It's December 1, World AIDS Day. I remember when AIDS first showed up (then called GRID) in the public consciouness, as I was working in medical libraries at the time, so the doctors would want information on it, and we'd do a computer search on AIDS and get "finding aids," and grant information--but very little on AIDS itself.
MCC really came to the consciousness of many in the GLBT community in those early years--often an AIDS patient's own clergyperson wouldn't come, for fear of infection, or of seeming to condone their "lifestyle" (ahhh, don't get me started), so the hospital staff would call the local MCC, if there was one. A friend of mine who was in active ministry in the 80's went through a period of months where she officiated at 2-3 funerals a week. When the pace was slower, it was 2-3 a month. For comparison, when I served a small rural church with an aging congregation, I performed 3 funerals in one year.
Even now, when we can see that the majority of infections worldwide are through heterosexual contact, so many in the US want to stigmatize it as a "gay disease" or as something that those who are infected somehow brought on themselves through infidelity. And yet so many of the people infected are women whose (male) partners have had unsafe sex (whether with women or other men). And what about the children? And those (fewer now) who received blood or blood products in the years before we had tests? 17 years ago, when my son was born by cesarean, I had a special bracelet on my wrist, in addition to the hospital ID bracelet and the one matching my son's bracelet. That special bracelet warned staff that I had received blood transfusions (almost twenty years earlier), and they should use precautions when handling my bodily fluids.
And I think of those people who say that AIDS is God's pronouncement of doom on the gay community, and I want to laugh. Because, after all, the lowest rate of infections (and there are some) is among lesbians!
Not all is gloom. We have lost some talented and beautiful people, whole regions have been basically deserted, and the human race is the poorer. But there is hope. New medications have be developed, people are living longer and longer with AIDS, and sero-converting later and later. People living with AIDS (PWA) are dying of other things--heart disease, lung cancer. It sounds odd to see that as a victory, but it used to be that anyone who received a diagnosis of HIV stopped at the lawyer's on the way home and made sure the will was in order. I would love it if all my friends who are HIV+ or living with AIDS outlived me. They are all wonderful men (as it happens, all men), who have supported me in some rough times and celebrated with me in some great times. I cannot imagine the world without them.
Keep the promise--stop AIDS.