Fighting fear by honoring those lost to HIV/AIDS

At 5, I was scared of Chucky, the opening intro of HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt,” and AIDS.

I didn’t know much about AIDS at the time, but I remember feeling anxious about it after viewing those terrifying late 80s commercials that perpetuated fear and stigma about the disease and those who were diagnosed.

I wouldn’t fully understand the impact of those commercials nor the magnitude of lost until many years later.

After college, I immersed myself in queer media and history. I read multiple novels authored by E. Lynn Harris and watched hours and hours of videos, movies and documentaries on YouTube and Netflix.

One documentary, “We Were Here,” shares the stories of those who lived and worked in San Francisco during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. I was touched by the stories of courage and compassion, but I was particularly moved during a scene where pages of photos of AIDS victims were shown. To me, it represented the devastating lost of a generation.

One of my best friends, Kay, knows this lost too well.

At age 6, Kay lost her aunt to complications of AIDS. She wonders how close they would have been today and remembers stories of how her aunt fought against fear and stigma after being diagnosed.

While HIV/AIDS is no longer as scary as depicted in my childhood, the disease still has a lasting impact on our community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were nearly 40,000 new HIV diagnoses in 2016 and African Americans accounted for 44 percent of HIV diagnoses that year.

To fight against the stigma and lack of resources that perpetuate HIV diagnoses, Kay created the “Because of you we know more” T-shirt campaign with 50 percent of proceeds benefiting the Black AIDS Institute.

To learn more about Kay and the campaign, click here and to purchase your T-shirt, click here.

Because of Kay’s aunt and the hundreds of thousands we lost during the epidemic we know more about the disease and the power of love in times of fear.