There’s an old saying in the gay community, referring to those of us who may not conform to each and every one of the stereotypes, that we should “turn in our gay card”. I do not cook, at least not well. I do not keep a clean house. While I enjoy the occasional opera I do not know them by heart. Nor, lest I sound more masculine than is the case, do I follow most sports.
I mention all of this, particularly the lack of culinary skills, to let you know that while I have managed to stay adequately nourished it is hard to believe that my diet has prevented me from dying of AIDS-related illness. AIDS nearly killed me in 1993 and ’94 with cryptosporidiosis something which healthy people can shake off quite easily. Such ‘bugs’ are very common in places where water is not treated properly so I am sure it is one of many concerns in rural Africa among those with HIV.
The fact remains, however, that the most basic nutrition and adequate supplies of antiretrovirals would save their lives. I am living proof. After starting the first protease inhibitors (the so-called ‘cocktail’), around the time of the XI International AIDS Conference in Vancouver in 1996, I slowly began to rebuild my immune system which – during the previous crypto years – was measured with CD-4 counts such as 10. That’s what makes me so flipping angry as I watch people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa dying of symptoms which I used to have. Their illnesses are treatable! They need not die!
What is wrong with our world when billions of dollars can be borrowed – borrowed! – to fight an immoral war in Iraq (which is not to suggest that most wars are moral) while mere dollars a day would adequately feed ill people so that they could tolerate nauseating AIDS treatments?
And generic versions of proven antiretrovirals ought to be sent by the planeloads each hour!
The morality questions concerning AIDS are not just about how people (or which people) become infected, sexual violence and patriarchy, nor denying individuals the life-saving possibilities of condoms. The central moral question, from a global perspective, is why heaven and earth are not being moved to help prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in some of the poorest regions on the planet.
Whatever we believe about any future judgment of our actions and inactions, how can we live with ourselves today?