|English: Publicity photo of Elton John from the 1975 Rock Music Awards. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
USA TODAY Op-Ed…by Sir Elton John
“Science has given us the means to find a cure [for aids], but the stigma has prevented us from doing so.”
It might surprise you to learn that we were made aware of Sir Elton John’s op-ed because an associate of ours went out for breakfast and when walking past a newspaper vending machine the headline quote caught her attention. She rushed back to her office to find and read the on-line article.
AIDS/HIV has been part of our society for over 30 years. That fact alone means that we have a few generations who have witnessed the ups and downs of the AIDS/HIV timeline from the beginning; and, of course, we also have generations that can’t imagine a world without AIDS/HIV. Sir Elton John offers a chilling observation in his OP-ED:
“The reality of the HIV/AIDS epidemic today is that the people who are most at risk for infection and illness have been historically denied quality health care and continue to face systematic discrimination and disenfranchisement. In other words, they are poor people, people of color, people who are gay, lesbian or transgender, and people who use drugs. The science of medical treatment has progressed significantly — and yet, our attitudes toward these communities, and our treatment of them, are preventing society from implementing measures that could essentially eradicate the epidemic.”
John posits that the disease is fueled by intolerance and discrimination…and compassion is needed more than a cure.
U.S. statistics provided by aids.gov
This particular U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website provides a wealth of information regarding each risk group. For example, many people are still surprised to learn that heterosexuals and injection drug users have been and continue to be impacted by AIDS/HIV. Here are some stats to consider.
- Heterosexuals accounted for 25% of estimated new HIV infections in 2010 and 27% of people living with HIV infection in 2009.
- Since the epidemic began, almost 85,000 persons with an AIDS diagnosis, infected through heterosexual sex, have died, included an estimated 4,003 in 2010.
- New HIV infections among women are primarily attributed to heterosexual contact (84% in 2010) or injection drug use (16% in 2010).
- Women accounted for 20% of estimated new HIV infections in 2010 and 24% of those living with HIV infection in 2009.
- The 9,500 new infections among women in 2010 reflect a significant 21% decrease from the 12,000 new infections that occurred among this group in 2008.
- Injection drug users represented 8% of new HIV infections in 2010 and 16% of those living with HIV in 2009.
- Since the epidemic began, nearly 182,000 injection drug users with an AIDS diagnosis have died, including an estimated 4,218 in 2010.
In 1986 Ron Woodroof, a heterosexual, was shocked to be diagnosed with AIDS. He died from AIDS/HIV on September 12, 1992. Ron has been gone 21 years and yet according to aids.gov: “More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 5 (18.1%) are unaware of their infection.”
Ron Woodroof’s story is told in the movie Dallas Buyers Club
It was a week ago that the movie Dallas Buyers Club opened nationwide. The cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto. We will not spoil this movie for you, but as film critic Rex Reed writes
[McConaughey is] “a perfect picture of reluctant real-life hero Ron Woodroof, the hateful, brawling, womanizing, homophobic Dallas electrician and redneck rodeo cowboy who turned out to be one of the accidental saviors of gay men during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. It’s a true story, turned with precision and care into one of the most riveting and inspiring films of the year.”
Ron Woodroof’s story is one of passion and compassion…perhaps it is best to say Ron learned to be compassionate toward his fellow man. Ron was frustrated with his disease, his plight, his government and the medical community. Twenty years ago Hollywood produced a big budget film to address AIDS/HIV – Philadelphia and as Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly points out, “It’s been 20 years since Tom Hanks put a movie star’s face on the AIDS crisis in Philadelphia. Since then, Hollywood has largely ignored one of the most tragic chapters of the 20th century.”
Dallas Buyers Club trailer
This movie is Rated R…and it is graphic.
If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
Thanksgiving really is a time to reflect, a time to think of others, a time to reach out and find compassion for our family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors…for the stranger(s) who may touch our lives. Sir Elton John formed the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992, co-incidentally the same year Ron Woodroof died. They surely didn’t know each other…but their lives and their passion perhaps will now be intertwined.
This Sunday, December 1, 2013, is the 25th Annual WORLD AIDS DAY.