I'm fortunate. The only experience I have with HIV is when my best friend in high school had to get tested after being raped by a promiscuous man he worked with. Unless, of course, you include the time I got HIV in Family Life. I don't because that strain of HIV was made up of water and glitter.
Some of our community members, though, have been affected by HIV/AIDS. Amanda told us her story in How AIDS Affected My Life.
My mother was diagnosed with AIDS when I was in 6th grade. Only 11 years old. I remember the day she told us clearly. We lived with my father and she came to visit us at an unusual time. We already knew something was off. We were all sitting in the living room of our apartment, when she broke the news: she was sick and had AIDS.
At 11, I had heard the word but really had no idea what it meant. I knew that my 9 year old sister had to be even more confused than me. My mom explained it to us as a sickness in her body that killed off cells she needed to not get sick. Nothing after that day was the same. She told us that her doctors thought she contracted it seven years prior, and that it would never go away. We cried, but more because we realized our mom could die.
But is it still a big deal?It is. A very big deal. Especially to the people still living with HIV.
Why AIDS is Still a Big Deal by Pandora'sBox discusses the issues HIV and AIDS patients face today. Not the least of which being the growing apathy surrounding the disease.
But backstage, there was some discussion of the underlying message that we all know shows like RENT (and Angels in America) tried to address, which was the struggle that HIV/AIDS infected patients go through in their lives. Handling the news that they are infected, judgement from others, questions about how they contracted the disease, the question that is actually in one of the songs "Will I lose my dignity?" and of course, paying for AZT. The show was being done in honor of a former staff member at the college who, unfortunately, died of the disease some years prior. The people who knew him were very emotional when it came to the subject.
After the show closed, I was sitting in class and the subject of both RENT and Angels in America came up. Something the teacher said bugged me right down to the core:
"AIDS isn't such a big deal anymore. Angels in American and RENT just aren't relevant like they used to be. At least not to you guys."
Is AZT the only drug?
No, it's one of many drugs HIV/AIDS patients have to take to stay healthy. In Define This: Cocktail, Storm defines "cocktail" as it pertains to HIV/AIDS.
A highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART, is sometimes referred to as the AIDS cocktail. While these treatments are not considered a cure, they can delay progression to AIDS, reduce complications, and support the immune system by reducing HIV copies, blocking HIV’s entry into a cell. They reduce the amount of the active virus. Cocktails are used to treat both HIV positive patients and AIDS patients. Early detection … GET TESTED!
At one point in history, there was no treatment at all. Then came AZT (in 1987), essentially the one treatment option before cocktails. AZT, from what I remember, had the reputation of being a killer in and of itself. I knew people who refused AZT after seeing what others went through.
What You Can Do
In the past, the EdenFantasys community has helped raise money for the AIDS Service Center in New York City, You can donate time (if you're in NYC) or money this year by following the directions at this link. (We assure you a link is there, even if you can't see it. Mouse over "at this link", and like magic, it will appear. If only curing AIDS was that easy.) Or you can research an organization close to you and find out how to get involved with them.
But the best way, right now, for us to battle this disease? Use protection. Get yourself tested. And tell someone you love about the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
I still haven't seen RENT. I think I'll do that this weekend.