AIDS: The Gap in Our Movement

1 Dec

Most civil rights struggles are on a fairly uphill slope when you look at their timeline. There are of course some hills and valleys, but overall, they aim north. If you look at the LGBT struggle for civil rights, you’ll notice a hard stop to the upward motion of the movement that lasted 10-15 years. From the early 80’s to well-into the 90’s, we stopped fighting for our rights and began fighting for our lives. During that time, we lost an entire generation of LGBT people.

Last night, at a benefit for the brilliant Ali Forney Center for Homeless LGBT Youth, the heroic David Mixner spoke about our history and how we’ve come to where we are. He spoke about these kids and

David Mixner (photo by Jamie McGonnigal,

this community and our rich history of standing up for one another as a community. During the AIDS crisis, waiters wouldn’t serve us food, dry cleaners wouldn’t do our laundry, nurses wouldn’t walk in the same room and parents dismissed their children as dead at the first sign of HIV. So we created a community. We built neighborhoods where WE would serve the food, we would do the laundry, we would change the tubes and needles in our friends and lovers hospital beds and we would hold the children whose parents had abandoned them. We were a community.

Today, on the eve of World AIDS Day, thousands of us are still dying. Young people in our community are knowingly-risking their lives as if contracting HIV is a rite of passage. There is still a major problem of people with HIV/AIDS being treated like lepers within and outside the LGBT community. We see our friends and loved ones living for decades now with HIV, taking medications daily to maintain the virus. And while yes, some people can live a very long time with proper treatment, the fact is that as many as 77% of those infected don’t know they are carrying the virus and passing it along to their unknowing partners. What we also don’t see are the side effects from the required medications – while some treatments have very few side effects, others are known to cause everything from 24/7 nausea, vomiting and diarrhea to cancer. HIV+ people are more than 7-times more likely to die from AIDS-related cancer than those not taking the sometimes-brutal regimen of medications. Where is our community now? Do we need to begin dying by the thousands for us to realize that our community is our strength?

The statistics are more and more staggering every year, specifically among gay men ages 18-24. Those statistics won’t change if we don’t talk about it.

7000 new infections each day. 33.4 million living with HIV/AIDS. 25 million have died.

Get educated. Get Tested. Talk About HIV/AIDS.


2 Responses to “AIDS: The Gap in Our Movement”

  1. Michael McKeon December 1, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    What an amazing note. I’m old enough to remember.

    Thank you, great message.


  1. December 1st: A Day for Fighting. « Talk About Equality - December 1, 2010

    […] is the 29th Anniversary of the AIDS virus being officially recognized. Since then, as we posted earlier, more than 25 million have died. Throughout the years, World AIDS Day has been recognized in many […]

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