Thanksgiving to World AIDS Day

Thank you. Thank you for acknowledging the power of a virus to ravage lives. Thank you for extending compassion to every human being, protec...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The High Price of Misjudgement

My mind blocked out many details of the painful day my brother told me he had AIDS but one of his comments comes to mind over and over again. Bret made it clear that he didn’t want us wearing AIDS ribbons and that he would certainly never wear one. When I asked why, he simply stated “people assume you’re gay”.

In my opinion, the most insidious plague on humanity really isn’t HIV or cancer, poverty or global warming. The most destructive of all is stigma. If humans can’t get past what is socially acceptable, politically correct or morally valued, there can never be a cure or comprehensive solution to any problem.
Stigma - an attribute, behavior, or reputation which is socially discrediting in a particular way: it causes an individual to be mentally classified by others in an undesirable, rejected stereotype rather than in an accepted, normal one.
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of viewing the entire clip of Susan Boyle's performance on Britain's Got Talent, I encourage you to do it now. This amazing 7 min. exercise will test your own tolerance for stigma, and if you come up lacking, I hope it rattles you enough to consider things differently in the future.

Since that first red loop of the early 90s, awareness ribbons can now be seen in every color of the rainbow, drawing attention to various health and social issues, political and military causes. In honor of Bret, the ribbon I’ve worn on my wrist for the last 13 years has no color. It forces people to stop and ask. When I can tell them face to face that I wear the ribbon to represent my fight against AIDS it’s that much easier to get past the stigma and on to the more vital message it represents.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Dunc!

A tribute to good times and the best memories...

"Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold"

Happy birthday to the most golden friend Bret or I ever had, long before hitting our golden years.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

An Easter People

This Easter morning, I woke with a memory that sat with me like an unfinished story.

Several months ago, I set out to share a personal story of life with HIV in 21st century America. In a time and place where HIV can be diagnosed early and treatments are more effective, I’d thought it would shed a hopeful light on an otherwise bleak topic. The story a friend agreed to share began exactly that way – more than 15 years of careful treatment and proper nutrition had brought the HIV to undetectable levels in his body.

He stressed the importance of early detection and relentless protection but as the topic turned to eradicating the virus all together, this man who’s as close as a brother to me said something completely unexpected. He believes the government purposely released HIV into undesirable populations, specifically African-Americans and the gay population. I’d heard this Conspiracy Theory but never a compelling reason to consider it seriously and wouldn’t in this interview either, but it bothered me that this intelligent man I dearly loved would feel so betrayed.

This morning’s Easter message put the pieces together. Quite simply, it’s no mystery a gay, black man would feel persecuted. Easter is the story of life-saving grace overcoming the darkness of death, not only in the way He died but in the way Jesus lived. Sadly, our world will continue to cast out and persecute, but as Easter people we are called to continue the work Jesus modeled, to bring hope and healing to the dark places in our world. How will we write the end of this story?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Refocusing the Home Field

This morning I handed a card to a fellow cyclist describing the AIDS ride I’m doing this year. Her response, “You don’t hear much about AIDS anymore”. The glass half full side of me thinks that’s progress. Two years ago the response was more likely to be “AIDS? Isn’t that cured?”

Last Saturday I rode my bike for the first time in 4 months. Despite thousands of odometer miles, it took about 5 more to remember how to shift my gears. Shifting comes as natural as breathing so long as I’m riding week after week, but a few months out of mind had put it out of focus. Keep HIV/AIDS out of mind long enough and the message can get so out of focus it’s no longer believed to be a problem.

In the last decade, I’ve witnessed a growing American awareness for AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, education campaigns across India, increased funding for the Global AIDS Fund; we buy, carry and wear (RED) but what does it mean in our own neighborhoods? In our own families and social circles? Last month’s news out of DC is the most startling evidence that the HIV prevention message must be loud, must remain effective and must, above all, be persistent.

Yesterday, the Obama administration announced their plan to “attack complacency" and “put HIV/AIDS back on the nation’s radar screen”. The planned spend of $45 million over five years is the ounce of prevention needed to refocus this nation on protecting itself from the still fatal and costly ravages of AIDS.

You signed on for a National AIDS Strategy call to action. You made this difference. Thank you!