About AIDS: July 20
The Gay Place resurrects the Chronicle's "About AIDS" column
By Brandon Watson, 11:05AM, Fri. Jul. 20, 2012
It was like I just announced that I was dying. While trying to convince my mom to let me move in with my friend Melissa, I offhandedly mentioned that I was queer. Her fears of me cohabiting quickly turned hysterical.
Tears streaming, she asked me: “What about AIDS?” Even my mother, in a small Texas town, was terrified because Freddie Mercury's death was on the nightly news. Magic Johnson had just announced his retirement from the NBA. And stories about AIDS were in every magazine, sandwiched in People magazine between portraits of Trent Reznor and Shannon Doherty. Rumors circulated wildly; even my mother heard the whispers. AIDS lurked around every corner; hulking, final, inevitable.
Over time that fear lessened… even with my mom. Folks started living longer, contraction rates dropped and the news stories were spread farther and farther apart. The focus became more life-affirming. Prevention went pop. Left Eye from TLC wore condom eye patches and the Spice Girls cooed “put it on, put it on.” AIDS came out into the light, hopeful, manageable, solvable. Queer America was able to release a long delayed sigh, the struggle condensing in the breath of memory.
Perhaps that is why so many were jolted while reading last month's press release on the increase in adolescent HIV cases from Austin/Travis County Health & Human Services. By the evening news, AIDS was again a hysterical lead story. You could almost hear the whispering again, the gulps in mother's throats. It was as if someone violently roused us from a decade's sleep. We were startled, even though AIDS never went away… maybe because the cases were so young, maybe because we have been lulled into thinking that the crisis was over. Maybe some of us were a little guilty because we had stopped having those uncomfortable conversations that marked AIDS' early years.
Today those conversations are starting again in the Gay Place blog. Years ago, The Chronicle ran About AIDS, a regular column devoted to educating and informing Central Texans about AIDS and HIV. Almost a decade after that last column, people in our community are still dying and there are signs that infection rates are rising again. Many never stopped fighting, but far too little attention was given to that fight. We at the Gay Place want to add to that noise. I am honored to bring you a new regular aggreGAYte asking again “what about AIDS?”
Scientists are making rapid advances towards an HIV vaccine, but funding remains scarce.
Contraction rates for young gay black men continue to rise.
A recent episode of NPR's Morning Edition explores current attitudes towards HIV.
President Obama passes on the 19th International AIDS Conference.