Each week, I update my AIDS LifeCycle page with an entry talking about the ride, my preparation, what I'm doing, and why I'm doing it. No sane person (well, I guess I should say no typical person) spends so much time in the saddle for people they've never met, so there's always a bit of a back story as to why I put my own skin into this HIV/AIDS game if I don't have the disease or have known someone who has been one of its fatal victims. Call it what you will, I'll just say that it's important to give where I can. And this is one way. I've re-posted the entry below from my post today:
Not so many years ago, a diagnosis of HIV was treated with the gravity of any other terminal condition and the message, “get your affairs in order.” For the most part and something we can be grateful for, the graphic images of the slow, painful, and humiliating deaths of people from the ravages of AIDS are rare. In Minnesota, where I just moved from, infection rates are the highest since 1992. Here in California there are nearly 109,000 people are living with HIV and across the nation, there are some 1.1 million of us living with HIV and AIDS. The fact remains:
AIDS IS NOT OVER.
When I first looked into HIV and AIDS in this country, I didn’t realize it was still such a problem. I just didn’t see the suffering and hear of people losing friends in terms of recent history. That was the case, mostly because of the success of anti-retroviral drugs and progressive research. People who were infected were living longer and walking out of hospice care on their own two feet rather than on a gurney en route to their own funerals. I just never knew anyone with HIV. Well, truthfully, it’s just that I didn’t know that there were people around me, including friends and even one family member, who were HIV-positive. And I’ll bet it’s the same with you: you know someone with HIV and just don’t know it!
They are the invisible people.
They are male and female, gay and straight, young and old. I know people all along that spectrum and I’ve seen that without a doubt, HIV is no respecter of its host. And as a result, there has been a fear of the disease that has pushed discussion about prevention and treatment off the table as if somehow ignoring it will make it go away. We know what does and does not cause the spread of HIV, yet…
The stigma persists.
A couple of weeks ago, I participated in the Paul Hulse Century, a 100-mile ride put on by a group of cyclists called “Positive Pedalers.” These are among the many today who are living with HIV rather than dying from AIDS. Most of them wear bright red jerseys with “Eliminating stigma through our positive public example” emblazoned on them. Without exception, the Positive Pedalers I have met do exactly that. They tend to be the most upbeat people I know in spite of the fact that they happen to be carrying around a disease that will take their lives if left unchecked. They refuse to be invisible.
Most still equate AIDS with a death sentence and to be clear, AIDS is a killer. But it doesn’t have to be. We need to talk about HIV and AIDS to prevent the upcoming generation from infection, we need to continue medical research to make treatment options more affordable and effective, and we need to take care of those who have the disease because quite frankly, a society is measured by the way it takes care of those who need help. And that’s where this event – and you and I – come into the picture. We all can make a positive difference.
Thank you to my latest supporters: My uncle, Mr. Don Jacobson and Carolyn Bennion; my cousin Dan “Jake” Jacobson; my high school swimming teammate, fellow CAP cadet, and all around great guy, Rick Fullmer and his wife Judith; riding buddy (who more often than not, kicks my rear tire into gear) Shelly Weir and her partner Candy Koogler; and my co-worker, Debbie Zissis.
Re-posted from my AIDS LifeCycle page at www.tofighthiv.org/goto/toddpark
Please donate today. It will mean the world of difference to people living with HIV/AIDS.
This posting was originally published April 22, 2012. I've split my writing into different blogs: Opinion, The Leukemia Chronicles, and other Freelance Writing