South Florida’s LGBT community has just celebrated Gay Days, and we are getting ready to kick in Gay Pride and Stonewall.
The party has begun. A contingent of your friends just returned from a ‘mission’ celebrating Israeli gay pride, and Wilton Manors has flown a host of gay flags up and down Wilton Drive.
Unfortunately, while many of you are partying on the shore, there are still some people drowning in the water. In fact, there are many people who have already drowned.
Let’s never forget them. Let’s never forget the lives lost and memories measured by the face of HIV.
South Florida is still the epicenter of new HIV cases in America. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation tries to remind us every week of the need for caution and care, with two pages of bold advertisements in our paper. But there are also outreaches on bus benches and billboards, signs and signals everywhere that the battle is still on.
Local television stations feature also the efforts and work of Broward House, Care Resource, and Poverello. We need to, because there is a legacy people like Pedro Zamora, Tom Martin, Alan Terl, Brad Buchman and Gary Steinsmith have left behind. They are names from decades ago, but they were champions for the cause when it was not so popular. There have been too many, and their memories can never be forgotten.
Those we lost yesterday provide us with the spirit to match our calling today. Their voices may no longer be heard, but their passion survives. They harvested hope when there was only despair, fought for justice when there was only disrespect. The books and films about the HIV pandemic cited by Jesse Monteagudo, on another page of this issue, are worthy of your review. It’s been a long journey, with too many quilts, some still being sewn.
An AIDS agency is about doctors working extra hours, caseworkers dealing with people in crisis, and volunteers reaching out a little bit more each day, distributing food, walking dogs, transporting patients or providing partners. We count on each other.
While our lives get caught up in our board meetings, workouts and planning summer vacations, we can’t lose sight of the fact that 30 years into the disease called AIDS there are still zero persons cured. For all the potions and protocols, inhibitors and interventions, the medical mission goes on.
The doctors and caregivers need your help. At night, when you are alone with someone, you need to act responsibly. You must play more safely, and party more cautiously. Make their job easier and your life healthier by acting more intelligently.
Think with the right head when you get in bed. Stand up as you strip down. Start with a condom and a conscience. New groups like Impulse have innovative outreaches, and the Pride Center at Equality Park has support groups and counseling. We all do our part, in the best way we can. What we cannot do is let up. Apathy can’t have a home as long as AIDS has a haven.
We are fortunate to live in communities where there is AIDS funding, and Ryan White care. But there is never enough, and under multiple administrations, federal and state, Democrat or Republican, wait lists abound. Treatment and care, research and counseling, therapies and alternatives have been wanting for decades. We fund wars against civilizations but not diseases.
Lab bills cost, research is expensive, and you simply can’t fight a worldwide pandemic with local car washes, noble bike rides or walks along the beach. We have done so much, and without us, so much would not have been done. But we need to do more still.
Our geography is unique in South Florida. Our proximity to South American and Central American populations means we have immigrants from neighboring countries who have little or no care, and woefully inadequate treatment.
Early detection, proactive care, and aggressive treatment have stemmed the spread of HIV. Still, education and awareness matters most. We have to count on schools today to teach not just that AIDS is treatable, but that it is preventable.
The face of HIV spans generations and is now cross-cultural and inter-continental .The burden and calling upon South Florida is exceptional. It falls upon us to educate and medicate. It is no easy task and no cheap endeavor, but it is something we can and must do.
We have to work for the day when we commemorate not a World AIDS Day, but an end to the day when one is necessary.