Monday, December 01, 2008

World Aids Day 20th Anniversary 1988-2008.

Stop AIDS. Keep the promise.

Today on this twentieth anniversary of World AIDS Day (1988-2008), we acknowledge those who have died from HIV/AIDS and we recommit ourselves to the eradication of this disease on behalf of the millions who are living with HIV/AIDS and for future generations.

During the early 80’s I had been able to side step AIDS.  I was living in DetroitMichigan at the time. Occasionally we would hear about this strange illness that seemed to be affecting gay men in LA, New York and San Francisco but there was no much real information. And we were too caught up in having a good time to pay much attention/

In 1984 I moved to VenturaCalifornia and there was not much happening with AIDS there either. Oh, we would visit LA read the gay papers and slowly became aware that this disease was killing many men, but Ventura was an idyllic, sleepy seaside town that seemed off the path of this plague we were hearing about in the news. The sense of denial gave way as the pandemic exploded and men that I knew or rather knew of were starting to get sick and die.

Prior to moving from Detroit to Southern California, I had been very involved with Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit where I was part of a group of 12 guys who went to The Woodward Bar every Sunday night after the evening service. We would hang out and talk, eat a burger, drink a beer, play pool and play video games. It was a wonderful, easy end to the weekend and we were very much like brothers for each other. We loved, accepted and encouraged one another without hesitation or reservation.

When I moved back to Detroit and reconnected with MCC Detroit around 1990, I discovered that of that group of amazing men, only five were still living at the time and at least one of them was living with HIV/AIDS. I will never forget that day – I felt like someone had punched me in the gut, repeatedly. I struggled with learning of and grieving multiple losses all at once and I wondered why I had been spared.

During the course of the 90’s, I said good bye to many more men and one woman as each in turn succumbed to AIDS. At one point I realized that I was barely able to cry or feel anymore. I had become numb and detached. It was the only way to survive.

In 1993 we in the g/l/b/t/a communities marched on Washington D.C. for the third time to demand g/l/b/t equality and more action on AIDS. The entire AIDS Memorial quilt was on display on the mall and they were reading the names of all those who had died who had panels in the quilt. What a haunting sound. I walked the panels with my brother, who had just found out he was HIV+. I walked the panels, listening to the names being read and was crying for him and because I had discovered in those quilt panels the names of several former friends or partners.

Everything seemed to change in the latter part of the 90’s as the new drugs were being tried and seemed to be working. For the most part, people stopped dying of AIDS at least in the western world. But living with HIV/AIDS is not like ever getting over it, you are not an AIDS survivor, you live with the disease.

One of my brothers and several friends are currently living with HIV/AIDS. They endure endless drug regimens, doctor’s visits, blood tests, stress you and I cannot imagine, almost constant diarrhea and the long term side effects of the drug therapy which take their own toll on a person’s quality of life.

Many times over the past few years I have read about “bug chasers” and “bare backing.” It seems that some people are returning to risky sex practices because they think it’s not such a big deal to be HIV+.  You just go to the doctor and take some pills and carry on with your life. While the drug therapies are miracles and preserve life, it is not easy to live with AIDS and no one really knows what the long term affects are of these powerful drugs.   I hope and pray that anyone who thinks that HIV is not a big deal will think again. I also hope and pray that we continue to research a way to end this living hell for good.

On this twentieth anniversary of World Aids Day I remember these dear friends. You are not forgotten. I am a better man for having known and loved each of you. You made a difference for me and for many people. Thanks for sharing part of the journey we call life. You are missed!

In loving memory of: 

Mr. Douglas J. Arsenault
Mr. Keith Apple
Dr. Eric Loranger
Mr. Richard L. O’Dell
Mr. Jon Rowe
Mr. Patrick Lee
Mr. Woody Lee
Mr. Joe K. Grantham
Ms. Tracey Mae Artinian LaCroix
Mr. Larry Gaynier
Mr. James Proffit
Mr. James Holman
Rev. Roger Webb
Mr. William R. Fischer
Rev. James Sandmire
Mr. Phillip Gallnitz
Mr. Dennis Tracy
Mr. Peter Salm
Mr. Andrew Satterfield


Dear God,

Today we remember the many that have died from HIV/AIDS and the millions more who are living with HIV/AIDS.
May our eyes and ears be open to those who cannot act or speak out for themselves.
May we maintain our vigilance and continue pressing for medical research.
May our hearts and arms be wide open to each other.
Expand our capability to love and care for one another.
Grant us the grace and courage to live in Love.
Help us to stop AIDS and keep the promise.


Always in Love,


© 2008 by Richard L. Beattie, all rights reserved