People my age, and especially those in the arts, remember what it was like in the 80's and early 90's.
Going to the almost weekly funerals, learning which of your friend's got it, reading the obits - even though you're only in your 20's....... crying a lot.
I remember a frantic phone call I got one day. My friend Bill called - he couldn't wake his friend and co-worker up to go to work. I rushed over to find Bill a total mess, and David laying on the couch. He looked like he died peacefully.
I calmed Bill down and shut him in his bedroom, picked up the bong and any other paraphernalia I found, then called the police and EMS.
A year or so later, I would lay down with Bill in his bed and try to get him to eat. I'd rub his feet for him (they were always cold and he complained that he couldn't feel them) and I'd help him to the bathroom; even when it got so bad that he had to wear a diaper and he was so embarrassed. I would buy pot for him with money he would give me, through a network that was set up to sell pot to AIDS patients at cost. The pot relieved his pain and would encourage him to eat.
His parents came from California the week that he died. They thanked me and his other friends that helped him. They gave me some pieces of his artwork that he left me, along with a very high tech VHS player (not so high tech anymore and long since gone).
Yesterday I visited some sections of the AIDS Quilt that is on display in our town. I wondered if anyone made a panel for Bill. Or David. Or any of the many other friends that I lost. And I decided I would make a panel for him if there's not. (Aunt Azalea will help and wants to make one for another of our friends).
Mostly I was grateful for my many friends that were NOT on the quilt; who amazingly, are still alive today; lived through this horrible epidemic of my generation.
But I am still shocked at how long it took to get to this point. Why did we have to fight; to march in the streets, to get our goverment to focus on the crisis? Why did we have a president who ignored the problem? (Reagan would not mention AIDS in public).
Today, while patients no longer die at the rate they did during the 80's and 90's, that doesn't mean that AIDS is no longer a struggle.
Tomorrow is World AIDS day. Is the Quilt anywhere near you? Check here
if you'd like to view sections of it - it is sadly, now to large to display all at once. Estimates to view each panel would take you 33 days! Fact sheet on AIDS in the US