It was 1987 when I was first touched by AIDS. My Uncle Randy came to live with us after learning he was HIV positive and was too weak to live on his own. That year he died. I was in 5th grade, and this was before the AIDS movement had caught on as being a socially “cool” thing to care about. But I told my friends anyway, and was too overtaken with grief to really give a rat’s ass that my uncle had just died of this crazy disease the world was paralyzed by. It was the memory of Uncle Randy that kept me working in the AIDS movement growing up, and in college. My senior year at Eastern Illinois University I was the education chair for the AIDS Quilt, which we brought to campus. I sewed Randy a panel for the quilt, and I assure you, I’m no seamstress. Despite our limited funds for the Quilt festivities, we were able to bring Kate Shindle, Miss America 1998, to lovely Charleston. She is now a good friend, and still a crusader for safe sex and accepting others despite our differences. (She’s also a Broadway phenom, having just ended a successful run in “Legally Blonde.”)
On this World AIDS Day, please visit the blog of my hilarious positoid friend Shawn Decker. Or even better, buy his book, which is the funniest book I’ve ever read with a 5 star rating on Amazon. He and his beautiful wife Gwenn Barringer are leading the charge for young people to eradicate this disease. They are also the unique but growing face of our world’s population where one partner has HIV and the other does not. We must support these people in the same way we support caregivers for cancer. Today my hat goes off to Shawn, Gwenn and all the other AIDS activists making this a healthier world.
And of course, to Uncle Randy, wherever he is.