I love this magnet. It says:
You Are Here For A Reason
Lions, Tigers, and ?Bears?
WHAT I'M READING
When Peggy was here, we listened to a lot of John Denver music (which I don't think Steve has forgiven me for). I was so intrigued by so many of his lyrics that I wanted to read the story behind them, so borrowed the book from her.
That's it for today!
IF I HAD A CAUSE...
21 January 2001
From the "IF" collaboration this month...
It will come as no surprise to anybody who has read this journal for any significant period of time that the cause to which I feel the closest revolves around AIDS--care and support for those who are HIV positive or living with AIDS, education of people about protection against passing the HIV virus, and getting people who are HIV positive or who have AIDS identified and into treatment.
In the early 1980s, I heard about this new "gay plague" that was infecting the gay community. I worked at that time for a theatre group, where I knew a lot of gay people, but we were lucky that the disease never touched us.
In 1986, our luck ran out, when Arthur Conrad, dancer, actor, choreographer, director, died suddenly. He was diagnosed on Friday and dead by Sunday. I had worked as his assistant just a few months before. Shortly after Arthurs death, John Gilkerson (whom Tom Hanks recognized in his acceptance speech for his Oscar for Philadelphia; Hanks and Gilkerson were classmates at Skyline High School in Oakland) was diagnosed and we watched John die. AIDS was beginning to touch my life.
In the early 1990s, I joined CompuServe and began to participate in several discussion groups, one of which was regarding gay and lesbian issues. In the Gay/Lesbian Issues group, I corresponded with people who had AIDS and then in 1996, I met some of these men Id learned to know and care about. I remember saying something to Mike (one of them) about it. With his usual acerbic manner, he said "So? It means that some of your friends will die sooner than some of your other friends." Ironically, Mikes husband, Bill, whom we did not expect to last that year, actually lived longer than two of my own children.
I couple of years later, I had the opportunity to spend time with Mike and Bill, after Bills hospitalization. Just kind of being there as a companion, helping out with houswork, and that sort of thing. By the time I went home, I felt like Mike and Bill had become my brothers, and so now AIDS not only touched people I cared about, it had infiltrated my extended family.
For years, I had this idea in mind that I wanted to work somehow with some sort of AIDS outreach group. I knew they existed but I had not extended myself to find one. And then in June of 1998, I was working at a PLFAG booth for the Gay Pride Day celebration in Sacramento and on the way back to the car, I passed a booth for Breaking Barriers, a social service outreach to HIV/AIDS clients and I saw that they were signing up volunteers. I signed up, went through an orientation, and since that time have been driving clients to and from doctors appointments, appointments with government entities, doing emotional support, and going out to fairs passing out condoms, answering questions about AIDS and HIV, and soliciting volunteers, much as I was recruited.
Through work with Breaking Barriers, I have found the most rewarding experiences, made wonderful friends, both affected and unaffected people. Ive learned a lot about this disease, and it has increased my passion for educating people, especially young people, who make up over half of the new cases of HIV today, about the continuing threat of HIV and the need to act responsibly and prevent the spread of the disease.
My dedication to this cause deepened in late 1999 when I met Steve Schalchlin. Steve, who has become one of my best friends, is a man living with AIDS who spends a lot of his time traveling around the country, speaking with college and high school kids, telling his story in a non-preachy way, and just letting them hear and see the reality of living with AIDS. Ive seen him interact with medical professionals and I see the effect that his story has on them.
I am proud to have helped in some small way to work with Steve to spread his message, to work with Breaking Barriers clients, who give me far more than I give to them, and to do some little thing to spread the message.
Young people today think AIDS is no big deal. They feel either that they are immune (as all kids feel immortal), or they dont understand that AIDS isnt just another disease that you take medication to live with. The new AIDS medications are allowing people like Steve to live longer lives--and that is wonderful. But the flip side of that is that young people dont see AIDS as a death threat any more and so the fear factor is gone and risky behavior is rampant. A friend of mine, who is a nurse practitioner working on a college campus, tells me that most of her clients confess to not using safe sex practices because they have no fear of AIDS.
High school teachers tell us that high school kids laugh when they talk of AIDS because they dont feel that it will affect them. Or they think it only happens to gay people.
In the middle of the new spike in the number new HIV cases, AIDS funding is down because its not seen as the acute crisis that it was ten years ago.
The need for education about HIV and AIDS is great and if I have only one "cause" for which to work, that would have to be it.
Created 1/21/01 by Bev Sykes