September 8, 2010

September 8, 2010
Scare the Shit Out of You

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Wednesday and we have already made it to the middle of another work week. This week is going quickly especially since it is a short one because of Labor Day.

I was recently talking with a friend about the early days of HIV. We were talking about when we both first saw something in the press about the new disease.

It was 1983 and I was just a young gay man from Pensacola, Florida who had already been given a death sentence after being hospitalized for GRID and PCP. I read an article in the New York Native by Larry Kramer that furthered my path as an AIDS activist.

1,112 and Counting
By Larry Kramer
March 14, 1983

“If this article does not scare the shit out of you, we are in real trouble. If this article does not rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men may have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on just how angry you can get.” He went further to say.

“There are now 1,112 cases of serious Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. When we first became worried, there were only 41. In only twenty eight days, from January 13th to February 9th [1983], there were 164 new cases and 73 more dead. The total death tally is now 418. Twenty percent of all cases were registered this January alone. There have been 195 dead in New York City from among 526 victims. Of all serious AIDS cases, 47.3 percent are in the New York metropolitan area.

These are the serious cases of AIDS, which means Kaposi's sarcoma, Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and other deadly infections. These numbers do not include the thousands of us walking around with what is also being called AIDS: various forms of swollen lymph glands and fatigues that doctors don't know what to label or what they might portend.

The rise in these numbers is terrifying. Whatever is spreading is now spreading faster as more and more people come down with AIDS.

And, for the first time in this epidemic, leading doctors and researchers are finally admitting they do not know what is going on. I find this terrifying too as terrifying as the alarming rise in numbers. For the first time, doctors are saying out loud and up front, ‘I do not know.’” Later in the article he notes.

“After almost two years of an epidemic, there still are no answers. After almost two years of an epidemic, the cause of AIDS remains unknown. After almost two years of an epidemic, there is no cure.

Hospitals are now so filled with AIDS patients that there is often a waiting period of up to a month before admission, no matter how sick you are. And, once in, patients are now more and more being treated like lepers as hospital staffs become increasingly worried that AIDS is infectious.

Suicides are now being reported of men who would rather die than face such medical uncertainty, such uncertain therapies, such hospital treatment, and the appalling statistic that 86 percent of all serious AIDS cases die after three years' time.

If all of this had been happening to any other community for two long years, there would have been, long ago, such an outcry from that community and all its members that the government of this city and this country would not know what had hit them.

Why is not every gay man in this city so scared shitless that he is screaming for action? Does every gay man in New York want to die?”

He closed the article by saying “I am going to close by doing what Dr. Ron Grossman did at GMHC's second Open Forum last November at Julia Richman High School. He listed the names of the patients he had lost to AIDS. Here is a list of twenty dead men I knew:

Nick Rock
Rick Wellikoff
Jack Nau
Donald Krintzman
Jerry Green
Michael Maletta
Paul Graham
Harry Blumenthal
Stephen Sperry
Brian O'Hara
Jeffrey Croland
David Jackson
Tony Rappa
Robert Christian
Ron Doud

And one more, who will be dead by the time these words appear in print.

If we do not act immediately, then we face our approaching doom.”

You might wonder why I decided to share this. It all goes back to if we do not learn from the past then we are doomed in the future. Unless we fight for funding for ADAP and other Ryan White programs, we are dishonoring all those who died before us.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab