Noah's Arc actor and loldarian.com favorite Doug Spearman reflects on the impact of HIV/AIDS in a special piece written for Gay Men's HIV Awareness & Testing Day. Having grown up in an era when HIV/AIDS was a death sentence, Spearman writes a moving tale of a period of time when urgency and safety were a priority for gay men who were being disproportionately infected by the disease, to the nonchalant attitude of many who are at risk in today's culture of anti-retroviral therapy.
An excerpt from "The bubble burst a long, long time ago":
For a time in the 1990s you couldn't go anywhere, especially here in Hollywood, without seeing a red ribbon pinned to chest of a celebrity. I remember when my boss at CBS started wearing a small red ribbon brooch that was made of rubies. All I could think of was that the disease that was killing and crippling my people had become fashionable. You don't see a lot of red ribbons anymore, do you? We've moved on to white ones, because now that AIDS has been dealt with we've moved on to marriage.
The truth is society, gay and straight, seems to think of AIDS as the last century's problem. Now, it's a managed-care disease, as my doctor calls it. There are drugs and therapies to handle it.
Yeah. As long as you can afford them. As long as you've got health insurance and/or access to state funded medical services. I know a lot of people in California who are going to be doing a bit less biking and maybe less mountain hiking when and if Governor Schwartzenager's cuts to AIDS funding really do happen as scheduled.
AIDS isn't disappearing, especially if you're Black or Latino in this country. Infection rates may have gone down - a bit - among white gay men, but in minority communities from Oakland to DC, it's again that thing no one talks about. But it's killing us. For the last five years, the numbers of new infections among Black men between 15 and 35 is horrifying. The numbers are almost as bad among Latino men. AIDS is the number one killer of Black Women in the United States. People who don't think to look for it are getting it, and because they're less likely to have access to medical services, they won't find out till it's too late.
Every day that bubble of "not me - them" bursts. Every day people tumble backwards off that edge where Jeff and I stood - and it's still a long, long, long way down. I'm still waving my arms in the air. Still doing what I can to stay negative. Even though the fighting for funding, fighting for awareness and even fighting the temptation to just not put the condom on can be exhausting and overwhelming.
Why are so many of people - men and women, straight and gay - still converting? After more than twenty five years of messaging, pleading, begging, cajoling, teasing, taunting, and worrying people to take care of themselves and their partners, are we still spreading this disease to each other? How did we fail? We've tried everything, haven't we? What new imagining do we have to do? What new words do we have to craft, what new advertising campaigns? I don't know. Really. I don't.
What I do know is that as long as I have to, I'll keep getting tested. I'll keep asking my partners about their status before we have sex. I'll keep asking after my friends' health. I'll keep giving my friends holy shit when I hear they're not being safe. I'll keep giving money and time where I have it, when I have it.
I'll keep waving my arms in the air. To keep my balance. To not fall. To not give in. And to continue to draw as much attention to the AIDS and HIV as I can.
Read Doug Spearman's entire post here via Pam's House Blend.