A Day to Recast Our Vows
& Commitment to Healing
When the AIDS epidemic broke free from the gates of hell, in the early 1980s, those who believe in gates of hell thanked their cruel invisible gods. Some hoped the ‘plague’ would wipe out a certain love they work so hard to convince themselves it’s there only to torment them.
This Dec 1 AIDS Day is a triumph for such an unjustly stigmatized disease. It proves, for the 29th year in a row, that intolerance has no place in human experience, and that in many ways, the crisis has turned a corner, as it may be finally on its way to oblivion.
The initial killer onslaught of AIDS did slaughter scores but, unlike what those who sided with it expected, it also reawakened that most selfless of human feelings: compassion. By the end of the decade, it was those haters who were being considered cursed, while the afflicted became heroes to be emulated.
The fatal group of infections caused by the HIV virus has ended the lives of some 35 million people worldwide. Slightly more are living with it, under intense control. And even if there’s no great merit in dying, those left behind, who’ve lost dear and close ones, did become better people.
There’s a new dangerous complacency towards AIDS, however, and while a minority can’t put up with the meds that’d keep them healthy, a great many simply assumed, irresponsibly, that a cure exists. That may explain the spike in new cases, despite an almost universal awareness about how the virus strikes.
A CHECKPOINT IN THE WAY OF HEALING
AIDS is no longer considered a ‘lifestyle’ disease. Class-wise, it’s steadily moved on from a young, male, and relatively well-to-do urban crowd – the majority of early casualties in this devilish war – to multi-gender generations in mostly impoverished nations. Down to the very young.
In fact, 400 babies are born every year already HIV-positive. They may not be AIDS victims per se, but are still falling through the gargantuan income gap, that keeps on widening and swallowing ever more lives everyday. In 40 years, HIV infection never ceased to track a harsh class disparity.
The day also serves as a checkpoint reminder. It’s a refresher for global awareness, a spotlight on its current stats, rosy or dark, a review of strategies employed to address it, progresses on therapy (more)
* Fading HIV
and the outlook for cure, besides being an all important update on the state of funding dedicated to it.
LET’S NOT FORGET TO REMEMBER
As always, politics is crucial about whether AIDS continues on its grim task or heads to a final vanquishing. The current global wave of conservatism, along the steady impact of wars and climate change on mass displacement and refugee crises, may all aggravate the already dice prospects for infections disease flare ups.
Funding has increased, and that’s good, but just like with cancer research, it doesn’t always translates into reasons for cheering. 1,962 new cases have been recorded in the Philippines just this year. And the World Health Organization is reportedly alarmed with the rate of new cases in 53 European countries.
It looks like, at this pace, 2017 is on track to top last year’s estimated 1.8 million individuals worldwide who became infected with HIV, at an astonishing rate of about 5,000 new infections per day. Efforts to raise funding and awareness are always welcome, but we’ll still need a bigger boat.
THE VISUAL CODE OF RED RIBBONS
Thus, perhaps the most important, albeit unquantifiable, aspect of having a modern disease so enmeshed on contemporary society is about how much good, or bad, it brings out of people and nations, faiths and politics. That way AIDS Day is an opportunity to wear a red ribbon everywhere.
Not for phony displays of piety and holier-than-thou public statements. But to recognize and gain strength from each other. Just another sign that we’re still hurt but no longer down. And to renew, revive, and give hope for those who’re already living in hell. The real one, right here and right now.
Let’s remember and honor the fallen by celebrating the living, with or without HIV. This monster may have added fear to love and trust, cut short a lot of good parties, and abbreviated a great many good lives. But it didn’t elevate prejudice into a virtue, or turn gloomy our joie de vivre.
With a little pushing, we’ll bury the fiend back into its lair and we’ll dance over its rock. The medical establishment owes us a cure, or it’ll also be eradicated like a disease. Babies shouldn’t be born with IVs plugged in, and the poor doesn’t deserve another poison pill. Love is bound to win; life always finds a way.