AIDS Will BE ERADICATED: A MESSAGE OF HOPE
AIDS Will BE ERADICATED: A MESSAGE OF HOPE
Recently, mostly by happenstance, I’ve seen several drama revivals and old movies of Tony Kushner’s works. For those of you who may be too young to know of nor recall Mr. Kushner’s writing, he has always been a prolific gay activist whose weapon is his pen. His work has garnered many awards as has he; among them:
- 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama – Angels in America: Millennium Approaches
- 1993 Tony Award for Best Play – Angels in America: Millennium Approaches
Since I’ve always valued his daring thinking, I even saw his 2004 play Caroline or Change twice. In this play he does not tackle aids, but rather the hidden and perhaps unaware Southern discriminatory values of well meaning Whites towards Blacks.
Going back approximately two decades brought back memories of an era of terror, prejudice, and ultimate duplicity. Tony remains a quiet warrior whose creative works are his weapons. Before it became popular, he worked hard to educate his audience to the horrors that they denied and those that were to come. In those days everyone was terrified of this mysterious disease and it was useful to believe that this horrifying illness only touched gay men. For many heterosexuals, it proved their belief in retribution for a non-approved religious behavior.
I vividly remember visiting my first friend who died from this dreadful disease. He was a brilliant psychiatrist, who had once been married to a woman. His death process was so horrific that when a friend and I visited him together in his barren hospital room, we would take turns staying with him. Though I’d seen horrifying deaths and loved ones eaten up from the inside out by the ravages of cancer, I’d never witnessed such a devastating death process. It was so overwhelming that I was only able to stay in the room for short periods before starting to dry heave. So, my close friend and I visited together, taking turns staying with our dying colleague each of us taking much needed rest periods in both the ladies room and the quiet chapel. My dear dying colleague and close friend, ill as he was, could sense our inability to watch as we could sense his shame at being seen in such a compromised position. There was still no name for what he had. I had always enjoyed his company, his smarts and since I was single I’d once almost slept with him. Condom use or not, I can’t help but wonder the eternal; “what if”? I’m simply glad we never did.
Since then, I’ve said my good byes to men and women alike: some young, some old, but all of the same disease. Medicine has made strides and so have I. I no longer collapse at the horrors I’ve witnessed. We tend to pay less and less attention as we gain more knowledge and control over HIV (which no longer is always equated with AIDS). Times have changed. Medical advances have made a difference. Gays can come out of the closet and even, in some states, wed. We now know much about how to prevent this virus’ incubation and spread. Soon there will even be a vaccine that works.
It’s easy for Americans to no longer live in terror, for progress has been made. However, the horrors of what goes on in other continents, specifically in Africa, do not impact us on a daily basis. Still, this disease exists. Thus, my current hero’s are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who have taken on eradicating this disease as one of their major projects. I quote from one of the Gates’ websites: http://www.winbeta.org/news/bill-gates-foundation-funds-skin-condoms-fight-aids
According to a YouTube video, posted on June 3, The Bill & Melinda Foundation have funded a team of researchers from the University of Wollongong (UOW) in Australia to help develop a condom that will enhance the pleasure and give more sensation. Instead of using latex, the researchers are working on an alternative, ahydrogel based material that is designed to “act, feel, and look” more like real skin.
“Hydrogel is a network of polymer chains that are hydrophilic, sometimes found as a colloidal gel in which water is the dispersion medium. Hydrogels are highly absorbent (they can contain over 90% water) natural or synthetic polymeric networks. Hydrogels also possess a degree of flexibility very similar to natural tissue, due to their significant water content,” according to Wikipedia.
By giving a natural feel, this will allow more people to use protection (at least that is the desired intention), preventing pregnancies and spread of STD’s. “The funding will help us find the right material appropriate for the condom. We are in the process of screening materials to find a match that works well together. It’s a tough job trying to find the right mix for this application – it’s a huge challenge” said biomedical engineer research fellow Robert Gorkin, who is leading the project.”
In addition to the above research, The Gates foundation has funded additional research and offered prizes for new innovative male and female condoms. Some may actually eventually work. Many are creative and others are simply a “hoot.” However, most promising is a vaccine that just as the Salk vaccine has almost totally eradicated Polio, we are close to developing one that will prevent and hopefully eradicate Aids.
I remain saddened and perhaps a bit stunned by those who still stubbornly stick to outdated beliefs and go as far as holding on to Aids being disease of religious retribution. However, I like having lived long enough to see how much progress has been made. Perhaps in my lifetime I will even be able to see this disease follow the Polio’s vaccine’s path of progress.
I am not Catholic, but I am heartened when someone as esteemed as Pope Francis has focused so relentlessly on the mercy of God rather than the judgment of the church. Let us all suspend judgment and love people for whom they are.