...I remember the first time an ambulance wouldn't take a friend to the ER because of his symptoms. I remember the anger, the outrage, the sense of abandonment.
I remember the protests: ACT UP, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and Luke Sissyfag showing up everywhere Reagan went to make him acknowledge the epidemic.
I remember the fear of sex.
I remember the fights over closing bathhouses.
I remember the first AIDS drug AZT and the crippling side effects that it had on so many.
I remember being closed out of hospital rooms by "real family." You want to know the source of the marriage equality movement? It is AIDS. So many lovers had homes taken, lives destroyed. So many had to wait outside in the hospital lobby as their lovers, their partners lay dying, because family swept in and called the shots, family that didn't approve.
I remember how on weekends San Francisco's Castro would become a garage-sale city, with people selling the belongings of dead loved ones.
I remember Lorenzo, my dear, sweet best friend Lorenzo Braxton, and the night I watched him take the oxygen mask off his face, knowing that he would slip into unconsciousness and die.
I remember the parties where friends would say goodbye and then go upstairs to die at the hands of a group of true friends, none knowing who it was who did what, really, each being careful not to break any law.
I remember trying desperately to find funeral homes that would take my friends' bodies, with so many turning away the dead. That's right: Funeral homes refused bodies because of how they'd died. I remember the pain and the hatred. I remember all of it.
I remember my friend John returning to his home after the devastating loss of his partner to Pneumocystis pneumonia (which is preventable now), only to find the locks changed. The police laughed at him, told him to get a lawyer and drove away....
I remember the AIDS crisis, too.
I remember the hate, the bigotry, the rampant homophobia and hate crimes.
I remember sitting with my friend Beaux, waiting for the positive AIDS test results.
I remember my parents reacting with fear when I came home and told them that I had gone with Beaux, and had hugged him and cried with him when he got the results. People were afraid of hugging, for heaven's sake. That's how scary AIDS was.
I remember watching Beaux slowly waste away, becoming a skeleton wrapped in skin. He always took such pride in his appearance, and by the end, he wouldn't look in the mirror.
I remember being unable to visit Beaux in his last few days, because I was out of town. He died alone, so many friends too afraid of AIDS to go near him. I will always regret going on that trip.
As the author of the article says, AIDS is still here, and we owe it to our kids to make them aware of how very horrible this disease can be, and how to protect themselves against it. We don't have to make them afraid, like we were. We know what AIDS is now, and how to prevent it. If we educate our kids, they don't have to be afraid - just smart.
December 1st is World AIDS Day. I desperately hope that, during my lifetime, AIDS will become obsolete.