I don't ever remember a time when AIDS wasn't around. I was born in the middle of the crisis and watched it happen on the news.
I learned about Ryan White, a little boy around my age, fighting the disease and ridicule. I read articles about Rock Hudson and Freddie Mercury fighting the disease in secret to avoid the stigma.
I watched this "Designing Women" episode and took notes. I started asking questions, wondering why more people weren't as pissed off as I was about this.
I read "And the band played...." and got angry. I started doing research. My high school senior thesis focused on Sex Education and needle exchange programs.
I stood up in front of a crowd of hundreds and proposed giving out condoms to students ready to have sex. I took questions from the audience and yelled when they fought with me (I may have also told them I didn't have sex, but that's another post).
I still think teens should have access for condoms. I told my brother and sisters I'd by the damn things if they'd just tell me they needed them. Kids are having sex, whether you like it or not, and they need to know how to stop this deadly disease.
I cried, hearing the stories of people fighting the disease, stories of bigots who think they deserve it... the idiocy of people who pull the world over their eyes and pretend this doesn't impact them.
And I got active. I joined the board of H.O.P.E. Testing and started busting my ass to raise money to test people, so people know when they're infected and get treatement... so people have access to the tools that can stop AIDS.
Bono says one day we could have the first AIDS/HIV free generation. I would love for my nieces and nephews to not have to read or see the stories I did growing up... to not get in the same fights I got in with people who think this disease is a punishment for some kind of sin... to not cry over the stories I still cry about.
But until then I'll keep fighting, asking for money, fighting with people I think are wrong... and handing out condoms... all to stop people from getting dealt a death sentence that could have been prevented.
Now, I want you to help me. Find something to do in your community to help fight back.
And for God's sake wear a condom.