December 1, 2010
For our World AIDS Day 2010 section, we wanted to capture the diversity of the AIDS community. So, we reached out to people across the world -- mostly those who have never written for us before -- and asked them to guest blog. These columns are written by people who are living with HIV, have been affected by HIV, or work in the field.
Tony Kushner wrote, in the Playwright's Notes for Act 2 of Angels in America -- Perestroika, that Harold Bloom translated the Hebrew word for "blessing" as "more life".
"More life" repeats throughout the second half of the play. Later, Prior Walter says to the Angel of America, "But still. Still. Bless me anyway I want more life."
I remember the first time I read these words in grade 12 while trying to write my own script for a movie in Film & Video Production. They made such an impact on me that I read them over and over again and they wound up being a scene in my movie.
The play ends with these words, also spoken by Prior Walter, "Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: more life. The great work begins."
On World AIDS Day, this more than anything else, is what I wish for you.
This past June marked 29 years since five men in Los Angeles were diagnosed with pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), marking the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. To date no cure has been found, and more than 25 million people worldwide have died.
In Canada, there were an estimated 58,000 people living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2005. Of these, around 30% were unaware of their infection, a chilling fact that should drive home the importance, for everyone, of getting tested, and knowing your status.
I dream of a world free from AIDS, where Edward, and so many others are guaranteed to live well into old age barring hereditary and environmental factors. I dream of a world where instead of reading that thousands of people worldwide are diagnosed with HIV every day, we celebrate the victory of no new infections (or single digit), and a cure.
When Paul Martin was running for Prime Minister opposite Stephen Harper, the Liberals had a commercial that I only saw once, right before the election. I thought it was the best commercial they or any party had come up with. Paul Martin was in a room and he encouraged voters to vote for their Canada. The outcome of the election was disappointing to say the least, I was a Liberal, through and through even though, even then I tended to fall to the left of the Liberal party's politics. But that commercial always stuck with me. What would you like your world to look like?
I spent all of last weekend reading my friend Kenn's blog instead of writing and something that seemed to come up repeatedly (or I just read the same thing repeatedly, either way!) is that AIDS is not a single issue journey and it reminded me of a very heated debate on MySpace about how when AIDS is cured the factors that allowed AIDS to happen (apathy, poverty, fear, ignorance, etc) would still be there, a fertile ground from some other disease.
As it stands, so far this week I have posted an article about access to medication in prisons, Uganda's "kill a gay" bill (Change.org's words, not mine), and China's AIDS apathy that boggles my mind. All of these things and so many more allow AIDS to continue spreading unchecked. Today I read on Twitter that 7,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with HIV every single day. A short time later I opened the newspaper to read that AIDS diagnoses among men who sleep with men are climbing back up to rates not seen since the 80's.
As we remember the lives lost to HIV/AIDS and those living with the disease, we should also be asking ourselves what we can do to change the tide. We can start by being aware, getting tested, being informed and spreading the word.
I would like to leave you with these words from Stephen Spender's poem, "I think continually." They seem especially poignant today, on World AIDS Day.
"Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of the wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while towards the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honor."
Aless Piper is a 20-something office assistant by day, world-changer by night. She has been reading TheBody.com for more than half her life.
Read more of Flaming Red, Aless's blog, on TheBody.com.