Saturday, December 05, 2009

War, Tiger Woods and World AIDS Day

We have moved abruptly this week into winter and plants still blooming beside the front door last week, uncharacteristically late in the season, are now decisively dead. A few flurries have fallen here; more to the north. I’ve wrapped a garland around the porch rail and after one false start, pulled a Christmas tree down from the rafters and put it up, bedecked with lights. More to come. The Advent candle lighted last Sunday in many churches, including mine, is called “Hope” by many. There still is some of that.

Rising before dawn and tuning in for a forecast and brief dose of the world’s news, the top headlines were aligned in this order: President Obama’s decision to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the minor accident and apparent major infidelities of a golfer named Tiger Woods and White House gate-crashing on the part of a couple with no apparent justification for existence named Salahi. More than a little cause for despair here on several fronts.

World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, was for the most part overlooked despite the fact more than 30 million adults worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS as well as more than 2 million children, that an estimated 2 million died of AIDS-related disease in 2008 and that the number of those newly infected exceeds 2.5 million annually. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the HIV/AIDS hot zone.

It remains tricky to track AIDS in the United States because of inconsistent reporting practices, but by some estimates 1,200,000 are living with HIV/AIDS here, and the cumulative death toll in the pandemic to date is somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000. The majority of those who have died were gay men and gay sex continues to be the most frequent mode of transmission, followed by heterosexual sex and needle-sharing, suggesting that younger gay males in this age when HIV no longer inevitably kills are ignoring or forgetting lessons my generation learned the hard way.

There’s really no mystery as to why we are as a society disinterested in the expanding world AIDS pandemic. A newspaper editor I once worked with put it this way during a discussion about which disaster should and which shouldn’t be on the front page: Americans, he said, are just not interested in dead Africans, Asians and Hispanics. Not far from the truth, I’d guess, in a society where racism is entwined with many of our positive traits.

There’s also a lingering conviction I would guess, especially among self-professed sex-obsessed Christians, that HIV/AIDS is somehow a judgment from God against gay men and/or sexual transgressors.

I was lucky enough to avoid HIV infection. Iowa was and remains a safer place on many fronts. So I merely watched friends and former lovers and people admired from a distance die of AIDS. Lessons carried forward from that sorry time when AIDS equaled death remain, however: Never trust a heterosexual too far, place your faith in God and never in institutional Christianity.

Interesting times, these. I’ve gotten careless about wearing my well-worn AIDS ribbon, but have dusted it off and will do better.

1 comment:

hugh w said...

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, is it a social faux pas to send Christmas cards, by mail, I did it this year,enough saved postage to get a Starbucks coffee, anyway so you listen to the news, doesn't take long with most commentators this week anyway, more coverage on Tiger than on war plans, guess commentators don't know difference anymore from what is news, what is gossipy time filling
$*&^%! Or is it the ratings game? Do I care about Tiger's personal life, only that he was OK after the car accident, the rest is his life, not interested in choices he makes, worry about my own more, hope I don't get hounded by press but thought I should admit a car accident back when I was in college over 50 years ago, paint scrape from a fence post, Hugh, Watervliet, NY