I remember being a teenager in the early 90’s, everyone who was anyone had a ‘cause’. I wish I knew what happened.
The Beastie Boys pioneered the Free Tibet movement, Pearl Jam teamed up with Soundgarden to form Temple of the Dog in an effort to bring an end to childhood hunger, Run DMC contributed a now classic Christmas song to ‘A Very Special Christmas 2’ a purchase whose proceeds go to help fund the Special Olympics. Musicians and celebrities alike used their popularity to bring awareness to causes whether they were health issues, safety issues, or oppressed peoples—as a generation we were made aware of these global concerns because of the entertainers in our world.
Now, I’m not saying that no celebrities now do the same thing, there are many donating their time, effort, and money to great causes—it just seems as though it’s not as visible as it was 15+ years ago. I stumbled across another article online which spoke of how the red ribbons are missing from events such as the Oscars, and though I had noticed the dwindling effect prior to reading this—I’d always assumed that H.I.V/A.I.D.S were exempt from being swept under the rug of human memory. I guess I was wrong.
I came from the generation that pioneered safe sex, where “no glove, no love” was a reality—not just some funny saying. As Gen X’er’s; the generation caught in the in-between, the one no one could define—we were also the first to grow-up in an A.I.D.S reality. I remember a conversation at my own dinner table when I was maybe 7-years-old, and hearing about the concern over H.I.V/A.I.D.S from my parents. I recall how upset my father was when I looked at him and told him that I had AIDS at my school…of course I meant the lunch ladies (they were called lunch aids at my elementary school) but the sheer utter panic on my father’s face momentarily before he realized what I meant, is something I will never forget. It affected our daily lives; as young children we were taught that it was a “gay disease” that you could get it just by being touched. We witnessed the battles over sexual education in the public school systems; we watched the terror our parents experienced before science was finally able to fully understand this disease that was once a death sentence.
In June of 1981; the first cases of what would later become known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or A.I.D.S, appeared in a small group of homosexual men living in Los Angeles California. Within in a few short years, it spawned into a worldwide pandemic.
In the picture above, there is a question—“Are we for-getting A.I.D.S?” it’s a catchy play on words thought up by the Kenneth Cole marketing geniuses for A.I.D.S awareness month in December 2008—but it poses a very real and relevant question. Given I remember this ad that was splashed all over buses, trains, basically anything that would stand still over 4 years later, just goes to prove its enormous impact. This question is double-sided—on one side it begs to know if we are for getting A.I.D.S, asking if we’re ok with that, questioning whether or not we care about our own bodies enough to know our status. On the flip side, is a question I’ve been asking for many years—ARE WE FORGETTING A.I.D.S?
According to A.I.D.S.gov; every 9 and ½ minutes someone is in the U.S. is infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (A.K.A H.I.V the virus that causes A.I.D.S). 1 in every 5 people (21%) are unaware that they are living H.I.V, and the CDC’s latest estimation of new H.I.V cases in the United States alone is 50,000.
Even though the amounts of new cases have remained stable for the last 7+ years and have not increased, failure to decrease is not good either. In the U.S. alone—more than 18,000 people will lose their life to H.I.V/A.I.D.S this year. Since the pandemic began 30 years ago, there have been more than 576,000 souls lost to this disease in AMERICA—that number is not even close to the worldwide count.
As scary as those statistics sound, the scarier part is the idea of these numbers being so high from a very preventable disease! Let’s face it, turning a blind eye, or burying our heads in the sand like ostrich’s isn’t going to help anyone. The quote “the best defense is a good offense” has never been more applicable than it is in this situation. The best prevention is knowledge—know the statistics, know your status, know your partner’s status, and if you don’t know, get tested.
February is National Condom Awareness month—there shouldn’t be any excuses as to why you couldn’t get a hold of protection, when they’re everywhere especially this month. You can find them in doctor’s offices, family planning clinics—some schools even.
When you’re sharing yourself physically with another person; part of taking the proper precautions is not just using prevention methods physically but also to ask them their sexual and drug history. If they’ve ever been an intravenous drug user; or have been with a partner that has tested positive, find out when they were last tested, or if they’ve ever even been tested, you’d be surprised how many people haven’t been! Don’t worry about feeling nervous and uncomfortable; it is very common for people to feel squeamish when asking these questions—but isn’t your LIFE worth MORE than a few minutes of embarrassment? I should hope so.
My fellow Gen X’er’s, it’s time to take back the reigns, time to bring back more awareness to this generation and the next. If we want to have the first A.I.D.S free generation in history, we have to get back to basics and bring it to the surface. Remember, we do not inherit the Earth from our fathers; we are borrowing it from our children.