Milestones and Memories

In June 2001, the world was reminded of anniversary of the discovery of the disease known as HIV. Today, we know that HIV is the leading cause of death in the African Motherland for its indigenous people. Statistics that are pouring out of the Caribbean, South America and in some large urban cities of the US are all starting to see similar numbers. We were also informed this year that one in three African Americans and one and five of our Latino brotha's is infected with HIV. I think that the US has yet to see the true numbers of rural communities and southern states across what is supposed to be the wealthiest nation on the planet earth.

The 20th Anniversary of HIV has come with a bittersweet message. It has come to haunt many people that have been affected or are infected with this deadly virus. It has shown us how far we've come yet it shows us how far we have yet to go. It has refueled some folks to take action, to do something before we loose another generation. This anniversary or milestone has proven to everyone that HIV/AIDS is far from over. What's really haunting for me is that if we don't do something we could possibly loose a race of people within the next decade.

August 2001 also marks the 12th year since I discovered that I was one of the statistics in 1989 when the face of HIV went from a primarily white one to one of color. The journey has been like an odyssey at times. Flashing back, as I have had to do this year, there are so many names and faces that I can remember. It gets very frustrating when I try to recall names or faces and I find it difficult to remember because there were so many that have been lost to HIV/AIDS. The youth of today haven't experienced the kind of loss that some of us who can remember the pandemic from the beginning have. I wouldn't wish those sleepless nights and anger on no one, especially if you were one that wondered, "will I be next?"

I must admit I really didn't think I had anything else to write about in regards to HIV for a while. I've written for BLACKlines since August of 1997. There were times that I thought I might have seemed like a crazy man in my drive to try to educate individuals about HIV. Striving to educate those that are HIV negative to try their best to change their behavior so that they wouldn't test positive while expressing to others living with HIV that there is life after diagnosis if you claim it for yourself.

My previous columns, especially this year, have come to haunt me. The first article I wrote was titled, "Haunted by Mr. Death." Mr. Death for me was HIV. I wrote that Mr. Death was causing rippling effects with in our communities and that we needed to create rippling effects of love, knowledge and understanding for our people and ourselves. This year has proven it to be true. Clarity does slap you in your face if you count three African American men in your daily routine and realize that one of the three is either knowingly or unknowingly infected with HIV.

In Chicago the incidence of HIV/AIDS have tripled for African American women before the close of the 20th century. What we should be concerned about is that these studies run at least eighteen months, then the data is analyzed and then reported. That process takes time. Where are we really at now?

The largest numbers of HIV and AIDS are following the old slave trade routes starting in Motherland, then moving to the Caribbean, and to South America where the second largest concentration of people of African decent live on this planet. Hundreds of children have been orphaned because of HIV. Some places like in the Caribbean, children are running in gangs because they have become outcasts in their societies. Too many children are orphaned and ostracized by this damn disease! Even here in the US, people are still shunned in the 21st century because of their family's unwillingness to stop bathing in their own denial and ignorance. HIV, is a 100% preventable disease! Is this a nightmare I'm in? No, it's the real world. If we don't stop bathing in our denial we will die in it as we witness the slow death of a race.

In twenty years of HIV, we've come to see that it's far from over. Folks working in various field's of HIV/AIDS know that rural areas and some southern states are at least ten years behind the medical, research, and other related services provided to people living with HIV in some large urban cities. The haunting reality is that some of progress made in these large urban cities isn't equal for all of its communities. Only in the US is HIV primarily a disease of men who have sex with men and even now African American women are about to take the number one spot! We cannot become complacent.

There are a few places globally that can say that the spread of HIV has slowed but there is no place on earth that has reported a case of HIV that can say that the spread has stopped. There has to be a cultural change, an awakening and acknowledging that HIV exists in many countries and communities regardless as to how someone chooses to express themselves sexually, even in our own!


What's good is that many people are choosing to take the power of HIV away and put it in their own hands by having an HIV test or modifying their behavior to reduce the risk of infection. The power you achieve is by simply knowing your status. After finding out what that is, you can prepare and know what course of actions you may have to take. It is more important than ever to now your status so that you can prepare a therapeutic armamentarium if need be.

Nowadays, two-thirds of the antibiotics and anti-virals our parents took aren't effective for bacterial and viral infections. What's frightening is that 25 - 30% of new HIV infections are at least resistant to one of the fifteen medicines that are currently available to fight HIV. To be effective against HIV reproduction, current regimens need to be adhered 95%. Most come with some kind of side effect as does most man made medicine. The nightmare is that resistant strains of HIV were reported o both coasts in the late 1990's. We all need to learn from the past to protect the future. We are worth it and so are the generations that follow us.

Sanford E. Gaylord
Copyright 2001 

All rights are reserved. This piece is protected under U.S. copyright law. This article was previously published in BLACKlines and Windy City Times.

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