes you appreciate the happy moments. This depression had no hope of happy on the horizon. A few factors built the hole and a few factors came together to break out of the hole.

One of the key factors building the hole was the fact that my lab work came back with a positive viral load for the first time in almost ten years. There is a huge disconnect between the attitudes of younger people who are getting infected for fun or whatever reasons. They believe, maybe incorrectly, that there will be medications available to them that will always keep the disease in check. Then there are the people I came of age with, the few remaining from my generation.

We became the walking dead

I came out in Washington DC in the pre-AIDS days. This season of fun and excitement soon turned to the dawn of the dead. My friends and lovers soon became walking corpses almost overnight. Healthy, playing racquetball on Monday, a cold on Wednesday and a cough by Friday. Saturday a trip to the ER when they began coughing blood and dead the following week. Drowned by their own lungs. This was my life. This was their death. For ten years I waited for my turn. Expecting that at any day the virus would explode in my system and take me like it did so many other of my generation. It is hard to unlearn a decade of learning that was pounded into my psyche.

A few of the lucky ones actually had family or friends with them at the end.

Every trip to the local stores, every time I took a buddy to the doctor or came to clean their house was a reminder of what I had to look forward to when it was my turn. In times like this when the virus makes it presence known I realize that I am still waiting for that explosion. I realize how many are dead and wonder why I’m not. I was a bigger whore than Barry, Ron, Mike but not Andrew. They are gone and I’m in a hole of my own making as dark as any grave.

Logically I understand that things are different now. I could live another twenty plus years without any problems. Those thoughts can’t change or explain the past.

So what is helping me climb back out of the hole? Bottom line, like a ghost that can’t cross over, I have unfinished business.  I have several books that I’m currently reading. The common thread in them is that we use energy available to us to create our own reality. We can be energy vampires and drain people around us or use the energy available to us to create a new reality. That is what I’ve started to do. One of my perceived obstacles is that I feel as though there is no one to support me. That after years of being people’s confidant, strength and counselor, there was no one with time for me. I began to realize a couple of things. First was that I had not really let anyone get that close to me again that could see me when I not in control. Second, that I probably need to do it on my own.

The facade we show is usually enough to hide behind.

I have long felt that to many people like to be victims and want other people to either carry the blame for their failings or in the alterative seek out the attention reserved for true victims. I have started to reshape my energy so as not to be a victim of my past. There is still a world of difference I can make in the lives of other. I hope for the better. More important, there are things left in that not only bring contentment but long-term happiness. I also need to stop relying on comfort food. I added ten pounds on in the form of a severe “zinger” addiction.

I look forward to more blogging in the coming days and weeks and I hope this time I can get completely out of the hole. I am going to spend a lot of time in the next few days setting long and short-term goals for myself in a lot of different areas.

July 2012, Washington DC is hosting the International Conference on AIDS. The Names Project Foundation, which takes care of all the Quilt Panels is trying to ‘blanket DC’ with all the Quilt Panels. The Quilt has been to DC in 1987, 88, 89, 92 and 1996. Some of the Quilt were included in President Clinton’s Inauguration Parade. The Quilt was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. It is the single largest community project in the World to this day.

The Quilt continues to grow as HIV/AIDS takes more lives. The Quilt now has over 47,000+ panels, weighs over 54 tons and has over 92,000+ names listed. Some famous names include: Arthur Ashe, Eazy E (rapper), Perry Ellis, Rock Hudson, Richard Hunt (muppeteer), Liberace, Freddie Mercury, Tim Richmond (Nascar), Robert Reed (Brady Bunch), Anthony Perkins (Psycho), Max Robinson (ABC News anchor), Jerry Smith (Redskin Football player), Ricky Wilson (B-52 band), Ryan White, Rudolf Nureyev, just to name a few…

According to POZ magazine, the  AIDS Memorial Quilt will be displayed in its entirety for the first time since 1996 in multiple key locations on and around Capitol Hill and throughout metropolitan Washington, DC. from July 21-24.

Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt is a 1989 documentary film that tells the story of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Narrated by Dustin Hoffman with a musical score written and performed by Bobby McFerrin, the film focuses on several people who are represented by panels in the Quilt, combining personal reminiscences with archive footage of the subjects, along with footage of various politicians, health professionals and other people with AIDS.  One of those focused in the film was an ex of mine Tracy Torrey. Part of me want to go to DC to see the quilt, but after all this time and all those deaths and all those funerals, not sure I could handle it.  One of those focused in the film was an ex of mine Tracy Torrey. Part of me want to go to DC to see the quilt, but after all this time and all those deaths and all those funerals, not sure I could handle it.

This week, The Canadian Supreme Court heard an appeal involving a people living with the human immunodeficiency virus, who recently were acquitted by provincial appeal courts of aggravated assault and sexual assault charges for not disclosing their HIV status. The convictions hinged on their failure to inform his sexual partners that they have HIV.

In the first case, Mabior was convicted in 2008 of aggravated assault for having sex with six women without disclosing his status, but two years later he was acquitted on appeal. The Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled if an HIV-positive person wears a condom or has a low viral load and, therefore, a low risk of transmitting the virus, having sex does not pose a risk of serious bodily harm.

In the second case, a Quebec woman did not disclose her HIV-positive status to her former spouse. In neither case did the “victim” contract AIDS. In 1997, Florida legislators made it a felony for an HIV-infected person to have “sexual intercourse” without informing the partner of their infected status, adding the virus to a list of established STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.

But Florida statutes specifically define sexual intercourse only as vaginal sex between a man and a woman meaning — “the penetration of the female sex organ by the male sex organ.” Therefor gays and lesbians cannot be charged. The question before the courts and legislatures needs to be decided on legal and not moral grounds.

For the vast majority of people living with HIV, preventing others from becoming infected with the virus is a primary concern. HIV positive individuals are aware of just how difficult it is to live with the illness.

Not all HIV positive people take the precautions that they perhaps should. Some people, angry at their plight or just plain crazy, “deliberately or recklessly transmit the virus” to others. Some of the individuals concerned have even been criminally charged for their actions. To some it might seem obvious to prosecute someone for recklessly or intentionally infecting another with an ultimately fatal virus.  I personally oppose this position for several reasons.

As I have stated earlier, I have been infected with the HIV virus since December 1980.  I personal feel it is my duty to tell people up front about it before there is any intimate contact that could cause exposure. I do not however think that it relives the other person from being responsible for his or her own protection. Unless a person has been home schooled or worse, they should know that every person is a possible carrier of HIV, Herpes or other STD’s. Each person is responsible for his or her own protection. By criminalizing the status of the person with HIV for not telling and not criminalizing the “negative” person for not inquiring, is wrong. It is the same as making the actions of a drug dealer criminal but not the actions of the person buying drugs.

It also becomes a dis-incentive to getting testing and treatment. More important it is impossible to defend against.

Let’s start by using the case of the woman accused of not telling her ex-husband. What was to stop him for saying he was not told simply as a way of getting back at her for cheating or other perceived malfeasance during the marriage. It becomes a he said she said. If it is a case of a trick in the bar, or an ex boyfriend, this becomes a matter of ones word against another. We all know hell has no fury like a scorned queen!

Second if the “victim’ is exposed, it needs to be proven that the accused was definitely the source of the accuser’s HIV. This would involve a range of evidence including sexual history, testing history and scientific evidence in the form of phylogenetics. This compares the DNA of the virus. If they are completely different then it means that the accusers almost certainly did not acquire HIV from the accused. If the strains are very similar, however, it is possible, though not conclusive, that the accused infected the accusers. Phylogenetics cannot reliably estimate the direction of transmission and therefore it is possible that the accusers infected the accused. Furthermore, the same third party, or different third parties who shared similar strains of HIV could have infected both.

Then there is the issue of informed consent. Can you really have informed consent after 4,6,8 drinks on a Saturday night? Being under the influence is a legal justification for getting out of contracts.  Do people need to start carrying informed consent contracts to the bars at night in case they get laid? The most bizarre aspect of the entire thing is that if an HIV person is raped and does not inform the rapist that they are positive, the rape victim is then guilty of a felony. This is a very real scenario in our prison system.

These laws don’t necessarily provide the public with any additional protection, and it may in fact provide the public with a false sense of security because people may have unprotected sex, presuming their partner must be HIV negative because a criminal offense has been created. Do not confuse moral with legal when it comes to obligations. We should not criminalize status.

An unwanted Visitor

Posted: February 10, 2012 in Advice, AIDS, book, Depression, My History
Tags: , ,

I realize that there has been a lack of blogging. Been trying to get my head in a better position. This past week, for the first time in almost seven years, lab work show that the virus as active again.

Of course I realize that one test does not show a trend. What is as frustrating is that my other labs were not good too. All my diet and exercise and now the cholesterol numbers are not as good as they normally are.

These seem like little things but to me it was (and is) a slap in the face. I live life like everything is ok. Like I am I normal. But every so often I get a stark reminder of reality. Yes the drugs have gotten batter and the life expectancy of people infected with HIV and quality of life get better all the time. That does not mean that the virus has stopped trying to kill me. The meds help manage; they do not dispose of the death sentence.

For those who bareback, breed or seed thinking that the meds will save you, they don’t. They only prolong the inevitable. The meds will not protect you. As much of a front as people have about life and death, reality can come along and put a big dent in it.

 

Just saying.

Wayland Flowers

Posted: February 1, 2012 in book, My History
Tags: , , ,

Wayland Flowers was best known for the puppet act he created with his puppet Madame. His performances as “Wayland Flowers and Madame” were a major national success on stage and on screen in the 1970s and 1980s. Wayland was a ‘blue comic’ and Madame’s opening line – “Wayland is no ventriloquist and I’m no f—ing dummy” – set the tone for the raucous humor to follow. I thought of him the other day when someone sent me a you YouTube of their performance. I met him on the side of US 81 rear Roanoke Virginia in the early 1980’s. He and his friend (I recall he did porn) were next to a van that had broken down on the side of the interstate. I stopped because of the pretty boy in the daisy dukes and then sort of recognized Wayland. After I stopped I saw the famous madam! I ended up giving them a ride (all three) to the bar in Roanoke so they would be there for their performance. To thank me they got me drunk and I ended up crashing with them for the night. The next day I took them back to the van where they were meeting a tow driver. It was a fun night from what I remember. Madame made many jokes at my expense. As I recall, she was a screamer in bed! (And she was not even in the bed with us.) When he died in 1988, the New York Times obituary did not use the word “gay” or “AIDS”. on cancer.
A couple of years later I met Margo. Margo was the manager of Trio’s restaurant near DuPont Circle in Washington DC. It was a regular haunt of the gay community for years in the 70s- today even. Cheep food served with a foul attitude. When I was there it was as if people actually came to see how abusive they could get the waiter to act. Margo herself was an institution. She was the inspiration for Madame. Wayland I was told, had gone to school in DC and frequented Trio. Her hair, always in a bun sat elegantly on her head like a crown. She had that very square jaw with the beauty make. She was also a chain smoker with cigarette holder always in use.
Publicly she hated people recognizing her but it always made her smile. Don’t know why I thought of her. She was a tower of a woman. I wish I had stayed in touch. So often people come into a life for short periods and we let them go. Always assuming that we would meet them again. Sometimes you just got to make the effort to keep it alive. In a computer age I have taken to sending a handwritten note to people out of the blue just to say hi.

This past week I posted what I thought would be a cute innocuous blurb about Christmas. It simply said that “December 25: That awkward day when God is reminded that He slept with His own mother to conceive Himself!”

I thought it was cute but by reading some of the responses, you would think that I attacked the Holy Mother Church during the height of the Inquisition. People were responding about the bible saying this and that and others were urging me to stop my attacks on Christians especially at this time of year. I finally responded back by saying that these people had no room to speak of attacks. I feel that it needs a bit more explanation of my spiritual journey.

I was raised Catholic. Elementary school, middle school, graduate school and law school. During my time at the University of Maryland, I got sucked into Campus Crusade for Christ and the now infamous “Family” of “C-Street” fame who tried to “Pray the Gay Away”. From early on I questioned Dogma and theology. I asked the nuns in school how god could die on a cross and if he was really dead who raised him, or the salvation of the Indians in America while Jesus was alive in the Middle East, and other scenarios. After years and years of dogma dumped into my head, and developing a self loathing trying to resolve the “gay-issue” I looked to the evangelical movement. During this time I was never able to stop acting on my gayness. I only knew that one had to win over the other.

While I was living in the “Cornerstone House”, a home managed by “The Family” of  Jim Hiskey, Chuck Colson and The Coe’s (Father and sons), I was involved with Campus Crusade for Crist. After talking to the director, Dan Mosley, his wife told me point blank that she was; ”going to pray that the lord take me before I had a chance to sin again.” Yes she was going to pray for my death. This caused me even more confusion and anxiety since I was having sex with several of the other men at the house involved at Cornerstone and with “The Family”. I knew that something was very wrong with this situation. The Christians I met were either hateful or hypocrites. Often both. After trying several different types of counseling and often having sex with these counselors I made a clean break.

Once outside this environment I realize more and more how it was like a cult. So many people try to rationalize how to square biblical interpretations and religious doctrine with the reality of their life. I went a different rout. I question the bases of the foundation or their arguments. I looked at the validity of the “New Testament” as the word of god. I saw that the story of god coming to earth, having a son with a mortal woman who was to save the world, has played out time and again. It is the story of Zeus and Hercules. It is the story of Isis and Ra. It could also be the story of Odin and Thor. It is a story that repeats through history. The names change but the themes remain the same. It is in a writing that is done decades or even centuries after events in a time with no hard records. In short, it is a belief system base ancient myths that are reworded and refitted for a different time and period. These are nothing more than stories parents used to frighten their children and that the rich embrace to enslave the poor and keep them under control. Even the bible itself says men are but sheep being lead to the slaughter.

One of my favorite lines recently is that if the US got rid of all atheists, it would lose 93% of the National Academy of Sciences but less than 1% of the prison population. I could live with that. I would like to live someplace sane! As we get more into the Christmas season the evangelicals complain about this fictions war on Christmas is destroying the holiday. That somehow stopping government from sapling nativity sets on public land is a slap at Christmas. Or using Happy Holidays is destroying the institution. I would simply say that before they worry about keeping Christ in Xmas, they should try putting him in their religion first.  Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

That was never more evident that during the beginning of the AIDS crisis. Instead of helping the sick and dying, the Christians were advocating a roundup and death camps for people with AIDS. Instead of caring for the sick, the Catholic Church in Washington DC ordered an AIDS support group in their parish to cease and desist using the church basement for meeting. Jerry Farwell declared AIDS “God’s wrath on homosexuals. Christians used AIDS to justify hatred and fear of gays instead of caring for the sick and dying. Indeed and thought and action, the Christians were very un-christ like. It was not until the early 1990’s, some 45,000 deaths later, that the mainstream churches began actually helping instead of demonizing. That is unforgivable.

I have no need for a life based on mythos and I have no room in my heart for forgiveness. That is my position on Christians.

This past week I have been skiing for the first time ever.  Another item off the bucket list! One of the more interesting events of the week had nothing to do with skiing but was a friend request on Facebook. The request came from a law school classmate who I have not spoken with in over twenty years. I have not written much about law school except for my reasons for applying. One reason for why I ignored those three years is that they were hellish.

Creighton Law School - 1987-1990

They were not hellish in the “always studying, never playing, never socializing way”. I could live with that. They were hellish in the “having a horrible relationship while doing experimental drug protocols and living in a backwater hell hole called Omaha while going to a conservative Jesuit law School and trying to keep it all hidden from public view while living with a selfish stoner of a boyfriend” kind of way.

What made the friend request interesting was that it was from a classmate whom I had little interaction with, but carried a schoolboy crush for. Attached to the Facebook request he indicated that although he married out of school he and his wife had split and he had “come out”. He explained what triggered his search for me was reading a book that mentioned the Bowers v Hardwick decision (A case involving criminalization of homosexual activity). He remembered an incident in Constitutional law class when Professor Shugrue, after deriding the legitimacy of gay relationships, asked for my reaction.

To understand Professor Shugrue think Hobbit meets The Paper Chase. He thought of himself as a modern day Charles Kingsfield but looked like a hobbit with a skin condition. The first day of classes we were to be ready to discuss the classic case of Marbury v. Madison. True to the Socratic method of teaching, Shugrue called on me to analyze the case. I cannot remember what I said exactly but I’m sure it was insightful and elegant. I did however say Marshall instead of Justice Marshall. Shugrue jumped all over that omission saying, “Although you may be on a first name basis with the Justices, in the class we will refer to them as Justice Marshall or Chief Justice Marshall. I found out that Shugrue was on the admission committee and was privy to my application and personal reference letters. Justice Thurgood Marshall, Justice Byron White and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) wrote the personal reference letters. I had worked for all three in one capacity or another. Apparently I intimidated the good professor and he was going to try to put me in my place. We spent the next hour in a spirited discussion and in the end I had established myself as one who could not be intimidated and come hell or high water I was going to piss high than him!

Moving forward a couple months the discussion was about the Bowers/Hardwick decision concerning sodomy. Shugrue took the position that sodomy was not natural and should not be given protection and other conservative-babble not related to the law. I realize that this probably not his true position on the matter since he did not include any legal arguments in his discussion, but at 8 AM on a Monday morning, after a weekend of partying and fighting with Steven, I was in no mood. I raised my hand and went into a full throttle defense of gays, gay life styles, bath houses, leather and SM and relationships finally closing by saying that my other half and I had been together 6 years at that point (five and a half to many) but that we were more long term than most of my fraternity brothers from undergrad. Many of who were already on their second marriage. I kicked open the closet door and came flying out like the Tasmanian Devil. There appeared to be a stunned silence in the lecture hall. I think many expected me to go storming out of the room but I stood defiant, arrogant and emotionally drained.  After a bit the discussion continued. Shugrue moved on to another student and I sat. I soon saw the fallout. Many of my classmates who played racquetball with me or studied with me now avoided me. Small-minded America had reared it ugly face. I did however find a circle of friends. They included the few progressives in the school, and surprisingly, a couple of Mormon students who were incredibly nonjudgmental.

The isolation was actually a godsend in that I did not feel the need to integrate myself into the typical student social scene. Although the gay scene in Omaha was abysmal, I made due with it and the bookstores across the river in Council Bluffs IA. I also had the Iowa caucuses to keep me busy. I helped organize for Senator Paul Simon of IL, the bow tie guy, and did advance for him in Iowa.  A picture from one of my events was featured in Time Magazine. I had a great eye for photo ops. It was my second political campaign in Iowa. The first one being the Harkin Senate race in 1984.  Although I was out of the closet as a gay student, I still hid my medical secret close to my vest. If anyone at the school found out that I had AIDS I probably would have been separated from the rest of the students. I continued my bi-weekly visits to NIH for lab work and follow-up while testing new drugs. I was emotionally and physically a wreck. I stayed in a relationship with Steven because I thought it better to die in a miserable relationship than to die alone. It did not dawn on me that the relationship was doing more to kill me. We finally parted ways a couple months after graduation.

I’m sure there were some good times in law school. But right now I can’t really think of any. Well except my first jailhouse sex. But that’s a story for another day.

One of the biggest quarks I have is “free association.” My mind with connect all sort of dots before I come to a complete thought. That is the foundation of this post.

This past week a friend posted a music video on Facebook that took me on a trip down memory lane. As I get older I now realize the allure of music stations that focus on a certain period. As I listen to the Communards version of “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (extended mix), I could close my eyes and clear as day see the dance floor at Badlands in DC or the Saint in New York. I could smell the poppers and I could see the fear in the eyes of the living. Many of us were dancing and focusing on the lights and sounds. Focusing on every thing and anything in order to escape thoughts of the plague. We tried to remember faces that had disappeared in the past months. We memorized the faces of friends still with us. So many songs came out that registered the desperation of that period. “Who Want to Live Forever?”, “Forever Young” and in my case, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. Enter Barry.

Barry and I had met during this period. I think when I bar-tended, but even that was a blur. We dated for a brief time but decided that we made better f*ck buddies and BFF’s. I have searched for a picture of Barry but the only one I could find was a picture of his AIDS quilt panel. I lost a lot of pictures when I tried to purge my memories of that time. It didn’t work.

This was the second location of the EXILE.

Now abandoned, this was the second location for the Exile. An old poultry processing warehouse.

We would meet late at the Exile in DC to dance and play. The Exile was an rehabbed chicken processing plant in NE DC. The back room was one of old refrigerator rooms. We’d dance for a while, grab a drink then head back to the dark room. If there was nothing going on we would start something with each other. If there was already action we would go different directions, every so often meeting up to compare notes. I am certain we had dated in a past life. Or at least been siblings. God we loved Jimmy Summerville. We would dance and sing to every mix until the gay plague finally came to claim Barry.

I am not sure who was more distraught over his diagnosis, me or Barry. During that time we all believed that we were living on borrowed time. A diagnoses meant the waiting game was over. Barry was in many respects the stronger of us emotionally. I became a defacto “AIDS buddy”. It was one of the hardest points of my life. I was loosing a best friend and at the same time I thought I was witnessing my own future.

I would visit Barry as often as I could. Sometime to play cards, sometimes to listen to music (he had a top of the line sound system) and sometimes to just sit in absolute quiet and hold hands. He was deteriorating quickly. He eventually moved back home to Chapel HIll NC to spend his final weeks with his parents. When that happened almost all of his friends were cut off by his family. I remember laying in obed with him shortly before he left. He wanted to be held and at the same time his body, his skin hurt to the touch. I tried to be as close as possible with out hurting him. It is amazing what memories a song can evoke. Now what does this have to do with Barney Frank?

During this time I actually, formally, met Barney Frank. Barney lived in the apartment directly adjacent to Barry. At first I just nodded to him as we passed. After a few regular visits We would chat about Barry’s condition and soon Barney was involved in the care of Barry to the point of taking out his garbage when time allowed. I had “interacted” with Barney on several occasions but this was the first time we operated as equals. We were both loosing a friend. We remained friends for some time.

When I was in law school in Omaha Barney invited me to Chicago for a weekend as his date to a huge HRC fundraiser (No the trip was not financed by the tax payer). After I got back to DC after law school, I found out that I was not the only law student Barney had “encouraged”. I guess along with some of his kink fetishes, the primary fetish was cerebral. He really enjoyed being challenged intellectually. This is not the venue for the sordid details of a tell all queen. But then I was never a tell all queen. Only tell enough to keep them interested and guessing. That brings me back to Jimmy Summerville. His song “Small-town Boy” always touched me. The need to keep things hidden and realizing that the love and life I sought could not be had in a small town or with “small town” people. And now that circle is complete.

PS This is the first of my posting where I actually had to stop to cry. Very embarrassing on an airplane.

World AIDS day is upon us. That magical time of year when we celebrate…. What?

For as long as I have been active in the AIDS community, 30 years in one capacity or another, I never understood what exactly World AIDS Day is about. I went to Wikipedia for the answer.

According to Wikipedia World AIDS Day, observed December 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. It is common to hold memorials to honor persons who have died from HIV/AIDS on this day. Government and health officials also observe the event, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics. Since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Governments of other nations have followed suit and issued similar announcements.

OK – nice start. But what has it become. The first thing to greet me, as a visitor to the official World AIDS Day site, was an ad to purchase a “limited edition sparkly red ribbon.” Wow! What a great way to show solidarity with the dead and dying. Be all sparkly and happy. “See I support you!” I really don’t need that kind of support. I could order a box of red ribbons for 30£. And that helps me how? In my mail over the past month, I have more than a hand full of invitations to fundraisers. I am surprised Hallmark does not have a line of cards out. The smallest box on the front page of their web site is dedicated to “getting involved.”

I think it is clear that we have gotten off topic. World AIDS day was created to honor the dead and prod governments into action. It is still a pandemic and the there is much to be taught to friends and co-workers and most important, to government officials who control the purse strings. At least once a week I get a question about how I can be Positive and my partner is still negative after almost 19 years. My partner gets asked regularly, “how could he have sex with someone who is positive?” The lack of knowledge within the GLBT community is breathtaking. Maybe because we are in the south where schools are forbidden from having frank discussions about sex, but we as a society are setting ourselves up for an epic fail in protecting the next generation.

Every few years the virus has been shown to mutate. The virus is getting stronger and more and more resistant to medications. People are going to start dying again. Having gone through Kaposi Sarcoma myself and having had patients with Pneumocystis pneumonia die in my arms, I can tell you that it not pretty. It is not dignified. It is not painless. There was never a time in my life that I was negative. From the first month the test was available I flunked. There is no reason another person in Florida should get infected if we were doing our job, our obligation, to learn and teach about AIDS.

This year nationally is becoming a year of political action driven by the Occupy Wall Street movement. We need to recommit ourselves as a community to political action. One of the causalities of the past decade of budget cuts to support the wealthy and corporations is that many AIDS and public health groups have been force to close or cut back on services. So yes, we need to dig deep and give. Not just money. We need to give of our time and talents. We also need to focus on direct political action. We need to develop a new generation of leaders who understand what we have been through and have a desire to stop it from being repeated. We need to lobby for more money or at the very least not to loose any more. Most importantly we need to stop acting so corporate in our response. We need to start acting locally and maybe take a lesson from ACT-UP about direct political action. Locally we have some very good people on the school board and a few on the county commission. We need to support them and talk to the others. We need to recommit ourselves to the original goals of the World AIDS Day founders. At the same time we should not forget that some times direct political action is necessary. The world’s spotlight will be on Tampa next summer when the Republican circus comes to town. We need to let them know that it is not ok to lie to the children about AIDS and gays. Neither is “curable” and only one needs to be treated.