Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Today's gay men don't know what it was like to live through the 1980s, when AIDS first appeared


On Tuesday morning, July 24, the Style Section of the Washington Post has a big story by Dan Zak, “You don’t know, You weren’t there, You didn’t live through it”.  Online, it’s called “In 2012, AIDS is a different beast for gay men in D.C.”, link here.  

The online article has a slide show of black-and-white images from the 80s.

The print article also has a photo of men on the patio deck of another club, the Rock and Roll Hotel, in NE Washington, a bar that I have never visited.

The article details stories of men occasionally becoming infected after just one instance on unprotected sex. This has happened with the elderly, and with the teenagers.  While less probable today than in the 80s, it does happen.

The article also describes the dread in the 80s of men finding Kaposi’s Sarcoma lesions, or visiting doctors about innocuous marks which they could not identify.  I remember those days.  Once you realized the dread, you started looking often.  I once had a biopsy (in July 1983) of something that turned out to be random inflammation.

In those days, Charles Ortleb’s newspaper “The New York Native” covered the epidemic graphically; I had a mail subscription and received it in Dallas every week.  It would have scare headlines like “Guess What Just Hit 4000” and then “Exposing Mathilde Krim”.  

In those days, there were lots of rumors about a government facility on Long Island (some of the reporting by Ortleb's friend, John Beldakas), and about arboviruses.   That wasn’t good, because the religious right could invent predictions that the virus would eventually become spread by insects (mosquitoes) after being “amplified” by gay men.  The Dallas Gay Alliance (in those days led by a visible gay male couple, Bill Nelson and Terry Tebedo) had to fight off a draconian bill, HR2138, in the Texas legislature in 1983, trying to ban gays from almost all occupations.  The worst right wing proposals got circulated before HHS could announce a cause (first called HTLV-III) and a test, in 1984. Ironically, the Texas sodomy law 2106 had already been declared by a local federal judge in 1982 (Baker v. Wade).

Today, CNN had Sanjay Gupta reporting from the AIDS Conference at the Washington Convention Center.   The conference is being held in the US for the first time since 1990 because the US banned people having HIV from entering the country until 2009.   Gupta reported on a new drug that could be taken to prevent HIV infection, to somehow harden the T4 cells and make it impossible for the virus to enter them.  
Gupta also reported on a man in Germany “cured” of HIV with a bone marrow transplant.

Apparently you have to be paid and pre-registered to attend sessions, that go on until Friday. 

There is supposed to be another demonstration in DC Tuesday afternoon.

(Note on mismatch: title of URL has "day" in name because of typo, should be "gay")

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