Monday, December 01, 2008

World AIDS Day

It's World AIDS Day, so how fitting that New York City -- which along with San Francisco was most certainly Ground Zero of the early days of AIDS -- has finally gotten a fitting monument to the more than 90,000 city residents we have lost to this heinous disease. (Can you believe one didn't already exist? It seems every time a plan was hatched the organizers would pull back knowing that money was better-spent on AIDS research.)

But thanks to the efforts of people like Lawrence Swehla, Andrew Marber and other members of the AIDS Monument Committee, a 42-foot black granite bench in Hudson River Park near the end of Bank Street where Pier 46 used to extend into the water was -- at long last -- dedicated yesterday morning. Some 14 years in the making, the monument -- where people can go to remember the many friends we have lost (like Mike and Walter) -- is inscribed with words thought to originate in a Scandinavian folk song: "I can sail without wind; I can sail without oars. But I cannot part from my friend without tears."

Also on this 20th observance of World AIDS Day, we find ourselves in a cautiously optimistic position. While new infections in younger gay men and some minority groups are up and the search for a vaccine has stalled, a new study suggests that immediate treatment after testing positive for AIDS -- rather than waiting for immune depression to kick in -- could not only help people live longer and healthier lives, it may drastically reduce the spread of the virus. This "thought experiment," along with an incoming president who actually understands the importance of AIDS education and prevention -- and that condoms ARE pro-life -- give me hope for the next four years. On a more personal note, having three good friends who are truly "living with HIV" -- not "dying of AIDS" -- is all the evidence I need that things are much different than they were when World AIDS Day began in 1988.


Ultra Dave said...

Amen! I have lost many close friends to AIDS. Not a day goes by that I don't think of them and all we have missed sharing together. I will thankful the day this diease is wiped out.

libhom said...

I think the monument is nice enough, but I remember that World AIDS Day originally was a call to political action. A lot more needs to be done.