World AIDS Day: Remembering the toll of HIV

I was watching a program on Logo the other day with my partner about queer history in America since Stonewall. And while visions of Anita Bryant loomed in the section from the 70s, for the most part post-riot seemed hopeful and celebratory. But when the program hit the 80s the spirit was decidedly more sober. Of course the Reagan years were fretful for many reasons but what the thing that loomed large and frightful at it jumped onto the queer stage was the devastating emergence of AIDS. As we watched the segment where they laid out the quilt, we were both brought close to tears remembering our own experiences of seeing that compelling and visceral symbol of the toll AIDS has had on our community. We, of course, also remembered all the people we knew who that quilt represents, good friends and family who were consumed by the disease. It affected my partner so much that she had nightmares that night and I told her she couldn’t watch any more history shows. But it is crucial that we remember the epidemic and the pain it has caused and continues to cause. It is our history and our present as we look to erase it from our future. That’s why Friday’s World AIDS Day is so important.

The current issue of Just Out does a great feature on surviving 25 years of the disease as well as highlighting local WAD events and organizations and individuals that serve the community battling AIDS. Willamette Week also highlights some events.

Cascade AIDS Project is the oldest and largest community-based provider of HIV services, housing, education and advocacy in the area. They’ve been around since 1983 and have many resources for those in need of services as well as opportunities for those who want to donate their time or money to the cause. They also offer hotlines in both English (800.777.AIDS) and Spanish (800.499.6940). Their biggest fundraiser of the year, the Red Ribbon Party, is tonight from 5-8p at 5th Ave Suites downtown (596 SW Washington).

But the most important thing to remember every December 1st is that HIV still exists. It has hit our community hard and continues to ravage it and other communities globally. Watching footage of the quilt being laid out on the Washington DC mall was a stark reminder to me that I haven’t had to think about AIDS as much as I once did, but that it is every bit as imperative that we never stop our vigilance.

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