I was born in 1983, the year The Center was founded, during the height of the AIDS crisis in the United States. By the time I came of age, HIV had been identified, accurate testing methods were developed to detect it, and there were already effective treatments to prolong or prevent an AIDS diagnosis.
My desire to understand the events of the past coupled with anxiety about HIV transmission led me on a search for information. I educated myself about the epidemic through reading works like Randy Shilts'sAnd the Band Played On, and I became more attuned to the gravity of those years and the struggles my community faced.
As a young gay man new to New York City, where I arrived fresh out of the closet in 2003, I didn’t want to fall victim to the complacency that Larry Kramer warns my generation about. I sought ways to get involved. I volunteered for more than three years as a peer hotline counselor for Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Then, as the AIDS Walk New York Team Leader in my workplace, I leveraged my employer’s charitable contributions by rousing the support of my colleagues, ultimately convincing the company to become an event sponsor.
Thanks to the persistence and diligence of many brave men and women who advocated for public awareness, government funding and drug trials, I was spared the horror of watching a multitude of my friends suffer and die. However, looking at current infection statistics in New York City alone is a reminder that HIV/AIDS is still a very real problem.
I am a new rider in Cycle for the Cause for those still affected by HIV/AIDS. I'm riding as a reminder for myself and for my friends in honor of what it must have been like during the worst years of the epidemic, when close friends were lost and there were no answers.
ANDY CATALDO is a member of Team Eagle. Support this rider and the Center’s HIV/AIDS-related services by visiting CycleForTheCause.org