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HBO’s The Normal Heart (x)

I have severely mixed feelings about this as an AIDS activist. It’s wonderful this is on HBO, with such high-level talent. It’s wonderful Larry Kramer, who has been grappling with severe health issues over the last year, will have a platform to speak out, perhaps his last on a mainstream level. But I am *so angry* that it took our culture *thirty years* to get here. I am *so angry* that so many people died under horrific circumstances because the culture couldn’t deal with homosexuality, IV drug use and the issues of healthcare and poverty that added up to a plague taking so many people, every one beautiful, every one deserving a chance at life. I am *so angry* that America is only ready to learn about the AIDS crisis of the 80s now that it is historical drama and so many young men and women are just ashes on the beach, in the sea, in urns, in the air, blown off the White House lawn. And AIDS isn’t over. There are promising drug treatments like PReP to prevent infection and ART to reduce infectiousness to zero; but, here in the U.S.,  the incidence of HIV is rising in young gay men and in segments of the African-American population at alarming rates. New Yorker Lamont Valentin died this past December because he was born with HIV and was refused a needed lung transplant in New York City for no reason other than his status — in the wake of his death the guidelines are being changed. Our friends with HIV and AIDS are still dying — of illness, of despair, of suicide. How are you going to help them now? How are you going to help someone else in another stigmatized population who is suffering right now? Will you step up, or you will wait another thirty years for a pretty actor to play them in a tv movie? ACT. THE FUCK. UP.

(Source: archivistsrock)

AIDS is still with us, still taking too many lives.

Notwithstanding wonderful treatment advances, HIV/AIDS still kills surprising numbers of Americans every year. It’s hard to be too precise here, since people living with HIV and AIDS can die of other causes. Since the epidemic began, more than 600,000 Americans have died after being diagnosed with AIDS. In 2009, there were another 18,000 estimated deaths of persons with AIDS diagnoses across the United States.* To put this in context, about 9,100 Americans died in gun homicides that same year. The annual AIDS death toll continues to rival the annual toll of American combat deaths during the worst years in Vietnam.

Final Interview with Spencer Cox conducted by David France for “How To Survive A Plague”.

Spencer Cox, a star figure in “How to Survive a Plague” and a hero to many, died this morning. He was just 44 years old. As an AIDS activist, he helped spearhead research on protease inhibitors and played a central role in bringing the drugs to market — and saving 8 million lives. Over the years, he was a frequent and always brilliant source of mine, and a good friend.

In an outtake from my last interview with him, he describes what lessons he took away from the plague:

"What I learned from that is that miracles are possible. Miracles happen, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I wouldn’t trade that information for anything. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what’d going to happen day to day. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I just now, you keep going. You keep evolving and you keep progressing, you keep hoping until you die. Which is going to happen someday. You live your life as meaningful as you can make it. You live it and don’t be afraid of who is going to like you or are you being appropriate. You worry about being kind. You worry about being generous. And if it’s not about that what the hell’s it about?"

- David France, 12/18/12


There’s a point, about two thirds of the way through the movie, when a few of the activists we’ve been following sit around discussing their fates.  Death, all of them concede, is likely and imminent.  The drugs that had been the great hope for the AIDS have failed, and the movement is at a loss about how to proceed.  We see a turbulent ACT UP meeting, and then we fade to black.  ” ‘93 to ‘95 were the worst years,” we hear someone saying.  ”It was a really terrifying time.”  We fade into an interview with one of the men, older.  ”They were the worst years.  And then,” he says, a smiling coming over his face, “we got lucky.”  We cut to a pan up on one of the other activists, alive and middle-aged.  And then another.  And then another.  And then another.  And on and on we see these people who lived, who survived.  These people who were sure they were going to die in their twenties and thirties have made it into their forties and fifties.  But of course it’s bittersweet, because so many others did succumb to AIDS. 

This movie is really powerful.  See it if you can.





BIG PHOTOSETS FOREVER FOR THEY ARE MUCH HARDER TO IGNORE / a lot of these don’t have hi-res versions available, but i still want to post them

This was not an exaggeration. The government ignored the issue of HIV/AIDS for years before anything was done. Gay and Queer communities had to form their own clinics because no government agencies cared for them. Back then, being diagnosed was equivalent to a death sentence or extreme debt and poor quality of life/a significantly shortened lifespan.

Things got so desperate that people literally had “Die-Ins”— in contemporary usage this refers to masses of people simulating death in order to protest something (like the War in Iraq). In this case, however, fatally sick people would literally lie down in public places and protest with what little energy they had left until they died. There is some footage of a church Die-In in the documentary Beyond Stonewall.  The middle image here of that person’s jacket is not an extreme political statement; it’s what people had to do because they had no other options.


never forget

My NYC adolescence in pictorial form. Silence=Death.

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