Yesterday, Fort Lauderdale hosted its Annual AIDS Walk to raise money for you know what. It’s something that’s conducted in just about every major urban area sometime during the year. Then, there’s those mega-events like winter parties or white parties or leather balls where backers claim a portion of the ticket proceeds go to AIDS causes. (Maybe the drug dealers who make a fortune at these things should cough up a cut of their profits too.) And all of us have, from time to time, been hustled, while visiting our favorite bar on a Saturday night, for a donation, again for “the cause.”
It all sounds very noble, doesn’t it? But I ask you, why are we as gay men, outside of maybe those of us old farts and our lovers and friends who fucked around before we knew what was happening, why are we still even talking about IT?
I teach college writing and one of the papers I have my students analyze for organizational purposes focuses on the development of the polio vaccine some sixty years ago. I often use this as an opportunity to relate to them my own experiences as a kid growing up in the 50’s, and how my school mates and I lived under the threat of polio’s crippling potential. But all I get back from my student are vacant stares. And why shouldn’t I? Today, polio has essentially become a footnote in the medical textbooks.
Shouldn’t AIDS not be the same for us gay men too?
After all, by around 1985, we all knew what caused it and how to prevent it. So why does an avoidable disease still maintain epidemic proportions in gay ghettos like South Florida?
And here ‘s where I’m going to get the hate mail: anyone much under 45 who gets infected has no one to blame but himself. And needs to fess up to his own reckless behavior.
It doesn’t take much to figure out why it remains an issue when you look at the meth heads getting indiscriminately porked in the shadows at the sex clubs; or scan the pages and pages of pharm ads in the gay rags that depict handsome, virile twenty somethings or thirty somethings who just happen to have AIDS. Hey, just pop a pill and everything’s fine – right? Go talk to the over forty crowd I know who have been on the meds for 20 years now, the guys with the blown out joints, early dementia, fucked-up livers and haggard looks.
It’s great to think that some of the bucks you give at the door of your favorite bar on a Saturday night might end up curing AIDS. But in the meantime, is all we’re really doing enabling bad boy behavior to continue? Like those Viagra ads, the men seem to be getting younger and younger. Just ask my gay doctor how many guys in their twenties he has to break the news to every week.
After all, there’s tax payer assistance in the form of such “perks” as SSI Disability checks; plus a whole industry of general practitioners and plastic surgeons, clinics and pharmacies and, of course, the pharm companies themselves, feeding off irresponsible behavior. What doc or pharm company wouldn’t want a client for life? (And yes, I know a lot of guys pay for their own meds to the tune of thousands of dollars a month.)
But I think the worse sin is how our own gay media and agencies like the federal Centers for Disease Control or state health departments paint those afflicted by AIDS – again I’m referring to the under 45 guys here – as heroes or victims.
“We’re Fighting AIDS Together” beams the headlines of the recent ads from the CDC depicting two smiling young’ens. Huh? How are they fighting AIDS if one of them’s got it already?
Or the humpy 42 year old poz former porn star on the cover of a local gay mag showcased as an “AiDS advocate?”
A few years ago, I had a conversation with a guy at the gym who said he had been infected in 1998 – over a decade after the cause was confirmed – and described himself as a survivor. OK, as a human being I was happy to hear his meds were working – kinda – but a survivor? Of what? His own stupidity?
Now, some guys will yell at me and say it wasn’t their fault, that their poz partner had lied to them, etc., etc., etc. It can happen to anyone – me included – but in the end the only one who’s gonna worry about your own ass – literally and figuratively – is you.
Bottom line, guys can do whatever they like in the bedroom. Just don’t call yourself a victim if your unlucky card comes up.
And don’t hustle my buck at the door.