Friday, December 02, 2005

A Day Late

yesterday was world AIDS day, as is every december 1st. there has been so much going on at this end, that i completely forgot when getting dressed to wear red to commerorate the day. i ended up wearing an orange shirt which if i really want to stretch it i could argue is in the red family. it's also a little odd that i wasn't in red yesterday anyway since it is my favorite color and makes up much of my wardrobe. but, i digress.

fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look and interpret it, i know many people who were affected by this epidemic. it is unfortunate that many of these lives ended way too short, but it is fortunate that i did know these people. not only were many of them examples of strength and courage, but they made me aware of what was out there and added to my education of this topic. it makes me stop and wonder just how far we have come, as a society, in viewing the AIDS epidemic 20+ years after it first made its way into mainstream america.

i can remember as a younger not4nothin many of my father's friends suddenly disappearing from the picture. what happened? where have they gone? it was one afternoon when my dad sat me down and explained who was sick and who had already died from this virtually unknown disease. and i will admit, that as a young, uneducated (on this topic) not4nothin i wondered if my contact with these people would eventually end in my contraction of the disease. my dad ensured me that it would not and i believed him. besides, these were people who watched me grow up, would always hand me their loose change and loved me. so, why would my opinions of these people change? they are still people who need help.

from that day forward, i did all i could to help in the fight against this epidemic. i was probably one of the youngest in attendance at every nyc AIDS walk or danceathon. and even though i wasn't having sex at the time, i would still grab the free condoms and stuff them in my pocket while giving my dad that 'hey, you never know' look.

in my high school, come senior year, we were required to put in a certain amount of community hours in order to graduate. while many of my classmates waited until the last minute and ended up cleaning out the basements of old ladies, i began fulfilling my hours the summer before in the AIDS ward in the hospital where my mom works. of course my community service spurred some whispers in the hallway since i was attending an all boys catholic high school. and i am talking about whispers at school, not at the hospital. it was automatically assumed that i, myself, was gay and would eventually contract the disease since i was working so closely with those who had it. in all honesty, these were whispers and rumblings i had already heard before. i chalked it up to a few things....#1. ignorance and stupidity. #2. lack of education. #3. people, especially younger people, form opinions based on what they hear at home. so a combination of #s 1 & 2. turns out, come graduation, guess who received a special award honoring his community service?!?! that's right...not4nothin. so, fcuk you all you closed-minded 18-year-old pricks and your parents.

once i was off to college, i came out as a gay man and was received with open arms from friends and family. but, my work didn't stop there. i continued the fundraising and embarked on one of the most monumental things i have ever done in my life my senior year. i decided to partake in the boston to ny AIDS ride. an fundraising event in which i would spend 3 days on a bike riding from boston and ending up in ny. this was some serious fundraising. back in 1999, the minimum amount needed to participate was $1500. i doubled that number with the help of friends and family. and i am proud to say that i did not walk a single inch of that ride. uphill, downhill, straight-aways all completed with my a$$ on that bike seat.

so, here we are in 2005 and AIDS is still here. many, particularly the youth of today, have seen that having this disease is no longer a death sentence. and therefore, think having unprotected sex is ok. many people realize that this is no longer a gay disease. and unfortunately, many do not and still think that as long as they continue going to church every sunday and living the pefect christian life they are excluded from contracting it. thanks to science, technology and drugs, many people have the disease and continue to live normal lives for a much more extended period of time than those who first contracted the disease 20 years ago.

so, here is not4nothin's 'julia sugarbaker' take on the AIDS epidemic...

i have news for all you right-winged-bible-thumping-red-state-a$$holes...AIDS is still here and it is not just a gay disease. the highest number of new AIDS cases is taking place among straight, african american woman. i mean i could be wrong, but they aren't gay. unless you believe that gay men are taking these woman hostage and forcing intercourse with the intentions of infecting them. the second higest rate sof new cases is in the 18-24 year-old population of this country. i am sorry, but with all of the education we have on this disease in 2005 and for all of the people who lost their lives when there was no education, this should not be happening. you may be young and think you are invisible, but there should not still be this much ignorance. learn from those who suffered before you. i have been with the same person for over 7 months and we still use protection. for all those who have a negative opinion on this disease and the people who are living with it, i can tell you that it takes on a new meaning when it hits home and someone you know personally is struggling to stay alive.

on a closing note, please be safe. there is nothing wrong with sleeping around, just play safe. if you are positive, speak up and tell your partners. and of you are negative, do your best to stay that way. it is your responsability in asking your partner what their status is just as much as it is theirs in telling you.

thank you to all those i have known and who have taught me volumes on courage & strength. you will forever be in my thoughts.


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