Friday, June 02, 2006

25 Years of AIDS

How Many Greats Were Lost in the Last 25 Years?

I finished watching that excellent series from Frontline marking 25 years of AIDS. The recurring theme was that politics always trumped science and medicine throughout the world. Even the two areas highlighted as having reasonable success in the battle against AIDS had dynamic leaders who made that possible. In Cleveland, AIDS does cause homelessness often by bankrupting the individual. Eleven years ago when I began working with homeless people it was a waiting game, and I saw many desperate people who were at war with their own bodies. Today, it is a financial hardship without the level of suffering of the past. In reflecting on the Frontline special and the over 30 million who have died because of AIDS, I have to wonder how many amazing songs, works of art, novels, scientific discoveries did we deprive ourselves because politics got in the way of the fight?

How many Miles Davis's or Charlie Parker's were born and never got to perfect their talent because they died of AIDS related diseases prematurely through needle sharing?

How many young Janis Joplin's died because they were too free with their love and never got to rock the world with a "Piece of their Heart?"

How many Merce Cunningham's or John Cage's did not revolutionize classical music and the dance industry, because they had died too early after being infected with HIV?

How many South African Desmond Tutu's died before they could stand firm against injustice, because they had a bad blood transfusion in the last 25 years?

How many Youssou N'Dour died before putting their country's music on the world map because of complications from HIV infection?

How many revolutionary musicians like Dee Dee Ramone did not get to do travel their "Road to Ruin" because they had died as a result of drug use?

How many Rock Hudson's died before making Giant or A Farewell to Arms because they were infected as a child? How many Meryl Streeps or Dustin Hoffman's or Gene Hackman's or Halle Berry's were lost over the last 25 years because their private life destroyed their careers?

How many David Ho's did not go to medical school and could not discover the protease inhibitors because their Mom had passed AIDS to them while giving birth?

How many Emily Dickerson's or Edgar Allen Poe's or Henry Thoreau's died before they were able to publish a poem in the United States or in Africa?

How many George Low's, Manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program in the 1960s, were lost because both parent died from AIDS and so they never had a chance to go to school or college?

How many people would be alive if Ronald Reagan or Thabo Mbeki had not been presidents of their respective countries? How many of the world's religions and religious leaders got in the way of saving people's lives?

It is certainly difficult to set world records or carry a team to the NBA Finals, while battling AIDS. How many Michael Jordan's, Wayne Gretzgy's, Joe Montana's, or Roberto Clemente's did not climb to the height of their sports? How many Brandi Chastains, Picabo Streets or Lisa Leslie's did we lose over the last 25 years?

It is staggering that we have faced this epidemic for 25 years, and we have allowed politics, religion, prejudice, and myths to get in the way of addressing AIDS. We the people have suffered because the science of condoms, needle exchange, and universal health care/universal access to medicine were ignored.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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