Monday, December 01, 2014

World AIDS Day 2014

The first AIDS death I remember was Ricky Wilson from the B-52's.  If I remember right Rolling Stone listed it as cancer.  I don't even think it was labeled as "gay cancer" yet and certainly happened way before the term/word AIDS was created.  Aside from that, I was pretty far removed from the queer community in general, I was just growing up and biding my time while attending high school in Concord, CA in the 80s.

I moved to San Francisco in 1988 and within months got involved in ACT UP.  I was encouraged by a coworker to check out a meeting.  It didn't hurt that the BAR [Bay Area Reporter] had a pic of a guy I thought was cute.  I took up the Secretary role at my second meeting.   ACT UP opened my eyes in a lot of ways politically and definitely pointed me to a way of making informed decisions about healthcare.  I also was now around friends and allies that had roughly the same views I did but they could verbalize them much better. 

Living in SF I saw friends, allies and even people I didn't care for just disappear. I saw, like many of my generation, essentially shells of men walking, their cheeks and eye sockets sunken, skin looking thin and fragile and then they were gone from the planet within months, weeks, days.

At the same time as all of this, there was a new sexual revolution too.  As more knowledge came out about the virus, we learned how to have sex and protect ourselves.  I don't think I ever knew sex without a condom then.

Today is World AIDS Day, and things are so different than 25 years ago.  Advances in current medicine means we don’t have the drastic number of deaths happening daily or pages of weekly BAR obituaries. 

Then, of course, there is Truvada.  Earlier in the year, there were discussions of there not being discussions of the drug, which in an odd way made me think of Reagan and his silence during the onset of the AIDS crisis.  Now that discussions are happening, they seem to be a moralistic view of sexual behavior as opposed to health benefits or risks.  Once lauded AIDS activists are now taking an anti-Truvada stance, which just seems so contradictory.   Weren't we fighting not just for "healthcare for all," but also sexual freedom?   When I approached my own doctor, he too took a moralistic anti-Truvada stance telling me he felt it took condoms out of the equation and men would start having unsafe sex again. It's as if the statistics that show when taken daily, Truvada's prevention success rate is 99% are being ignored.  My ultimate decision to not use PrEP was due to one of its side effects being it can make bones brittle.  Since I already have arthritis I don't need any more help in brittle-izing my bones/joints. 

I don't have any conclusion here, just a caffeinated old man rambling, but whether you decide to use Truvada, condoms or a combination of the two, just let your decision be based on facts and not morals.  If you are single and enjoy being sexually active, don't let yourself be slut shamed or forced to conform to what is considered a traditional relationship/marriage.  And if you're in an open relationship, you're disgusting pigs...just kidding, again don't be forced to conform to what is considered a traditional relationship/marriage.  Whatever works for you/us, is what works for you/us, let that informed decision only be yours/ours.

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