Today, 25 years ago, the United States government first recognized the disease that would be known as AIDS. It would be 5 more years and hundreds of lives before anyone in the United States government would take any action to slow this epidemic. The president stated that there was no need to panic because this disease was only affecting gay men and IV drug users, and there was no need for the rest of us to worry. GMHC had begun taking care of people living with AIDS, which now included people both heterosexual and homosexual, people with hemophilia and many children. And until the mid-1990s, most of these people died. Precious, precious time was lost because this disease at first affected only people who didn't matter.
I sat in my office this morning and read an article in the New York Times (and this editorial, and this one too) marking this anniversary. And I spent the entire time trying so hard not to cry. When I graduated from college, I was bored. I am someone who needs to be busy all the time. Being still does not come easy for me. So I started reading. I read a book called Sometimes My Heart Grows Numb about people who were caregivers for people with HIV in the early parts of the epidemic and it spoke to me. I felt that I had to do something. So I started volunteering with AIDS Services of Austin, as the intake person for their dental clinic. And it wholy changed my life. The first day I worked there I did intake for a young man who I had gone to school with. It was terrifying. To know the tole the AIDS epidemic took on the generation before, and imagine such a thing happening to my generation is...well, unimaginable. I look at my friends and cannot even conceive such a thing. Losing so many in such a horrible way. Being afraid of who will be next. Living in a state of constant terror and sorrow. Just unthinkable.