The Beginning of the Epidemic
The beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980’s marked an abrupt shift in focus from the previous decade of gay liberation to one of survival. Everything gay men had cumulatively achieved the decade before would be needed now, all at once, to resist and demand action in stopping the death of thousands. For 2 years (about 1981-83-depending where one may have been) a horrific virus spread at terminal velocity and decimated the gay communities across the North American Continent. It was a time where ‘resilience’ was personified in gay men throughout major North American cities. Because the gay community was the first target of the HIV’s onslaught against humanity it was this community which was blamed, shunned, and even hated; remnants of which are felt and seen even today. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) knows no racial, gender, ethnic, sexual, or any other boundaries. The only fundamental requirement needed to be exposed to, or infected by HIV, is to be human, it is, after all, known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
From the gay community came a resounding response encased in compassion and, at times, hostility. Gay men cared for friends and lovers while maintaining a dignified and resilient composure necessary to survive within so much death. Gay men demanded that governments and pharmaceutical companies do something to stop the carnage obliterating their lives-in a very literal way.
HIV is here. It is now in every country in the world; it’s a pandemic. HIV is a health issue. As such, all humans are vulnerable; yes gay men too-not because they are gay, but because they are human. Ponder this question:
“If HIV had first presented itself in 1981 in San Francisco and Los Angeles senior citizens communities, then would the response to HIV have been different?”
People living with HIV today represent the entire spectrum of human kind. What has been the response to HIV over the past 30 years in one area of the world is not reflective of the response to HIV elsewhere. We are profoundly fortunate in Canada, and Alberta in particular, to have access to free health care and free medications for HIV. This is not the case, even in the United States, where thousands of people do not have access to HIV medication. What it is like to live with HIV in one area of the world is no indication of what it is like to live with HIV elsewhere in the world.
Living Positive is about supporting peers and anyone affected by HIV. Although the gay/MSM community is our foundation, we welcome and support all people living with or affected by HIV, regardless of orientation and gender identification.