Friday, November 30, 2007

World AIDS Day

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day.

I'm young to remember how devastating AIDS was in the early '80s, but I do. My dad came out in 1981. I was five years old. And a lot of his friends and acquaintances lost their lives. When I was in high school my dad's friend Tim hired to me work at a craft store where he was the manager. He was a good guy---funny, creative, definitely an anal boss---but in retrospect I don't blame him for being strict with a sixteen-year-old employee with serious Senioritis. One day he just didn't come to work, and there were whispers that he was too sick. When I told my dad about it he said he knew. Tim had been living with HIV. And it had progressed. I graduated shortly thereafter and left the country to study abroad. My dad called me that fall to tell me that Tim had died. I remember thinking that it was just like the sudden way he didn't come to work anymore. Now all of a sudden he wouldn't ever be around. Tim was in his early thirties.

Recently I was visiting my dad in Palm Springs. I went to church with him and sat next to a young man in a wheelchair, who was accompanied by his partner. The man in the wheelchair was gaunt, his cheeks so sunken in, the circles around his eyes so dark. When it was time to greet your neighbor he turned to me and shook my hand, and I felt like I might break it. I'm old enough now to recognize what a person in the advanced stages of AIDS looks like. They look like they don't have much time. But this young man also met my eye, and I saw the beauty of his appreciation. That he was there, that he was greeting someone new to the community. And my heart both soared and sank in that singular moment.

AIDS has killed more than 25 million people, with an estimated 38.6 million people living with HIV, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history.

We all know how destructive AIDS is, how it's creeping into communities across the globe, killing millions in Africa, infecting women, particularly women of color, in disproportionate numbers. No amount of education is too much education. Talk about it. Share your memories of those we've lost. Take a moment to consider the lives cut short of those we never knew.


1 comment:

PastaQueen said...

That was a really moving entry, Brooke.