Thursday, December 1, 2005

World AIDS Day

Today we mark the 18th World AIDS day.  HIV/AIDS is a global pandemic that has killed more than 25 million people, and infected 40 million people, mostly in developing nations. Bare facts, to be read, to pause momentarily over, feeling sad for a few moments before we move on to what ever's next.

But HIV/AIDS has changed the world in terrible ways, but(oddly enough) in good ways too. We have learned so much about viruses, we can talk more openly about protection from STD's, we have a whole new arsenal of medications, and .because our government took so long to respond, the Gay Men's Crisis formed, began protesting and demanding, which eventually pulled the GLBT movement out of the closet and onto the streets. This has affected how I live my life.

There is still, however, so much ignorance and fear and prejudice around HIV/AIDS that the distance we have come is not nearly enough. A neighbor said to me yesterday, "But things are better now, they've got these good drugs it's not as big a deal any more." I hear that more and more lately, and it infuriates me. I try hard to take a deep breath lest I launch into an angry monologue.

You see, I used to be an HIV Counselor and Educator first for a Woman's Health Clinic, then for the Department of Corrections, and while that life may be over, the passion burns as brightly as ever.

I want to point out the miracle of the multiple medications is wonderful, but they are not a cure. They are complex, cause  horrendous side effects, and must be taken on an inflexible schedule or the virus will mutate and re-attack harder. I want to say, how would you like to be chronically ill, exhausted, usually poor, and have to take public transportation to dozens of Dr's appointments and clinics, struggle to take 6 or 12 or 20 pills a day each at the correct time, and still have time for a life.

I want to say, most in the developing world who are positive have no meds available at all. They just sicken and die, slowly, worn out, like the generation of gay men we watched die in the 80's, often alone and untended. And most those in developing countries do not have access to condoms, or even honest information, and some of this is because of the policies of our United States Government. Often pregnant women have no access to even the small amount of medication which could raise the odds of having an HIV- baby.

I want to say, we are all in denial-even myself, because I had a blood transfusion last year and "haven't gotten around" to testing, because I know how safe our blood supply is. (It is safe, but not 100%) I want to go out and scream "Stupid" at the younger gay generation who are doing meth and bug chasing, because "so many are positive, I might as well be too" They, too, will lose their generation, only slower, and so much more expensively. And berate the heterosexuals and lesbians who think they are low risk or immune, especially those who are not in a truly monogamous relationship.

I weep for the number of women, especially black and Hispanic women, who are contracting HIV faster than any other segment-often because their boyfriend does drugs, or their lives are so difficult drugs seem like a way out of pain. And  I am enraged at our government which treats drug addicts as criminals, and would rather spend our taxes on an unwinnable war, or "just say no" and "abstinence only" campaigns, than on programs that really educate. Or or studies of better ways to treat drug addiction.

I could go on. I think about the HIV+ women I know in prison and miss them -and my work-so deeply. I miss some who have died, and worry about friends who are positive.

I gave pieces of this information to my neighbor, only calmly, factually, leaving the government's role in the spread of AIDS out entirely, so she could hear me, and she thanked me, said I must have been a good teacher because she learned a lot.  I thanked her back, and walked home knowing that I still am a good teacher.

And perhaps that's the piece I can do for World AIDS Day all year long, recognize my anger and frustration at the existence of the disease, and the apathy of not only ours, but many governments, and keep on dropping  pieces of education whenever possible in my daily life. Until I can find my way back to serving the community in some way or other.

Blessings, Margo

11 comments:

ksquester said...

My Dear, YOU are a marvelous teacher.  My nephew is one of the US's best family physicians and was voted "Top Doc" in Texas. He has devoted his life and his practice to HIV positive patients. He and his partner were at the DOME in Houston to get the gay men who had HIV....and he took them into his home. SPREAD the word Margo!  You have a lot of offer the world.   ANNE

luvmort said...

You are a wonderful person. Thank you for this.

christapaz said...

You are a wonderful teacher, and I have learned much from you. Your rant was just a different face of this multi-faceted issue. Thank you for sharing your caring heart. love, christa

cyndygee said...

Thank you for this entry today . . .  I wrote you a silly email because I had somehow lost your address . . .  and so it's on its way . . . .  just full of goofiness.  But you know I haven't been well.  That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Margo, you are absolutely right.  We've still got a lot of changing to do.  When I worked for a hospice back in the 90's, we did a seminar for the ecumenical community out in our west valley, which is MOSTLY an older population.  We talked about hospice being a medicare benefit and we brought one patient to visit with the clergy.  I was allowed to choose who that would be.  I chose a woman with AIDS . . .  I told a little about her life, but when I happened to mention the disease that made her a hospice patient, a low but audible moan went thru the large room.  I had several people tell me that I'd made a big mistake trying to push an AIDS patient down their throat.  They weren't ready for that . . .

I said, "If that's the case, I am so afraid for their congregations, parishes, and temples!"

Thank GOD for people like you who were willing to counsel back in the early days.  People were and still ARE hungry for information . . .  that would be such a service to your community to continue to heighten awareness and understanding every chance you get!
                      Thank you,
                                   Cyndy

makemarc said...

This is pretty good contribution from the media:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10268644/

hestiahomeschool said...

NBC said today that the three million people that died last year means six people a second are dying from AIDS....my God...

shaz19743 said...

So many people are so ignorant on this subject .
Its great to see someone who has educated people carry that work on and continue to do so in this medium.
Thanks x

ryanagi said...

Sadly...I was among the ignorant. I had no idea HIV/AIDS had reached pandemic proportions in Africa until it was spotlighted on ER. I had to learn about this alarming fact of life on a TV show. *sigh* It's just so overwhelming...the masses of people who are ill and the lack of supplies and education to stem the tide.

njlittlebear said...

I wish more people could spread this word.  So scary.  

Thanks Margo.  

NJLB
http://journals.aol.com/njlittlebear/MyBigFatGeekLife

bosoxblue6993w said...

you can serve the community in no better way, Margo ... than to educate young people to the dangers of HIV.     Until AIDS is eradicated ... we cannot call ourselves civilized.

jouell3935 said...

Ya know Margo...all this knowledge you hold and this ability to reach out, you can still use!
I can think of 5 programs places off the top of my head that could use a person with your background!
Even if just to volunteer at this point...YOUR MESSAGE is needed!
Thank you for this entry, sorry I am late getting around....
Keep up the awesome work Margo!

Peace
Jodi