World AIDS Day Statement
MOVING TOWARD COMPASSION AND TREATMENT
World AIDS Day
Today is World AIDS Day. As many of you know, I was born with hemophilia. As a result of blood transfusions used to treat hemophilia, in 1984 I learned that I had contracted HIV.
At the time, having HIV was considered to be a death sentence. There was a great fear of its spread and individuals with the virus were openly discriminated against. Some suggested that everyone with HIV be forcibly quarantined on an island off of North Carolina. One conservative commentator said that everyone with HIV should get a tattoo so that others would be warned. The gay community was hit particularly hard by the HIV virus, and the blatant homophobia of that era delayed life-saving research.
After nearly ten years of feeling that my life was going to be cut short, I was incredibly fortunate to discover that my immune system contains a genetic variation that resists the HIV virus. I never developed AIDS. However, millions across the globe died, and millions more continue to suffer because of this insidious virus. Today is a day to remember the pain and struggle faced by them and their families and loved ones.
For me, today is also a day to recognize the extraordinary work that has been done to combat the disease, as well as the fear and discrimination that accompanied it.
Thousands of courageous activists refused to be relegated to the shadows and demanded action from reluctant politicians. Physicians, nurses, and other medical personnel knocked themselves out to care for the sick. Skilled professionals, with taxpayer and charitable funding, developed life-saving treatments. Compassion and love led people to come together to defeat fear and replace it with hope.
There remains extraordinary work ahead of us to deal with AIDS. And in these times, with a President sowing division, bigotry, and outright hostility to science, it is yet another dark period in our history. I know that the AIDS Action Committee and many others in Massachusetts are already preparing for a major organizing day on April 12, 2018 - HIV Advocacy Day. For more information, please take a look at www.gettingtozeroma.org and #gettingtozero.
Though we have a come long way, we have the capability as a nation to go much further. We have done it before and we can do it again.
On this World Aids Day, I encourage you to honor the work done, and the work ahead, by contributing to the fight against AIDS.