A visit over to Albert's journal reminds me that today, December 1, is World's AIDS Day.
AIDS became a common medical term during the time of my adolescence. I don't recall hearing too much about it in school, certainly not in any science or health classes. There just wasn't much known about it then, except that if you contracted it, there was a 100% chance that you were going to die from it.
Though AIDS has been around for twenty-five years or so, I somehow have been fortunate enough to not have personally known anyone who has passed away from it. But I have struggled with the very public deaths from this disease of people like Ryan White, Arthur Ashe, and especially Freddy Mercury.
I used to have a copy of an excellent HBO movie titled "And the Band Played On." It is a brilliant account of how AIDS arose in the US, how the people at the Centers for Disease Control worked hard to figure out its mysteries, the bureaucracy that they were sometimes helpless to overcome, and how the disease affected the lives of people from all types of society. It's a powerful, emotional movie that should be required viewing for junior high school health classes everywhere.
I can think of a few neo-conservative movie houses that should show it as well, but that is another topic.
In one of my moves over the last few years I have managed to lose my copy of that movie.
There have been tremendous medical advances in the last decade that have taken away the guaranteed death sentence that AIDS once was, but that prosperity has not reached other parts of the world where AIDS is as deadly as it has ever been. Check out www.data.org if you want a fuller understanding of what places like Africa are experiencing today with this disease.
I was in Seattle in the summer of 2003 and looked up a friend I went to high school with who was a doctor at the University of Washington. When I called his office to speak with him, I was told that he was in Mozambique. Through the miracle of e-mail, I was able to touch base with him and found out that he is in the middle of a three-year program in the southern half of Africa. It is his job to help educate people about AIDS and to try to get more of the medicines and such there to halt the epidemic. God bless him, he's a better man than I can ever hope to be.
It is wonderful that we have been able to develop therapies and drugs that have turned AIDS into a manageable disease instead of the relentless killer that it was for so long.
But it doesn't bring back those infected that were not fortunate enough to live long enough to see these innovations. And that is the saddest part in all of this, and why the world needs to keep working towards eliminating this disease. The biggest weapon out there today to eradicate AIDS is education.
We all still have much to learn.