Friday, December 3, 2010


Yeah, a few days late for World AIDS Day, but oh well.

The current scene regarding AIDS and HIV is one of apathy and complacency. One of my friends (in the army, no less) frightens me...young, attractive, sweet guy, who's negative, but who nonetheless is regularly putting himself in the crosshairs, sexually speaking. Like so many guys like him, he has the feeling he's invincible. (Didn't we all when we were young?)

I hear stories about "bug chasers," guys with an apparent death wish, who actually WANT to contract HIV, so they just get the supposed-inevitable done and over with. I simply cannot imagine.

On the upside, the drugs being used nowadays are indisputable lifesavers. I know a few guys who contracted HIV in the 1980s, and somehow lived through it. They're still alive and in relatively good health today. It's now more common for PWAs to actually die of something else other than AIDS. Unfortunately, death from side effects of the drugs (usually liver failure) is one of the more common scenarios nowadays.

Apathy and complacency is frightening against a disease of this sort. Which is why I find it really important, on a regular basis, to take out either the movie or (preferably) the book version of And the Band Played On. It's a compelling documentary about how AIDS was spread, the research that was hamstrung by homophobia everywhere from the federal and local government to the gay men who fell victim to it, and the pissing contest between the Americans and the French who only wanted to claim the title of the first country to discover HIV.

Another great, essential movie is Longtime Companion, which was the euphemistic title given to those surviving partners of AIDS victims. The New York Times couldn't say "his boyfriend" or "his partner" in the obituaries, again, due to internal and external homophobia. This one is more of a story of how HIV ended up slaughtering a community of friends in New York and Fire Island, and the emotional fallout from it. A certain tearjerker, with the memorable line, "What do you think happens when we die?" "We get to have sex again."

Those happy, hedonistic days of the 1970s ended up being the dreadful conduit through which HIV could flourish. A virus that could be spread so easily, enable a victim to live symptom-free for up to 6 years, then begin wreaking havoc on the immune system is just frightening. It's a perfect recipe for an epidemic, especially knowing how wild gay men lived back in the day. How many potential partners could you sleep with in six years? Some guys couldn't count the number of partners they had in just one year...upwards of 300 in some cases? The mind boggles.

If I had my druthers, I'd sit my friend down and have him watch both movies back-to-back, just so he can see what the generation before him had to endure. Living with AIDS is a lot easier now than it was 30 years ago...hell, living with AIDS is actually possible. But it doesn't diminish the import of trying to fight it and (hopefully) coming up with a cure of some sort.

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