Sunday, September 9, 2012

In Search of the Summit

3,022 feet to the summit, over 38 miles of climbing. Construction on the downhill means the reward will be briefly enjoyed, but that’s not unlike the first decade of AIDS in the world.

Tomorrow’s ride over Snoqualmie Pass is dedicated to the pioneers of that first decade. Doctors, nurses, druggist and scientists who keenly observed, reported and tracked mysterious trends. The fatally ill who faced no hope and a sure, lingering death. Loved ones who became unlikely activists, quickly organized to disseminate any and all new information in a valiant attempt to save others; AIDS charities and service organizations formed. Even as the death toll rose to staggering levels, they were not deterred; their loved ones would not die in vain.  

"In many parts of the world there is anxiety, bafflement, a sense that something has to be done - although no one knows what." -The New York Times

The unknown bred fear. Fear breeds prejudice and AIDS would carry its stigma from homosexuals to drug addicts to foreigners to a 13 year old hemophiliac, banned from his public classroom for fear his AIDS would spread to his classmates.

It was also a time too easy to be in denial that one’s life could be impacted by AIDS... "Let’s see, never shared needles, not a homosexual or had a blood transfusion and since I never plan to do these things, I’m safe."

The WHO reported in their 1987 Weekly epidemiological record ‘'Global Statistics” that 150,000 cases of AIDS were expected to develop in the following 12 months and up to 3 million within the next 5 years from the estimated 5-10 million people infected with HIV worldwide.

On December 1, 1988, the first World AIDS Day ushered in a turning point. Thousands of demonstrators had shut down FDA headquarters earlier that year in a successful effort to convince the FDA to fast track the approval of several promising drugs and soon a human trial of the drug AZT would offer the hope needed to fight another day.

The Avert AIDS Timeline offers many insights into the pioneers and the mountains they tackled in this early period in AIDS history. Many of them never made it to the top, let alone enjoyed that downhill reward. In light of their tenacity in the face of unbelievable odds, I can manage a 40 miles climb.

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