Where has this summer gone?!? June 2011 marked the thirty-year anniversary of the HIV/AIDS saga. I’ve been sharing my memories of working with the early years of AIDS, 1984-1993, as a prelude to the Capital City AIDS Walk in Sacramento, California September 18.
Our Dare to Care Team has been emailing, texting, posting, and tweeting to build our team and donations. Yes, you still can donate! Four generations of my family are walking. UC Davis Medical Center nurse friends of my sister, family friends, and some from our Eternal Scheme community are joining us! I can’t wait! I’ll be posting pictures and a post all about it.
It’s been an interesting process recollecting the early years of HIV/AIDS. I’m not one to look back. My personal philosophy is to learn from and incorporate what I learn as I go. Experience. Reflect. Apply. Move on. Each time this process is repeated, another layer is added to the well from which to draw wisdom and insight to be integrated into my life…all part of life’s eternal scheme.
There’s been a bittersweetness as I’ve been remembering and sharing in this blog. There’s also been a recognition of the pioneering efforts I had the honor of sharing in. But most importantly, is acknowledging how much richer my life is as a result of working alongside Dr. Gordon and those I knew who died from AIDS. We opened our hearts, cared and cried, lived and died.
When we’re caught up in the busy-ness of life, we often just pass through and occasionally remember to savor the moment. Something happens when we’re faced with mortality, whether our own or someone we know. All of a sudden we’re more cognizant of the sacredness of life. We pay attention differently and I think it’s because we’re facing grief in some form.
We have many griefs, besides death, in our lives: as we move from childhood to young adulthood to adulthood or when we move residences or careers. We see this circle of life in nature and the changing of the seasons. We know that we too are part of the circle of life, yet we’re never fully prepared when faced with the arc of death.
The early years of AIDS brought a complexity and a younger face to death. Not only were we made aware of a new uncurable disease, the way people contracted the virus forced us to look at and talk about things that made us uncomfortable. We had to talk openly and truthfully about the virus in order to combat fear and encourage people to behave responsibly. We had to confront our own prejudices in order to truly care for, without judgement, the people impacted by AIDS. We were there. We did our part.
I thought I had completed my part with HIV/AIDS. I kept up minimally and spoke up when necessary, but saw that as a closed chapter. Then my son learns he has HIV. Thankfully, it’s not the death sentence it used to be. With treatment, people live a very long time with HIV. Many with HIV will never convert to AIDS. We have come a long ways, but there is still work to be done both locally and globally. As with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) and polio, with consorted effort, we can do plenty to alleviate and treat HIV.
I’m so glad to be able to walk this year in the AIDS Walk. Last year I was having my second knee replacement when my son, sister, and brother and his family participated. Yes, the AIDS Walk is to raise money and awareness. But it’s also to remember. When our Dare to Care Teams walks on the 18th, I will be remembering Dr. Gordon, Tim, David, Ryan, Julie, Steve, Pat, Dick and the other 183 I personally knew who died from AIDS…and their partners and families. I am grateful for their lives shared with me. They have not been forgotten.