This is the kind of thing I find myself teaching, or referring to, because I teach things that touch on the history of sexuality and on LGBTQ issues. It’s very hard to get across what it was like to younger people who grew up in an era when people lived long, full, otherwise healthy lives despite AIDS. But now it’s gotten to the point where unprotected anal sex is on the rise, again, which means the rates of infection are going up (again).
I have covered wars, before the epidemic began and since. They are all ugly and painful and unjust, but for me, nothing has matched the dread I felt while walking through the Castro, the Village, or Dupont Circle at the height of the AIDS epidemic. It could seem as if a neutron bomb had exploded: the buildings stood; cars were parked along the roadside; there were newsstands and shops and planes flying overhead. But the people on the street were dying. The Castro was lined with thirty-year-old men who walked, when they could, with canes or by leaning on the arms of their slightly healthier lovers and friends. Wheelchairs filled the sidewalks. San Francisco had become a city of cadavers.
& Honestly, we can do better than that.
It’s World AIDS Day. Get tested, play safe.