I recently started following a new-to-me Instagram account, TheAIDSMemorial. It isn’t that I need reminders to reflect upon those who have been lost to AIDS, but seeing the photos and reading the stories has moved me deeply.
Damn, they were so young.
As our country faces yet another variant strain of Covid, I can’t help but compare the two pandemics I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. While there are so many ways that these health calamities differ, I can’t help but compare the two – they are, after all, what I’ve witnessed and experienced in my lifetime.
To me, one of the most striking similarities in these illnesses was the government’s response – both Republican administrations, for what it’s worth. With AIDS we simply didn’t discuss it, while Covid was promised to just go away leaving our country of nearly 330 million unscathed.
777, 000 deaths later, that prediction would be laughable if it weren’t so outrageous.
I try to imagine how a vaccine would have been received, had one been available during the height of the AIDS crisis. After seeing patients in the medical practice where I worked who were willing to try anything the doctors were able to provide, I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t have been the type of insane hesitancy that we have today with the Covid vaccines. Factor in that these vaccines are free, or sometimes even accompanied by a financial incentive, wh I personally knew patients who were paying more than $800 a month for medications in the early 90s, and I’m gobsmacked by the percentage of Americans who remain unvaccinated.
How many more deaths are necessary to convince the nonbelievers that Covid is real?
AIDS came with a stigma – you must gay or a drug addict to contract that. Now, contracting Covid and becoming seriously ill is more a sign of ignorance, marking the afflicted as an anti-intellectual, conspiracy theorist. We know neither of those conclusions are completely accurate, but I know I’m guilty of viewing those who are described by the latter adjectives with less sympathy than those who are characterized as the former.
Globally, more than 35 million people have died from AIDS. Those are the people I will be thinking about today – particularly the artists and creatives. We’ll never know what they might have achieved had their lives not been cut short by a disease no one saw coming.
I mourn for them – and their loved ones left behind.
I miss them and the light they shone too briefly in our world.
I remember them.
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