"We're fucking ourselves to death!"
This was the battle cry against an epidemic that was already stigmatized against us. Larry Kramer used it to build a platform that created New York City’s leading AIDS services provider. The playwright also used it to rally the troops against the Reagan and George H. W. Bush Administrations by a direct action movement. Both efforts were effective in getting the word out about AIDS, HIV and all related unresolved issues spreading throughout the gay male population.
Over two decades later, we’re still "fucking ourselves to death."
It seems like every time I turn around; either someone I know, a friend of a friend came out as positive, or, worst yet, a rumor of someone who is HIV positive. As the number of HIV cases in the gay male community rise again, it makes me wonder if anyone has learned from our past. It is amazing that once we thought we were able to have this disease under control, more gay identified males under the age of 30 seem to have forgotten what our direct action tactics and our constant lobbying has done for them.
I have not forgotten! Even during its first years, I knew what AIDS was. I was scared into submission that once I came out, I can get it! Luckily, I escaped that era to the detriment of my own coming out process. As it stands, I’m still negative, but there will always be some tiny concern the next time I take the test.
Have you taken a look around you? Lately, there seems to be more cases popping up among our subcommunities. In the past five years, there has been a steady rate of new cases among young gay males, including younger bears, chubs and leatherfolk. At the same time, we have seen a major decrease in the funding for AIDS programs under Dubya’s regime. The future of AIDS/HIV healthcare and the education of newer generations about the disease are in doubt as this government has chosen to fight an unnecessary war against a hidden enemy abroad than take care of our own people back home.
The recent increase in the number HIV positive diagnoses, along with the decrease in AIDS awareness, can be attributed to our community’s complacency during the Clinton Administration. Because we felt so comfortably proud about being gay, we forgot about the potentiality that the triggers that tripped the disease in the first place is still present in our community.
Yet, some people are lucky. Some can afford to stay healthy through medication, exercise, diet and good life habits. However, there is still a gap in HIV/AIDS care that prevents a lot of HIV-positive people from gaining access to proper treatment. This also includes proven holistic and alternative treatments.
It is plainly obvious what needs to be done. Perhaps, we need to get back to grass-roots organizing so we can get the word out that the AIDS virus is still looming in our community. Yes, it’s a depressing subject, but you all have a choice: life or death. I hope you take the time and choose wisely.
How? Participate at a local AIDS charity function, such as an AIDS Walk. Help spread education to others who will need it. Be an advocate for wide access to AIDS/HIV care and testing. Lastly, get your message out there so the powers to be can hear you loud and clear!
Just remember the old ACT UP button that some of us used to wear: "silence = death."