By Miguel M. Morales
After 26 years, AIDS no longer devastates or threatens the life of the average American.
While there is no cure for what is now known as HIV disease, it’s become a manageable chronic illness in the
In fact, a report released last month by the United Nations and the World Health Organization cut the global number of estimated infections by approximately 7 million. This 16 percent reduction comes from improved methods of tracking infections.
Unfortunately, a similar revision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is Ivexpected to increase the number of HIV infections in the
But we’ve clearly established, PWAs, or People With AIDS, can live long productive lives.
While I am not infected with HIV, it has affected my life.
Deciding to write this column for World AIDS Day, I searched the Internet only to discover that many of the friends I parted ways with have died.
In the early 1990s, I served as a member of the radical AIDS activist group called the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, or ACT-UP/KC.
I remember my new friends inspired me to fight for more treatment options at a time when AZT was the only drug used to manage HIV infection and when the only answer was to identify “AIDS victims” though mandatory testing of all patients.
That fight included three arrests for civil disobedience.
The first arrest came in a demonstration at the annual American Medical Association conference in
The second arrest came in
Hundreds of AIDS activists marched through DC chanting their way to the White House. During the march, I met Nurse Bush -- a drag queen dressed as a nurse wearing a Barbra Bush wig and carrying a bloody hammer. Nurse Bush said she was simply carrying out her husband’s AIDS policies. And of course, she was hilarious.
Once we reached the White House, my group helped chain PWAs (People With AIDS) to the White House fence. We then chained ourselves. Naturally, the parks department revoked our permit and began arresting people. In teams of two, officers approached each protester along the fence asking him or her to leave. When the protester refused, officers notified the protester that he or she was under arrest and ask him or her to come willingly or be carried.
After the bloody mess in
If I walked, I’d be the first one to do so. If they carried me, would I get charged with resisting arrest?
What’s an AIDS activist to do?
“If you carry me, is it an extra charge?” I asked the officer.
I guess no one had ever asked that before because he looked confused.
“We ... don’t charge,” he said.
“No, I mean is it an extra arrest charge like resisting arrest?” I explained.
“OK, carry me.” I said.
When I arrived at the police wagon, he searched my pockets. That’s when I froze.
During the march, an elderly Mexican woman asked me to carry her jacket. I tied it around my waist and thought nothing of it -- until that moment.
My poor officer, he pulled out a little pink teddy bear from a pocket of the jacket. Then he pulled out some tissues and a lipstick tube.
“Is this yours?” he asked as he twisted the lipstick tube revealing a shade of red that would have make Nurse Bush drop her hammer.
I paused for a moment trying to decide if I should explain about the old Mexican woman but that big hulking man wearing riot gear suddenly looked like a confused nine years old boy. I don’t know why, but I lied and said they belonged to me. You should have seen his face.
My final arrest came at a protest. at Memorial Hall in
Soon I became a respectable and worked as one of the first HIV educators in
As I learn uninfected friends are now HIV positive and friends who were positive are now dead, all I have left are stories and the knowledge that AIDS no longer devastates or threatens life of the average American -- unless you or someone you becomes infected.
Twenty-five million people have died from AIDS since 1981. Currently, there are more than 38 million people infected with HIV.