Sunday, June 5, 2011

30 Years of AIDS: Kurt Weston's Story on CNN iReport

30 Years of AIDS: Kurt Weston's Story on CNN iReport


June 5, 1981: first cases of AIDS were reported in the United States. Five young men died in a matter of days from PCP. And that's how it started, the epidemic, the pandemic. Since than, many, many, too many more people have died of AIDS. Not only members of the gay community, but women and children, and, yes, straight men, too. Celebrities (Freddie Mercury, Arthur Ashe), those who have become known because of having AIDS (Ryan White--Ryan White CARE Act, the only federal fund for those affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS was named after him), and non-celebrities, those whose names we don't recognize.

During the eighties and early nineties, AIDS used to be on our minds all the time because AIDS used to be a certain death sentence. With the advent of the life-saving medications in the mid-nineties--the HAART (or ART) medications introduced by Doctor Ho--in time, AIDS has become what some call nowadays "a manageable disease." Meaning one can live with it... the question is only how? What's the quality of life and what's the lifespan of an individual living with AIDS nowadays?

In 2007, studies have shown that the lifespan of HIV positive individuals is pretty much the same as those who are negative. Thanks to more than twenty kinds of HAART (or ART) medications--that have had what experts call "a Lazarus effect" on those infected--people live longer and better lives, while living with HIV/AIDS.

But, together with the HAART medications, complacency started to settle in, too. As a result, we have become less aware of the virus and its power of destruction. Maybe we should take a second look, especially when today we commemorate thirty years, three decades of AIDS.

My mother introduced me to the AIDS epidemic back in 1986, by pure coincidence, or fate how some may call it. I call myself lucky because of this turn of events. I've been covering the epidemic for almost a decade now. During this time I've met phenomenal, fantastic and fascinating individuals, inspiring members of the AIDS community. They have opened my eyes and mind to the reality of the world in which we live, as well as to the richness of this reality. They have taught me about life and its many layers, from physical to metaphysical, and inspired by professional and personal existence. In other words, these individuals have changed my life for the better. One of these "AIDS warriors" (how he calls himself) is award-winning photographer Kurt Weston. I interviewed him for A&U-America's AIDS Magazine, back in 2005, and in 2006 I started writing a book, Journeys Through Darkness, on his life and art. Lately, I've been blogging about the book, Weston and AIDS on my blog and on other blogs, like CNN iReport. The post was vetted by CNN and, yesterday, CNN iReport published an article on Weston (and, yes, they contacted me, too, for quotes). The article is a feature article on CNN.com/health.

Thanks for visiting!
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness
www.alina-arts.com

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