Tuesday, December 03, 2002

I've been looking a bit the last couple days at a timeline of the AIDS epidemic.

I suppose I am lucky in that I have not been personally touched by the AIDS crisis -- no one I know, and certainly no one in my family, has either died of the disease or even contracted HIV. (This is less certain of people I've only known online; there could very well be an AIDS-sufferer among the people with whom I have interacted over the years, but if so, none have been public about it, at least within the scope of my interactions with them.) I do recall being in junior high school when reports first started surfacing about this ghastly disease that was wreaking death in shocking amounts on the gay community worldwide; given that I was in junior high, I'm sorry to admit that the reaction was not fear at a new and horrible ailment but to use AIDS as simply another bit of ammunition for homophobic insults and humor. In a culture where to call something or someone "gay" was to express as much derision about it or them as possible, likewise AIDS became a verbal weapon of sorts. If someone was absent from school, presumably with flu or whatever, someone would invariably say "I'll bet he's got AIDS", and then everyone in earshot would respond with a chorus of Beavis and Butthead-style chortling. I'm glad that I matured beyond such things, but I'm also saddened to note that continued efforts to dispel the notions about AIDS that held sway amongst my junior high classmates are still needed.

Looking over this timeline and noting the growing number of deaths each year, I did a small calculation based on the number of persons who had died of AIDS as of 2000. Assuming a population of 290,000 people, which I recall is fairly close to the results of the 2000 census, the total number of AIDS deaths is equivalent to the entire population of Buffalo, New York....seventy-five times.

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