20 years of World AIDS Day

I knew that December 1 is World AIDS Day, but I hadn't realized that it was first observed 20 years ago.  

I'm young enough, and my friends are young enough, that I didn't lose anyone close to me to AIDS. But in 1990, I had a summer job working for a doctor whose practice was mostly AIDS patients  She was an internist in the West Village in the '80s, and was one of the first to notice that a bunch of people were coming in with diseases that were supposed to be incredibly rare.  She was always running really late, and gradually most of the healthy people stopped coming to her practice, but if you were sick, she was a great doctor to have on your side.  She spent hours dealing with the paperwork needed to get people enrolled in clinical trials, because that was the only way to get the drugs that might possibly help them.  And she'd visit her patients in the hospital and sit with them and read the riot act to the staff who were afraid to touch them.  (Me?  I answered phones and filed charts and entered data.)

I don't know what I'd have thought if a time traveler from 2008 had come with a news report.  So wonderful that HIV is a manageable infection, something you can live with, not an automatic death sentence.  But I don't think I ever imagined that 20 years later, there still wouldn't be a cure.  And if you had told me that gay rights groups would be focused on marriage equality, with hardly a mention of HIV/AIDS, I simply wouldn't have believed it.

3 Responses to “20 years of World AIDS Day”

  1. TC Says:

    I was thinking similar thoughts today…that if you had told me back ’94 that my friend G would still be alive today, 14 years after his diagnosis, I would have laughed at you. Through my tears. I cried over and worried about him so much, back then. And yet, today, he’s doing great. Not completely healthy…dealing with ‘stuff’ and had a few close calls. But doing great in his life and in no real danger of dying any time soon from HIV. But I would never have believed you had you told me. Never. I was thinking about what I’d say at his funeral. I figured it was all over.
    Amazing. And yet not vanquished. Which is amazing in its own way.

  2. bj Says:

    “So wonderful that HIV is a manageable infection, something you can live with, not an automatic death sentence. But I don’t think I ever imagined that 20 years later, there still wouldn’t be a cure. ”
    Oh, and I was the opposite. I thought the plague would end with everyone involved dying, that there would be no treatment or cure. The fact that scientists, and the doctors like the one you worked for, and the agitators who did not die quietly, but fought for a future found a treatment is amazing. They were heroes.
    It really was an enormously intractable disease, scientifically; the search for a treatment spawned innovations in immunology. And, since its transmission required more than casual contact, it would have been possible to isolate it, letting everyone who had it die, at least in the united states. So the fact that we have a treatment now is a miracle, of science, medicine, and politics & activism.
    There’s an interesting article about aggressive early treatment as a means of ending the disease in the NYT or Wash Post right now.

  3. karim Says:

    I can’t help but add,…in the U.S.
    There were an estimated 2-3 million AIDS deaths worldwide in 2007.
    My best friend since childhood died of AIDS shortly before the effective AIDS cocktail was available. I keep thinking that if only he had lived another six months he might still be alive.

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