Here We Are...
...last month of 2016. For those of us who've had a tough year, we can breathe a little easier knowing that it will soon be over. On a personal level, 2016 hasn't been as bad for me as it has for many others that I know. While it has not been the best year ever for me (I'm not sure I know what year that was for even the really good years [like the one where my son was born] had some serious downsides [my son was born but I lost my job earlier in the year at the same time we lost my husband's grandmother].), it has certainly not been the worst. (The prize for worst year ever has to go to 2012 which included two deaths in the family, another job loss, two robberies and Super Storm Sandy.) We've only got 30 more days to ride out 2016 and then it's on to 2017.
It's also World AIDS Day. I mention this only because it didn't seem to get much fanfare this year. (Or at least I didn't really hear about it.) I suppose that is a good thing; HIV is no longer the death sentence it once way, but it is still out there and I'm guessing still a stigma.
I DO know someone who is living with HIV. I actually had to think about it for a minute or two. Probably because I don't think of this person as my "HIV friend", much in the way I don't think of my "gay friend," "person of color friend," my "Muslim friend"...you get the picture. (And if you want to read more on the subject I blogged about this previously: http://bfthsboringblog.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-friends-i-dont-have.html).
The fact is that AIDS isn't that big a deal anymore. Now, please do not get me wrong, HIV IS serious and an estimated 34 MILLION people in the world are living with HIV. But it's not sensationalized on the news any more. People are LIVING with HIV; not DYING of AIDS. There is still no cure, but there is treatment (LIFELONG treatment). And while there is no vaccine, there IS hope (https://www.statnews.com/2016/11/30/hiv-vaccine-south-africa/). People ARE suffering and while there still is a stigma to living with the disease it is in no way like what it once was.
I remember clearly when AIDS first hit the scene. It was the disease that was the kiss of death. It turned healthy people into walking corpses with bedsores. You didn't know if it was safe to get close to someone with HIV let alone touch them. It was shocking when it was revealed the Rock Hudson had the disease and KISSED Linda Evans on the show Dynasty. Gossip and rumor ran rampant. Remember how amazed people were when Princess Diana shook the hand of a man who had AIDS? Her comment at the time still resonates today: “HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it”
I was a college student interning at Planned Parenthood, when they hosted an educational conference on AIDS. Obviously my role in the conference was very small; copying materials and such. I remember VIVIDLY being shocked at the amount of women in the local area who were at risk either due to engaging in sex with multiple partners or using injectable drugs. (Which is why to this day I am a firm believer of condoms and syringe services programs.) I'm willing to bet today those numbers would be much lower.
So on this first day of the last month of this year that has been harsh for many, take a moment think about World AIDS Day. Be thankful that it is no longer means death, but be aware that it is by no means gone and pray that someday December 1st will just be another day.
(For more information on World AIDS Day: https://www.worldaidsday.org/)