Here To Inspire

 Op-ed: Why the Next Generation Needs Us to Talk About AIDS



AIDS QUILT WASHINGTON DC 2001 X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM Unfortunately, our silence means our younger brothers are far less likely to learn about the bravery, courage, and creativity with which our people faced the fight of our lives, for our lives. “Gay men in their 40s and 50s don’t want to talk about AIDS,” said longtime activist and former National Gay and Lesbian Task Force director Urvashi Vaid. Hundreds of men in that very age group streamed by as we talked on a brilliant August Saturday outside Joe, the Provincetown coffeehouse. They looked festive, if grayer and a bit less slender than when we partied in our 20s at the Boatslip’s daily tea dance. “We all have PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder],” said Vaid.

Our silence means the organizations we created to care for our sick and dying friends and neighbors are struggling to raise funds as they continue to care for people with HIV. In Miami, CARE Resource director Rick Siclari said, “White gay men are not giving as much today.” Now the agency is hoping its new clients, many of them black and Latino, will participate in fund-raising by giving them the chance to make smaller donations, in the $5 to $10 range.

It’s as if we haven’t learned one of the most important lessons that we ourselves taught the world: “Silence = Death,” as ACT UP famously put it. It would seem that silence is inexcusable when gay and bisexual men of all races continue to bear the overwhelming brunt of the American AIDS epidemic.

Even in hard-hit San Francisco, Stop AIDS Project director Kyriell Noon told me in April 2010 how dismayed he is that HIV has become so seemingly commonplace in a place so harshly affected by it. “I have been surprised by how blasé so many men seem to be about HIV,” he said. “If they’re positive, they seem blasé about transmission. If they’re negative, they seem blasé about acquisition. If they don’t know their status, they’re blasé about that. Nobody seems to give a shit anymore. There is no urgency these days.”