By the time I was 17, I was too busy being an obnoxious teenager to hang out with my parents on weekend afternoons. One particularly cold Saturday afternoon in Omaha, Neb., however, my parents rounded up the whole family, packed us into the minivan and left the suburbs for downtown, where the AIDS Memorial Quilt was on display. I'd expected to see a bed-size blanket, but what I saw was an arena-size tribute. And if memory serves me, that was only a fraction of the whole thing.
Looking back over the last two decades, I remember the '90s being permeated by HIV/AIDS benefits, education, research. As a teen, I was downright scared of contracting HIV. Back then, it was an epidemic. People were dying, red ribbons were everywhere, my teachers and parents hammered in the certainty of death and the absence of a cure.
Almost two decades later, all that seems to have changed.
Today, I stand on the sidelines watching my single friends fret more over herpes and pregnancy than HIV. Contracting HIV as a patient in a medical setting is highly unlikely. These days, people don't die from AIDS, they live with HIV. And sometimes, they live for decades--just look at Magic Johnson. Our perceptions of the disease have changed, as have our misconceptions. Education has curbed social stigmas and discrimination. Advances in medicine make it possible for the HIV-positive to live longer with a better quality of life than ever before. But do these accomplishments come at a higher cost? HIV/AIDS education is not mandatory in schools. The AIDS Memorial Quilt will make only one stop in Idaho this year--in Idaho Falls. And in Boise, the rates of HIV have actually risen among 20- to 29-year-olds in recent years. Although I've only recently aged out of that demographic, my adult self never embraced the fears of my teen years as I perhaps should have. And from what I hear coming out of the straight, young and single demographic in Boise--which is to say, almost nothing--I don't think I'm the only one who's no longer afraid.
World AIDS Day is Tuesday, Dec. 1, and in this issue of Boise Weekly, we ask: Despite our acceptance of HIV/AIDS, have we forgotten about the epidemic?