Last night I went to an annual AIDS fundraiser that I have attended for the last several years. It is a big deal in the small city where I live and usually people are packed in the venue wall-to-wall.
The organizers went all out with decorations. The theme was red paint and the decorators went crazy with red silk flowing from silver paint cans suspended from the ceiling and walls. The bartenders wore painters coveralls and the centerpieces included clear paint cans with paint brushes and paint stirrers.
This year’s attendance was a big disappointment. I kept waiting for the flood of people that I have become used to but that never happened. I felt really bad for the organizers and for the people and organizations who benefit from the money raised. Everyone kept saying that it was just another sign of a sick economy. I dont know about that. Yeah, I know the economy is rough right now but I think it is more than that.
It seems to me that people have become weary of a disease that can be prevented but not cured. The compassion of the 80s and 90s has worn thin. The face of AIDS has changed and is darker and poorer and more female and younger and much older… and still here. People with HIV are living longer so HIV is not thought to be the crisis it was even ten years ago. The public’s tank is running out of gas. We have begun to lose interest and move on to the next hot topic. We have chosen to leave the issue of HIV behind. What a terrible mistake.
A mistake because HIV is not over. The increases in HIV among women, youth and younger men who have sex with men underscore our need to commit to stay focused on HIV. We can not afford to lose more of this generation or the next to HIV.