Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: December 1: World AIDS Day

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

December 1: World AIDS Day

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. Again. The epidemic first identified in 1981 has now claimed over a half a million lives in this country, over 25 million worldwide.

Little was known about its cause or treatment in those first years. The one definitive thing that was established early--prevention--was silenced by the Reagan administration, which was more concerned about offending its supporters on the religious right than about doing right. By the time the word AIDS passed President Reagan’s lips in 1987, more than 36,000 Americans had been diagnosed and 20,000 had died.

Meanwhile, activist groups like New York’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP, and AIDS Action Committee in Boston were founded. Their mission was prevention--spreading the very explicit word on condoms--and service to those who were HIV-positive. I was a volunteer with GMHC and those days were unforgettable. Nothing went on there that was small; everyone was a hero. I remember the people I knew there with huge admiration.

Here in the Boston area there is an exhibit of part of that early political struggle around AIDS education, prevention, and care. “ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis 1987-1993 is on view until December 23 at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 24 Quincy Street in Cambridge.

I will be spending time there on World AIDS Day there, honoring the astounding courage shown by so many and remembering that silence still equals death.

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