Yesterday, December 1st, was World AIDS Day and I probably should have posted this then, but AIDS is with us every day so why just post on a day that is designated for it.
I first learned about AIDS when I was in high school. For me, high school was a rather naive time. I didn't drink, smoke or date much. AIDS was something that happened to other people, mostly in San Francisco. I didn't know anyone gay therefore I didn't know anyone who could be affected by AIDS.
That thought continued through college. Randolph-Macon was not known for being accepting of alternative lifestyles when I was there, I don't know if that has changed at all. It wasn't until my junior or senior year that I realized that the bubble I had been living in wasn't as intact as I thought. Someone came to RMC and openly declared they were gay, or at least didn't deny it when asked. Still, AIDS didn't affect me or my close circle of friends.
In 1994 I worked at MTV in the Series Development office. That meant that I was involved from the network side in every show that came out of our office. These shows included "Singled Out," "Dead at 21" and "The Real World: San Francisco." Most people who remember "The Real World: San Francisco" remember that Pedro had AIDS and that Pedro and Puck did NOT get along. What I remember is a little bit different. I had a different vantage point, one most people never had - just those who lived in the house, filmed the house and logged the tapes or worked in the production office.
We watched as Pedro bloomed in San Francisco. It was as though he finally felt he belonged. Not to say that he didn't belong in Miami, he did. But in San Francisco he could very openly be all sides of himself and he loved it. We saw what the stress of the house was doing to Pedro's health - not just the difficulties with Puck (I am being nice here), but also the stresses of living with six other people, having every moment of your life filmed by people you cannot speak with and who cannot speak with you and never having privacy for anything. Even if you sign up for this type of experience, it is stressful on both body and soul.
We also watched as Pedro found true love and made new best friends. Sean Sasser was a wonderful match for Pedro, they shared so much in common on a basic level and the love was real. Judd Winick was a fantastic friend to Pedro, and continues to be one to this day through his work both commercial and for AIDS education. We learned a great deal about these people, even more than those who watched the edited shows.
After that, I could no longer say that AIDS did not affect me, I could no longer be ignorant of the disease around me. While I am not an AIDS activist, I save that energy for another disease, I do keep an eye on what is happening in the world as far as this horrific disease is concerned. In the late 1990s my sister volunteered at a hospice for people in the last stages of AIDS in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I learned from her that even though things seem to be improving, that is not the case in Africa.
In Africa thousands of people - men, women and children - are affected by AIDS on a daily basis. For all the improvements we have made in the US and other developed countries, Africa has remained stagnant for the most part. Hopefully something will happen to make this change. Hopefully we will all realize that in order to fight this disease we must work together regardless of cost, class or orientation. In order to tame the beast that is AIDS, we must focus on one of the places in the world where it is still a death sentance rather than more like a chronic illness that can have fatal consequences.
This October, Bono went onto the Oprah Winfrey Show and launched a project that everyone can participate in. Product(RED) is a non-profit organization designed to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. It is the brain child of Bono and Bobby Shriver and boy did they do it right. Product(RED) works with large brands to create products for purchase with a part of the proceeds going to the Global Fund to help fight AIDS. Some of the products include a Razor from Motorola, clothes and accessories from Giorgio Armani and The Gap, shoes from Converse and even an iPod from Apple. Each product is a limited run, so they will run out eventually.
My point here is that we can do something to help eliminate this disease, or at least the mortal consequences of the disease. If you know someone who might want something from The Gap, Giorgio Armani, Motorola or Apple for the holidays, consider a Product(RED) item. You can reach the website by clicking on the link below.