So today's World AIDS Day.
Growing up and coming out in the early 90s, AIDS was a constant. Being bombarded by images of people being ravaged by the disease, feeling the anger that rose in me (even as a kid) when people would put up homophobic, racist and misogynistic bullshit to justify why AIDS should exist, it was part of the reason why I wanted to become a health care professional; to help out other queers of color in prevention and care. Seeing the advent of drugs like protease inhibitors and other biologics as a means of care, and also the strict regimens and vaccines that have developed in an attempt to try to stop the disease has also been an interest in my research, first as a sociologist, and now as a budding pre-med/pre-pharm student, and part of the reason why I've always done research and built my activism around HIV/AIDS.
Although I gradually started to meet APIs with HIV/AIDS in the early to mid-90s, it really didn't hit home for me until a close friend seroconverted about 5 years ago. Although I've been relatively safe (and have never gotten an STD except for a cured syphilis infection that I didn't even know about until I got tested for it), it did shock me to my core. For a while, it was hard for me to have sex because I was so freaked about it. It's taken me a while to reintegrate feeling sexual and being healthy, and I'm gradually reclaiming sex as part of my sexuality.
What's scary to me is seeing how acquaintances (most of my friends participated in HIV/AIDS activism at one point or another) and other random people, like young people particularly, that I talk to are unconcerned about HIV/AIDS--where the protease inhibitors and other drug regimens are seen as a way out, and completely disregarding that these drugs must be taken on a strict timetable. The drugs are extremely toxic since they mess up the way the body reacts to itself by fucking with DNA (as with AZT) and with gene expression (like with protease inhibitors) in order to prevent the virus from being able to replicate. Unfortunately, they're really the only way that HIV can be stopped to any certain degree, unless people are predisposed to being unaffected because of unknown genetic factors. With the growing awareness of use of methamphetamines (though it's always been a problem within the API community), and how sex is apparently amazing under its influence, it's even harder now to convince people to be aware and know their risk factors and protect themselves.
But I also see that people are fighting back by integrating the science with culturally appropriate ways to try to stop the spread, especially within communities of color. The awareness that queers do exist in our communities is a bit heartening to see (even if it does come from the DL phenomenon which is so irritating). If I do end up being a doctor (or pharmacist, or whatever)--I'd continue to be part of this drive.
So everyone, please be safe, and if you need resources contact me--I WAS the executive director of FTFA, you know. :)