Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

World AIDS Day 2012

Despite the fact that my production schedule has been blown to hell, this week I managed to finish the first draft of the second book in the Friend Grief series: Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends.

It’s not the book I thought it was going to be. Whether it is any good at what it is remains to be seen.

But what came up time and again – as I re-read classic books by Randy Shilts and Larry Kramer and watched new documentaries on the history of ACT UP – was the frustration and anger that still exists today. And it exists because AIDS still exists.

Even the victories have unintended consequences. The AIDS cocktail of drugs that has saved so many? Can you afford it? Can you tolerate the combination of drugs? Can you even get it? If you’re one of the 69% of those living with HIV/AIDS, that means you live in sub-Saharan Africa, so the answer to these questions is ‘probably not’.

Do you live in a country that considers AIDS a health crisis? Despite the focus on it here in the US, there has been – due to medical advances – a change in thinking that is both heartening and disturbing. AIDS is now considered a chronic disease – like diabetes: something that is treatable, if not curable. Getting infected is “no big deal”. People even get infected deliberately.

But it is a big deal. Thirty-one years into the epidemic 30 million people have died, and another 30 million live with AIDS. In the US, 1.2 million people live with HIV/AIDS…but 230,000 don’t know it because they haven’t been tested.

We’ve come a long way, but we’re not done yet. People are infected every day – sometimes deliberately, sometimes unknowingly. At the beginning of the fourth decade of the epidemic, superstitions still abound, including one that insists that sex with a virgin will cure you of AIDS.

If you want to know more about AIDS – both here and around the world – here are some organizations that will help.

And take a minute tomorrow, December 1 – World AIDS Day – to remember those who died and those who have fought for 31 years to wipe AIDS off the planet.