AIDS affects us all, and if you think it doesn’t, what world are you living in? Yes, for many of us, it is not a day to day topic on our minds, but for many, it is now part of your daily routine, it’s why you are popping that PreP every day or how soon we have forgotten. And that may be a danger of making how we “deal” with AIDS a simple daily routine. WE may forget about the history our community has experienced, we may as well forget about the present, and not fight for the future.
I am 48, raised in a small town in Maine. The virus was present in the United States in the 1970s but did not really become publicly known until the 1980s. I wasn’t sexually active in the ’80s and not much of the early ’90s during the beginning years of the GAY CANCER, the GAY PLAGUE, the GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency). When the government finally settled on the name Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) I was already pretty confused about being gay and this just pushed me further back into the closet. With Ryan White and then Matthew Shepard making the news, there was no hope for this kid that knew of one other gay person in his town.
One thing I did remember was the presence of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. I have the ability to sew and have made quilts in the past and as a young kid, I was thinking, would I need to make my own square some day? Many of us have not seen the quilt nor heard of it before, but there are groups like COMPASS here in South Florid that are helping us remember what our community went through, are going through, and how some of us chose to mark the passing of loved ones.
To help us remember, parts of the AIDS Memorial Quilt travel across the country to be shown. Part of this memorial will be in Southern Florida for much of the month of December, thanks to Compass.
Compass is among the largest and most respected LGBTQ community centers in the country. More than 25,000 people utilize its 14,000 square foot facility, and more than 17,000 referrals are fielded by more than 12,000 volunteer hours graciously contributed by hundreds of community-centered individuals each year.
In 2018, Compass and its family will proudly celebrate 30 years of service to Palm Beach County, South Florida and the many constituents who have donated their time, money and expertise to advance one united mission: to engage, empower and enrich the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and those impacted by HIV and AIDS.
In a recent press release, Compass shared their plans for December 1st.
In recognition of World AIDS Day, Compass displays the largest collection of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in Florida. Each year, a ceremony is hosted on December 1st which include the quilt display, a candle light vigil, induction, and guest speakers.
World AIDS Day serves as a platform to increase awareness of the AIDS pandemic and to inspire positive action through education, testing, and standing in solidarity with those affected by the virus. HIV/AIDS has had a major impact locally and globally:
- 35 Million people worldwide are currently living with HIV/AIDS
- Over 1.2 Million people in the U.S. are living with HIV; almost 1 in 8 are unaware of their infection
- 8,208 people are currently living with HIV/AIDS in Palm Beach County
- 4,800 New cases in Florida in 2017 (3rd highest in the nation)
- The rate of Black Females living with HIV is 24.4 times that of white females!
How are we working to battle stigma, funding, and the lack of knowledge?
Some good friends participated in The SMART Ride this year. Check out this great fund raiser on their Facebook homepage where they shared their tally for this year’s event, $1 million.
The SMART Ride is an annual 2-day, 165-mile bicycle ride from Miami to Key West every November. We’re the 2nd-largest AIDS bicycle ride in the country and the only one of our size to give back 100% of every dollar raised.
It’s a great event that helps to raise funds and awareness. And if you don’t bike yourself, there are still several wats to be part of the event. Some friends had a great time being “rescue drivers”, following behind the bicyclist and if assistance was needed, they were there.
What more timely time of they year would there be to bring up blood donations by Gay and Bisexual men. The public and the American Red Cross doesn’t need to be concerned with others donating blood as we all know that straight men just have sex with straight women while only in monogamous relationships and only to procreate under a fertility blanket on odd Wednesdays during ovulation. So they’re of no concern, and AIDS/HIV is just a worrisome topic with Gay and Bi men, no one else. Deep dark SARCASM there.
Current federal rules prohibit blood banks from collecting donations from men who have had sex with men. In April of 2022, Health Canada authorized a submission from Canadian Blood Services to eliminate the current three-month blanket donor deferral period for all sexually active men who have sex with men, and instead screen all donors, regardless of gender or sexuality, for high-risk sexual behavior. Canada used to have a lifetime restriction on gay/bi men, but then changed it to five years in 2013, to one year in 2016 and then to three months in 2019.
Back here on American soil, research backed by the Food and Drug Administration “will likely support” ending a blanket ban on blood donations from sexually active gay men, the agency said Wednesday. The move would mark a significant reversal of a measure aimed at curbing the spread of HIV that CBS)have as overly broad and misguided. (
“Although we do not have a specific timeline for when our analysis will be complete, the agency believes the initial data from the study, taken in the context of other data available from blood surveillance in the U.S. and in other countries, will likely support a policy transition to individual risk-based donor screening questions for reducing the risk of HIV transmission,” the FDA’s Carly Kempler said in a statement.
So we will sit and wait and see if we can be treated as others when it comes to blood donation. You wonder, with the fact from above “The rate of Black Females living with HIV is 24.4 times that of white females!”, does the Red Cross do different checks on black female blood? What about blood drawn in Florida, California, and Texas, the three states with the highest HIV rates in the nation, are they tested differently? Nah, it’s just easier to single out those gays and bi men.
We still have a long way to go, but we as well have a long history to remember. World AIDS Day is one of past, present, and future.