The International AIDS Conference concluded a few days ago in Washington, DC, amidst some surprising reports that researchers are figuring out how to–cure–the virus.
I have to admit, that as welcome as this news is, I am not getting my hopes up too much. I do not have HIV/AIDS myself, but do have plenty of other presently incurable ailments. For decades I have heard “a cure is 5 years away!!” for conditions way too biologically complex to abolished so quickly and simplistically.
Yet things have definitely improved since the beginning of the pandemic among gay men in 1980s San Francisco, a time, place, and culture David Weissman poignantly documents in “We Were Here.”
But hugely unresolved political questions of access and resource allocation persist. We have long known how to turn HIV/AIDS from a death sentence into a chronic disease. More and more infected people are getting the health care they need to accomplish this transformation. And millions of others still are dying preventable premature deaths because they aren’t. As my friend Cayce asks in this very context: “When will we learn that every life matters?”
I wonder how many have come back from the brink, and how many have fallen off–or been pushed off it– all too soon, since the time recounted in my poem “Opening Day.” It is about the arrival of the AIDS Quilt in Cape Town, South Africa, the launch for the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions.
I will let the poem speak for itself (which I generally prefer to do). With a prayer that every day be a day of opening towards all the living and the dead of this pandemic.