My dear friend, David, came home to Tennessee after a two year stay in San Francisco. He sat in my living room and colored in a coloring book with my daughter who was then six years old. “There’s a disease that’s killing gay men and they don’t know how to stop the deaths.” David stopped coloring and looked for my reaction. I remember the chill I felt at that moment. He had been through some tough times in San Francisco. He had learned so much about the world and about himself. He suffered through a series of rough relationships while living in the Castro District. I was glad to have him home, in a small West Tennessee town where I believed my friend would be safer. It was 1982. All of us had so much to learn about this disease that killed far too many of our friends and family members. Almost a decade went by before I heard about effective medications. There’s never been a cure.
David lives in Dallas now where he designs web-sites. He takes his meds and lives with the side effects, adjusting to the challenges that inevitably tag along with any chronic illness. He is one of the lucky ones; he survived the first wave.
We know so much more now than we knew then. We know where the virus can live: blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. We know ways to prevent getting infected: latex condoms and universal precautions. We know how to create meds that lower the viral load and provide a better chance for our human immune system to function well. We know HIV is everyone’s disease and not only for gay men. We know people we have lost to the virus and we know people who live well with the virus. We know we want a cure. We can choose to learn more, to support those who live with the virus and protect future generations from a disease that nobody needs to catch.