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No boundaries

I'm a 35-yr old married mother of 2 boys, ages 3 & 7. I am not HIV+. Ever since I first heard about AIDS, back in 1983 or so, I've had a sort of morbid fascination with HIV. I read absolutely everything I can get my hands on about this disease. The best book I've read thus far is "And The Band Played On", by Randy Shiltz, which was also made into a movie shown on HBO. This book begins in the late 70's and is focused on the way the US government has handled, or should I say MIShandled, this disease, by brushing AIDS off as a "gay disease". AIDS used to be called GRID, for Gay Related Immune Deficiency. It absolutely appalled me that our country, supposedly the best in the world, initially could not have cared less about this so-called gay plague. It is a fact that by the time Ronald Reagan even mentioned the word AIDS, over 28,000 people were HIV+ and close to 40,000 had already succumbed to this virus. The Pasteur Institute discovered the cause of AIDS, but Dr. Robert Gallo, an American doctor, "stole" samples of the virus from them, and renamed it HTLVIII, claiming full credit for the discovery. It took months and months of fighting over the discovery and who should get credit for it. In the end, to go forward with funding to treat HIV, The Pasteur Institute and Dr. Gallo agreed to consider themselves co-discoverers of the HIV virus. Dr. Gallo went into a pissing contest just so he could "win" credit. Meanwhile, the virus was spreading rampantly. The blood banks, in the early 80's, decided not to go forward with testing all blood donations for HIV, quoting the expenses would be too great. Meanwhile, over 90% of severe hemopheliacs died of AIDS, because viruses could break through the filtering process of blood donations. Before the actual Elisa & Western Blot tests were available, there was a test for the core of the hepatitis C virus which although not 100% accurate, could detect immune abnormalities in donated blood. Again, when the CDC asked for blood to be screened for this, the suggestion was denied by the blood bankers once again quoting the expense would be too great. Meanwhile, people continued to die. A French-Canadian airline steward, Gaetan Dugas, has been dubbed "patient zero" by the CDC, and at least 40 of the first documented cases of HIV/AIDS were traced back to this one very sexually active gay man. Still, even after being told he was HIV+, Mr. Dugas continued to frequent bath houses all over the United States and spread HIV. And speaking of bath houses, the owners scoffed at the CDC's recommendation to close them, citing there was no proof that HIV was contracted sexually. Still, the deaths continued. It seemed that only when someone "rich and famous" died, Rock Hudson, did the government step up and realize that, no, we can not continue to ignore this. Rock Hudson didn't even have the courage to admit his HIV status until close to the very end of his life, previously citing liver cancer and a heart condition for his gaunt, pale appearance. Only after his death did the world "wake up" and accept that this disease was global, and would continue to spread alarmingly fast. At an AIDS conference, Japanese doctors stated it was "unfortunate" that the US had so many AIDS cases. They stated they were sympathetic; however, felt they themselves had no worries because "Japan doesn't have any gay men". Talk about ignorance... One San Francisco man said it best, I think, when crusading for funds to research and treat AIDS. He said he hoped his epitaph didn't read that he died of "red tape". Elizabeth Taylor deserves so much credit for becoming an AIDS activist, as well as Princess Diana, Elton John, Elizabeth Glaser, Magic Johnson, as well as countless others. I believe these people made AIDS "fashionable", if you will, and helped people to realize that it is not just a "gay disease", and many jumped right on the bandwagon. One final thought here -- there are so many people out there that believe AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuality, and without homosexuals, AIDS wouldn't exist. Ignorance is bliss for these closed-minded victims of homophobia. Do these people believe God is also responsible for cancer? How about heart disease? Or fatal accidents? No, folks, God did not "do" this because He meant to punish gays. I don't believe our God is a vindictive one. If God gave gays AIDS, did he also give my friend's son AML, acute myeloid leukemia, which killed him last month? Did God take my father by means of a fatal heart attack at the age of 36 to punish the rest of my family? We collectively need to look at AIDS in the same way we look at cancer. We have to obliterate the stigma attached to AIDS. Because AIDS has absolutely no boundaries. I've seen too many people die from AIDS, and God willing, one day there will be a cure and/or a vaccine. Until then, I will continue to educate myself and others about AIDS. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on this subject.


Sent via Email, February 25, 2005 from Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA.

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