Posts Tagged ‘epidemic’

Dying To Live: Death Sentence 1981 ≠ Undetectable 2021

Hate is an awfully strong word and I try very hard not to use it. 

I’m human and there are some people, living and dead, that I do hate or that I have hated.

Ronald Reagan, one of the most popular and beloved presidents, is one of those people.

More on that in a moment, but we’ve hit a milestone in the United States.

While it likely started in the late-1970s, a new disease was introduced to the public this week in 1981 — an epidemic that ended up killing hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends and lovers.

And, for many years, it was ignored by the U.S. president (Reagan) and the government!

These days, those deaths are still happening for people that are diagnosed too late or that don’t have access to life-saving and costly drugs (without insurance). However, with proper medication and healthier living, HIV (and AIDS) is now a livable condition that’s more of a medical inconvenience.

But, let’s flashback to the spring and early summer of 1981. 

Doctors in New York and California started noticing that some of their young, gay patients were coming in with weakened immune systems and were developing pneumonia and cancer.

On July 5, 1981, “The New York Times” published one of the first articles on this new disease that didn’t even have a name. In 1982, it was incorrectly labeled “GRID” (gay-related immune deficiency) — how homophobic and ignorant!

While the Times was one of the first to mention this “rare cancer”, the U.S. media, including the Times, did a poor job getting the message out about this new fatal disease.

“GRID” was changed to “AIDS” (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) once doctors realized that it didn’t only affect gay men.

The early 1980s was a scary time because there was so much that doctors didn’t know and this led to fear and misconceptions about how you could get it.

It’s taken me almost 30 years, but I can now say that I no longer hate Ronald Reagan! 

I’ve always questioned his legacy. At the time, I would have loved to ask him about his actions, or lack of actions, in the 1980s that led to my hateful feelings toward him. 

While AIDS (unnamed at the time) was identified in the summer of 1981, President Reagan didn’t mention the deadly disease publicly until a press conference, years later, in 1985.

That same year, teenager Ryan White, a hemophiliac who contracted the disease through a blood transfusion, was barred from his Indiana school.

And, actor Rock Hudson died of AIDS, making him the highest profile person to succumb to the disease and his face became synonymous with AIDS in the years to come.

Still, nothing from the White House! President Reagan didn’t give his first speech on AIDS until early 1987, almost six years into the epidemic! 

His ignorance, his fear of AIDS, and the government’s slow reaction to fighting the disease in the 1980s led to the deaths of more than 90,600 people, mostly gay men, in the United States that decade.

HOPE — THE FIRST ROUND OF MEDS

In 1987, AZT, the first AIDS drug was introduced and ACT UP, an activist group, formed to protest the $10,000/year price tag.

In the years to come, more medications would become available — the drug “cocktails” in the mid-1990s were more effective, but patients would take up to 60 pills daily!

In 2006-2007, it was estimated that the cost of extending the life of an HIV patient for 24 years was $618,900!

HIV & AIDS — 40 YEARS LATER

Today, some 38 million people are living with HIV worldwide.

Of that number, as of 2018, 1.2 million are Americans. Sadly, more than one-in-ten don’t even know it! GET TESTED!

Over the 40 years since AIDS became public, 35 million people have died worldwide.

700,000 were Americans with gay men and transgender women making up about 79% of that staggering number.

Four decades later, by the grace of God, I’m still HIV-negative, but I have friends that are positive and I’ve know people that have died of AIDS.

Thankfully, we now have drugs, when taken properly, make it IMPOSSIBLE to spread the virus!

National Institute of Health: “U=U means that people living with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load—the amount of HIV in the blood—by taking and adhering to antiretroviral therapy (ART) as prescribed cannot sexually transmit the virus to others.”

FINAL THOUGHTS ON MY IMPRESSIONABLE YEARS

I was 16-years-old when the first AIDS cases went public and I became sexually active in the 1980s as fear and hate spread across the world toward gay people because of the disease.

It’s hard not to dislike (or hate) the man running the country when people in your community were dying a very painful death and the government dragged its feet. 

My views of President Reagan didn’t soften any in the 1990s as I headed into my 20s and then my 30s seeing more and more people contract HIV and develop AIDS. 

We witnessed the resistance of religious leaders, school officials, and parents to educate kids about safe sex — they thought abstinence would keep children safe (it would, but it’s not a reality when hormones are raging)!  That mentality started in the 1980s during the uptight, conservative regime of Reagan.

While there may never be a cure for HIV and AIDS, those that get HIV can now, at least, lead a more “normal” life.

This hope made me look closer at Reagan.  As he grew older and Alzheimer’s disease robbed him of his mind, I knew that no matter how much I despised him, it couldn’t bring back all of the people that AIDS killed.

I asked myself, “how he could be so calm and collected and be so ignorant during the early years of AIDS?” 

The truth is that he probably had so many people telling him what to do and what to avoid saying because his political base didn’t want to hear about the disease those “queers” were spreading! Middle and upper class white, heterosexual couples didn’t think it affected them!

I now realize it’s time for me to move on and to find peace with the man who had many faults.  What man doesn’t?  I can’t forgive him, but I no longer hate him. We can’t change history and the government’s inaction in the 1980s with AIDS. 

While I can’t ask President Reagan what he was thinking when he ignored the disease for so long, I hope that the former president and all of the men, women, and children that died of AIDS during his presidency (and since) can come to peace with each other in that higher place.

When I finally make it to heaven, I hope I see Reagan hanging out with the more than 700,000 Americans that have died of AIDS — the majority of them gay men.

However, in heaven, all would be forgiven and I could see Ronald Reagan at a disco or a tea dance with all those that suffered during his presidency and all that succumbed to AIDS in the 33 years after he left office.

“AND THE BAND PLAYED ON”

I just re-read Randy Shilts’ enlightening history of the first years of the AIDS epidemic about the failure of the American government which led to so many people dying.

While San Francisco was believed to be the AIDS capital of the U.S., there were far more cases and deaths of AIDS in New York City.

Mayor Ed Koch and Dr. David Sencer, the city’s health commissioner, failed miserably in providing for those in the fight in the early years.

The only real help was coming from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis center, which was founded by the iconic advocate Larry Kramer.

If reading a 600-page book about the AIDS epidemic may be too much for you, the 1993 Emmy-winning movie of the same name, with an all-star cast, is incredible.

“THE GREAT BELIEVERS”

This 2018 book by Rebecca Makkai is amazing!

It tells the story of how the AIDS epidemic decimated Chicago’s gay community in the early-1980s. While fiction, it felt so real — especially if you or your friends lived through that era watching your friends die.

Makkai’s story is so well researched and touching. It had you rooting for characters that you knew were doomed by the “gay cancer” and President Ronald Reagan’s blind eye.

The book isn’t just about a group of friends dying and struggling to stay alive in 1985 Chicago. It also takes you to 2015 Paris and ties the two stories and timelines together!

As a former Chicago transplant (I lived there two years in the 1990s and two more years in the early-2000s), it was fun hearing the names of places I hadn’t thought about in years (Nookie’s and Ann Sather).

Amy Poehler is adapting the book into a television series. I can’t wait to see who is cast as Yale, my favorite character. As I was reading it, I could definitely see Yale in my younger self!

“The Great Believers” is the best fiction book I’ve read in the past year!

“LONGTIME COMPANION”

And, for those of you that may not have seen it, 1990’s “Longtime Companion” is still one of my favorite movies of all time.

It was one of the first widely recognized theatrically-released movies (mainstream) that dealt with AIDS in the 1980s. It earned a Golden Globe Award for acting for Bruce Davidson and he also earned an Oscar nomination.

Thank you for taking the time travel down this road 40 years later!

Be safe and play safe!

Peace!

Anthony

Random Friday Thoughts — March 13, 2020

Two weeks in a row with a new “Random Friday Thoughts”!  I hope this finds you healthy and happy!

Feel free to comment on any of my thoughts, but, as always, do it diplomatically!

MY THOUGHTS ON CORONAVIRUS

Don’t zone out from fatigue over the Coronavirus.  I’ll keep this part short!

You’re hearing a lot on the news about the virus, which is now a pandemic.

Basically the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic is that an epidemic is an illness affecting a specific region and a pandemic has global impacts!

Here is the U.S., sports seasons and playoffs are basically done, concerts are being cancelled or postponed, schools are extending spring break and going to online classes when they return, restaurants are closing, and the list goes on.

And, on Wednesday, actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, in Australia, announced they they tested positive for Coronavirus.

Tom Hanks Rita Wilson

Yet, there are those that are blaming the media (of course) for hyping up something that’s no worse than the flu, which kills people each year.

However, Dr. Anthony Fucci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the Coronavirus is ten times (that’s 10 times) deadlier than the seasonal flu!

Coronavirus

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t trust the government!  (I’m not just talking about the Trump administration — yet that speaks for itself!)  I’m talking about trust on a daily basis and not specifically with Coronavirus.

This mistrust of the U.S. government is a product of past administrations (Republican and Democrats) of telling us just what we “need” to know, when it deems the time is right.

Well, here’s the thing.  I think Coronavirus is a real public threat and I think we’re going to see the number of cases (and deaths) in the U.S. and Canada shoot up drastically over the next month or so.

As for me, I pray that I don’t get sick.  However, I’m doing nothing more to prevent it than I normally do in a typical day. 

I always wash my hands.  I love using hand sanitizer (even before it was chic).  I cover my mouth when I cough and I move away from people hacking like they’re coughing up a lung.

And, no I didn’t raid the store for toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and bottled water!

Watermelon Mint Vodka

However, I did buy a bottle of Smirnoff Watermelon Mint Zero Sugar Infusions vodka.  It sounded fun!  And, I do have a decent supply of wine and liquor!

I CAN’T GO ON…

You know I love buffets, especially in Las Vegas.

Hello, Wicked Spoon!  These were my four plates and truly UNLIMITED champagne and mimosas this past December from there!

Wicked Spoon

Because of Coronavirus, my life as I know it is (temporarily?) disrupted — if I was in Vegas now.

MGM Resorts (which doesn’t own Wicked Spoon) issued this statement earlier in the week:

“MGM Resorts will temporarily close buffets at ARIA, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor and Excalibur, effective Sunday March 15. These changes are temporary and will be evaluated on a weekly basis.”

11 YEARS ON FACEBOOK!

It what could be called “joy” and “madness”, I found out this week that I joined Facebook more than a decade ago.

So, if you don’t follow me there, here were my thoughts on my eleventh anniversary!

Facebook Anniversary

Facebook 11

VOTING

Primaries and caucuses are taking places across the nation ahead of the 2020 presidential election in November, which I think will be Joe Biden and 45.

I love looking at polls and I trust them — for the most part.

Vote

However, I also know that polls mean nothing if people don’t get out and vote!

And, come November 3, 2020, if you want to make “that man” a one-term president (or if you support him), you have to VOTE!

“OZARK” 

Season three of one of the best shows on television is coming back later this month.

“Ozark” returns March 27th on Netflix and from the new trailer, it looks like this could be Laura Linney’s year for an Emmy win!

She was incredible in season two and I was hoping that she and Julia Garner would take home trophies.  Garner won in the Emmy’s supporting actress category.

THANKS NETFLIX!

But, before I can check out the new season of “Ozark” with the incredible Linney, season three of “The Crown”, season two of “Sex Education”, season two of “Mindhunter”, and the first season of “The Politician”, I now have to buy a new television!

Thanks a lot Netflix!

Last month, I was going to start binge-watching “The West Wing” and this is what greeted me!

Bad Netflix

On December 1, 2019, Netflix deemed my Samsung television, which I got in 2014, obsolete for its streaming service!

What a rip off!

“GASLIGHTER”

Last week, I talked about the new Lady Gaga single, “Stupid Love” (it debuted at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100), from her upcoming April 10th album, “Chromatica”.

Now, I’m excited to know what my second album that I’ll buy in 2020 will be and when.

“Gaslighter” is the new single and the title track from the Dixie Chicks’ new album that’ll drop May 1, 2020!

“Gaslighter” is actually getting country music airplay!  It debuted on the Billboard Country chart at #31 and moved to #20 in its second week!

That’s their biggest hit at country radio since “Travelin’ Soldier” hit #1 in early 2003, about the time that Natalie Maines’ comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraqi War got the Chicks banned from country radio!

Their last album, “Taking The Long Way”, came out in May 2006, and it won the Grammy Award for “Album of the Year” and “Best Country Album”.

The Dixie Chicks’ last hit song was 2006’s “Not Ready To Make Nice”, which reached #4 on the Hot 100.

It went on to win three Grammy Awards — “Record of the Year”, “Song of the Year”, and “Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals”, in 2007!

“KNIVES OUT”

If you like whodunit movies, you’ll like this mystery comedy.

The all-star cast includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, and Don Johnson.

The first half of the movie features some very humorous scenes as the story was set up.  Collette was especially funny.

I figured out early on who was likely the killer.  From that point on, the movie started to drag.  (Oh, I was correct!).

GRADE: B

PURGING MY CD & MOVIE COLLECTION

For months now, I’ve been purging my CD and movie collection.

I started listening to CDs that I liked at one time in my life, but I’d never say, “I want to listen to <insert album title here>.  I had about one thousand CDs and now it’s down to about 425 essentials that I don’t want to part with.

With my movies, I’m watching older ones, some of which didn’t become one of “my favorites”, and I’m getting rid of them.

Until recently, only three of them made the cut and I put them back on the shelf.

I kept the 2012 Spanish movie “Angels of Sex” (“El Sexo de los Ángeles”), the 2008 Israeli film “Antarctica”, and the 2010 American romantic comedy, “Is It Just Me?”.

“LEMON TREE”

This past week, I added three more “keepers”.

The first is the 2008 Israeli drama, “Lemon Tree”.

Hiam Abbass is heartbreaking and stunning!  She plays Salma, a widowed Palestinian woman fighting to keep the Israeli government from cutting down her lemon grove, which was planted by her late father decades ago.

It becomes a security risk when the Israeli Defense Minister and his wife, Mira, (a moving performance by Rona Lipaz-Michael) move next door.

“PATRIK 1.5”

Another was the very touching 2008 Swedish film, “Patrik 1.5”.

It stars one of the sexy Skarsgard brothers (no, not Alexander from “True Blood” and “Big Little Lies” and not creepy Bill (Pennywise in the new “It” movie series).

Gustaf Skarsgard is the lead in this comedy-drama.

His Göran Skoogh in “Patrik 1.5” would make the perfect husband! 🙂

“SOLO”

And, the final keeper, is “Solo”.

Even though this Argentinean movie came out in 2013, it speaks volumes about today’s dating and app hook-up scene!

You never really know who you’re meeting or hooking up with and what could happen!

Manuel (Patrico Ramos) and Julio (Mario Veron) finally decide to meet after chatting online for a while.

Once they meet, Julio tells Manuel, “There are really bad people round there. They say one thing and they mean another. You never know who you’re dealing with. You don’t even know who you’re bringing into your home.”

“TRANSAMERICA”

I also watched the incredible “Transamerica” with Oscar nominee Felicity Huffman and the adorably sexy Kevin Zegers.

While still a very fulfilling movie, so much has changed since it came out in 2005.

After the groundbreaking television series “Pose” and “Transparent”, I couldn’t imagine a movie made today about a trans woman that WOULD NOT be played by a real trans actress!

“GIRLS NIGHT OUT”

Debbie Gibson, one of my favorite artists of the 1980s, is back with a huge club hit!

“Girls Night Out” (Tracy Young Radio Remix) is currently at #4 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.

In 2019, Tracy Young scored back-to-back chart toppers on the the Dance Club Songs chart with Madonna’s “I Rise” and “Crave”.  (Young won a Grammy Award for the “I Rise” remix!)

From 1986 to early 1991, Gibson scored nine hits on the Billboard Hot 100.

Of those, five reached the Top Ten, including the #1 hits, “Foolish Beat” (1988) and “Lost in Your Eyes” (1989, three weeks at #1).

When “Foolish Beat” topped the chart in the summer of 1988, Debbie became youngest person to write, produce, and perform a number-one single entirely on her own, at age 17!!!

“Only In My Dreams”, Debbie’s first hit in 1987 that reached #4, is still one of my all-time favorites!

“ICE BOUND:  A DOCTOR’S INCREDIBLE BATTLE FOR SURVIVAL AT THE SOUTH POLE”

Ice Bound

This 2001 book is about Dr. Jerri Nielsen, an Ohio doctor that took a year off from medicine to find herself by “wintering” in Antarctica with 40 others.

Just a few months into her one-year stay, she found a lump in her breast.

This book is the story of how she and her new friends, “winterovers”, worked via satellite and computers in the harsh -100° weather and months of complete darkness to keep her alive.

This lasted for eight months before the weather finally broke and she could be rescued and brought back to the U.S. for surgery in the fall of 1998.

In 2000, while I was an anchor and reporter in Mansfield, Ohio, I interviewed Dr. Nielsen.  Twenty years later, I have no clue what about!  Maybe it was about her recovery?

Dr. Nielsen was a cancer survivor for over a decade before she died in the summer of 2009.

THAT’S IT

With all the craziness in the world, make it the best in your little part of it!

Anthony