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Thirty Years of AIDS & Why I'm Sorry...

Posted Jun 03 2011 5:30pm

Who is Positive?

Thirty years later, we still can¡¯t look at each other and identify ones HIV status. We still can¡¯t say there is a cure, but¡­ we can say¡­ we are living longer!

It was thirty years ago June 5th an issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report began to discuss Pneumocystis pneumonia or what is commonly referredto PPC. I was only two at the time but the stories I have heard from people

like Dab Garner of Dab the AIDS Bear Project (http://www.dabtheaidsbearproject.com/) make me reflect the challenges that presented this community thirty years ago and the progress we¡¯ve made. I think it¡¯s important that we ¨C society reflect on the struggles that people have/had, the people who have died and the battles our advocates have fought to get us to where we are today.

I recall a story that Dab Garner (watch the video interview I did with Dab at http://www.whospositive.org/dab ) told

me about the early days of HIV ¨C how hospitals would not allow anyone in the rooms of folks who were HIV+, those infected and dying would die alone with no family or friends by their side. I can¡¯t imagine how lonely these days were for folks dying of what we now know is AIDS.

We¡¯re still dying, but we are still living too; in fact we are living longer and healthier lives thanks to healthier living and medications. We understand HIV/AIDS better, we have to tools to keep ourselves healthier and live longer lives. But let¡¯s not forget ¨C THERE STILL IS NO CURE FOR HIV/AIDS, people are still being infected at alarming rates and according to the CDC (keep in mind this is what is being reported):

CDC estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the

¡ö United States. One in five (21%) of those people living with HIV is unaware of their infection.

¡ö New infections continue at far too high a level, with an estimated 56,300 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year.

¡ö 18,000+ people with AIDS still die each year in the US, through 2007, more than 576,000 people with AIDS in the US have died since the epidemic began.

My thoughts:

I¡¯m sorry I didn¡¯t hear/listen to your voice when you were screaming for me to protect myself. I¡¯m even more thoughtful today to those who were screaming for me to protect myself who are no longer with us after thirty years. I have a special spot in my heart for all of you who tried to warn me.

Thank you. Thank you to those who fought before me, Thank You to those who continue to fight this fight, Thank you to those who are affected who are supportive to friends and family who are infected. Thank you to our future leaders in this fight. I hear nearly every day of people who want to use their voice to make a difference¡­ well you can! (Watch as later this year Who¡¯s Positive will be launching an HIV+ Speakers Bureau ¨C you¡¯ll have a place to use
your voice!)

Humanity¡­ does HIV and humanity go together? If so why do we have thousands on a waiting list (including myself ¨C yes it¡¯s true as of May 1st) for lifesaving HIV/AIDS medications? (read a journal entry about this at http://www.whospositive.org/journal) Those infected will cost this country much more when we get sick and can¡¯t afford the immediate health services. I urge everyone to reach out to their elected officials asking them to fund the ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program)

Finally (among so many others I could list)¡­ We must have comprehensive sex education including the distribution of condoms in schools. This is a no-brainer. No ¨C seriously it is. I hear quite often that young adults don¡¯t feel comfortable asking parents to get them condoms or don¡¯t have the money to go to the store to get them. Listen, I don¡¯t know one parent who now wishes condoms were not available in their kids¡¯ school after they found out their child was infected. After a conversation between parents and their kids about sex, I think providing condoms and COMPREHENSIVE sex education will help to continue to invest in our youth¡¯s future.

Hey what can I say, I¡¯m just HIV-positive and been working with youth for years. I¡¯m hopeful that Who¡¯s Positive can make a big move this year ¨C if this happens Who¡¯s Positive will be bigger and stronger with a voice much larger than ever. We are seeking the funding to implement our vision. I¡¯ll keep you all informed.

For now, forward this note to everyone infected/affected by HIV (that means everyone you know) I invite you to follow us on Twitter @whospositive and I ask for you to keep us who fight this fight every day along with those who have lost this battle over the last thirty years in your thoughts as we mark this mile stone.

My hope over the next thirty years is that I may remain strong & healthy so that I may continue to help influence others to empower themselves to know their status, to keep themselves negative and to help empower those who are
HIV-positive to use their voice in this fight against HIV/AIDS.

With lots of love,

Tom Donohue
Founding Director, Who¡¯s Positive
http://www.whospositive.org/
http://www.tomdonohue.org

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