About 20 years ago, a colleague of mine, one of my favorite men in the world, called to say he was in Laguna and wanted to stop for a visit. We hadn’t worked together for years so I was excited about the opportunity to reconnect.
I answered the door. Seeing his face, I knew immediately that something was wrong. He is a formal man, witty, and extremely articulate. This time, he said nothing, walked over the threshold, put his arms around me and silently started to cry.
He mumbled into my shoulder, “I’ve just been to the doctor.” Next, he raised his head, looked at me through teary eyes and said: “I’ve been diagnosed with HIV.”
We silently moved to the couch. There weren’t any words. After a few minutes, I asked if he would like a glass of water and got up to get it. My head was reeling, looking for a comfort spot to settle, while knowing that this was a time when words show themselves for what they are, a distraction and avoidance tool at best when faced with life’s true trauma’s.
I knew next to nothing about AIDS or HIV. I believed, however, that he had just been given a death sentence.
After our visit ended, I was bringing our glasses to the kitchen. As I placed them in the sink, the thought crossed my mind to throw his glass out. I was horrified as I realized that lurking underneath my compassion and love for my friend, was a stark, survival fear for my own safety. My ignorance became the motivating factor to visit the Shanti Project and become a volunteer so that I could turn fear due to lack of knowledge into something more productive.
Here we are 20 years later and my friend came to visit me again last week. He is healthy and thriving and brought his partner, who is as delightful as he is. It was a special reunion since we haven’t seen each other for about eight years.
After they left, I learned the global scientific and medical community was convening in Washington D.C. for the International AIDS conference, the next day. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was to be displayed across the nation’s capital as it marks its 25th anniversary.
The quilt began with a single 3’x 6’ foot panel created in San Francisco in 1987. Today, measuring 1.3 million square feet and weighing 54 tons, the quilt is the largest piece of living community art in the world. It has more than 48,000 individual panels.
Since the first cases of AIDS appeared in the United States, more than 600,000 people diagnosed with the disease have died.
The AIDS Memorial Quilt is the world’s most visible and powerful symbol of the public’s response to the AIDS epidemic.
According to the Huffington Post, during the opening ceremony of Quilt in the Capital, a single panel was revealed publicly for the first time. The NAMES Project Foundation, caretakers of The Quilt, decided to display the panel publicly to help galvanize the world community in a drive to reach the end of AIDS.
It was delivered quietly to the project in 1988. It arrived with nothing more than a handwritten note that read: I hope this quilt will find a permanent place and help mark the end of this devastating disease.
The panel itself was designed simply. It says: THE LAST ONE. Now, 25 years later, the panel has yet to be sewn into the quilt.
Over 33 million people are currently living with HIV. This progress has been made through continued scientific and medical breakthroughs and public education. Breathing the same air, touching a doorknob handle or toilet seat, drinking from a water fountain, hugging, kissing, or shaking hands, sharing eating utensils, or using exercise equipment at a gym does not transfer the HIV virus.
You can get the HIV virus from infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or mother’s milk. Become educated. Practice safe sex.
Susan is the author of: Beyond Intellect: Journey Into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind. Learn more about her at: susanvelasquez.com. (949) 494-7773.