We have been at this for about nine months now and it occurred to me that this isn’t very different from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I’m not talking about the viruses themselves but rather how we, as people, should have been able to handle it.
I was discussing some of the more recent ridiculous decrees that has been sent down from on high by our own Governor Gina Raimondo to us, the little people; when someone chimed in, “Unless you’ve lost someone to COVID…”
Unless I’ve lost someone to COVID… Well I have, just like so many other people have. That’s when it occurred me, I’ve done this before in what seems like a lifetime ago.
A tick less than 40-years ago, stories began spreading through the gay community about some new disease that was killing gay men. No one really knew anything. We didn’t know how it was spread; we didn’t know how to prevent getting it. We were dying and we were scared.
Sound familiar? It’s the differences in the public’s response, in what did and didn’t happen that I find interesting.
The gay community of the 80’s is nothing like it is today. We were still fighting to overcome the stigmas of decades of being diagnosed as mentally ill sexual deviants or child predators. Then along came the “gay plague” and as horrible as HIV/AIDS is, I believe it did bring us together as a community. We had no choice. We were very lucky that it would be some time before we began politicizing AIDS.
Sadly, after decades of politicizing AIDS it was almost second nature to politicize COVID-19. Everyone agrees that one life lost it too many but somehow some people put politics, fear, finger pointing and being right before the virus.
Some of you may be thinking you can’t compare the gay community to the whole of America. Yes, I can. We were pretty certain HIV was transmitted through sexual contact and blood but what about casual contact? Could it be transmitted through saliva? Can you catch it from a public water fountain? Women were also spreading the virus and now it was popping up in the straight community.
Although the gay community wasn’t forced to quarantine by local governments, many of us were isolated by society and those who were positive isolated themselves out of fear. No, we didn’t physically lock ourselves away in our closets but at one point in our lives, we’ve all know what it’s like to be alone in a crowded room.
As a community we forged ahead. We didn’t have therapeutics and we still don’t have a vaccine but we survived using the most important weapon we had, knowledge. While the science at the time was severely lacking, we took what we knew would help keep us safe and made sure everyone knew.
We made sure everyone knew that HIV was spread through unprotected sex and unprotected sexual acts. We provided countless resources to the gay community to help prevent further spread of the virus and to this day, you’d be hard pressed to find a gay nightclub that doesn’t have fishbowls of free condoms placed throughout the bar.
We ravenously consumed the latest science regarding the HIV virus. Because the “science” did change as we learned more and COVID-19 is no different. Unfortunately, because COVID-19 has become political so has “science”.
Trust me, science is not political nor is most of it etched in stone but there are too many people out there who believe it is. That’s the other thing, science doesn’t care about what you do and do not believe.
Condoms help in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, they alone do not stop it. It wasn’t long ago we encouraged people to practice safe sex and now we’re asking people to practice safer sex. That’s definite. That’s reality.
No one forced anyone to wear condoms and to practice safer sex. People made their own decisions; some heeded the science and some did not but we were allowed to make a choice.
The cloth face masks that many of us are forced to wear don’t stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Even the CDC only goes as far as stating that masks may help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We all know what “may help” means but just in case, here it is in a different sentence:
“My teenage son said he may help us clean out the garage this weekend.”
Something tells me you shouldn’t wait to start cleaning.
The scientific method isn’t political. Science only becomes political when you want a certain outcome and it’s usually pretty easy to spot because it sounds ridiculous. You wouldn’t use a sock as a way to keep from contracting HIV, so why are you wearing a mask?
We’ve all heard people (one of those people being Dr. Anthony Fauci) muse about some type of identification regarding one’s COVID-19 status. Understandably, most Americans want no part of that and for the record, you can also put me down for a giant, no. And no surprise, they’re the exact same reasons I was always against any type of HIV/AIDS status identification card.
That being said, one thing I’m sure many of you don’t know is that after HIV testing became widely available many gay men had to possess proof of their HIV status. Usually in the form of a folder full of negative HIV test results kept at the ready.
One last thing and it is about testing. It works regardless if it’s for HIV or COVID-19. Just because you test negative today, does not mean you cannot test positive tomorrow. Nothing is going to guarantee your safety but you can improve your chances by making smart decisions based on facts and not feelings. Especially not fear.
Allan Giberti is the host of RI Red Radio on 990WBOB.com. You can listen to Allan live on Mondays and Tuesdays at 7pm Eastern
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