PRIDE month is behind us, while many cities host their pride festivals outside of June. It is fair to say that June is the most recognized month for LGBTQ+ rights and celebrations. There are many reasons to celebrate and recognize LGBTQ+ equality in June, to recognize the history of the LGBQ+ rights movement, fight for equality today, celebrate our diversity, grieve for the tragedies, etc. However, there is one major part of LGBTQ+ history, more specifically, gay history that should be recognized on its own.

In the early 80s, an unknown disease began to rapidly spread among gay men in the United States and around the world. It was so sudden and fast acting that the community was caught off guard. People didn’t know what was happening, all they knew was that their friends and lovers were infected and dying off months and even weeks after their diagnoses. Was it a cancer? A plague? Some religious nut jobs would say it was a “sign of punishment from Jesus” or some shit. All we knew is that it was truly a scary time.

It was a virus, specifically HIV. That initially spread through sexual contact among gay men and lead to full blown AIDS. Before people began to understand that this sexually transmitted disease could affect anyone and everyone, it quickly became known as “the gay disease” and anybody who had it was stereotyped as such. Over 20,000 American Citizens had died before President Reagan had even acknowledged the existence of the virus and many people who had contracted the disease were disowned by their families and left to take care of themselves in the last weeks of their life. Prominent athletes such as Greg Louganis and Magic Johnson were diagnosed with HIV/AIDs during this time which created a lot discussion and awareness of the issue.

While many gay men were stricken with the disease, the lesbian community stepped up to the plate and helped to take care of their gay brothers as they fought hard to the last dying breath. While HIV is a sexually transmitted disease, it is most often exchanged through fluids and statistically the lesbian population had the lowest infection rates. Lesbian friends had taken on the fight against HIV/AIDS by taking care of those who were sick, when everybody else abandoned them.

As we started to learn more about the disease and virus, treatments were soon developed and gave continued to progress to today. No longer is HIV/AIDS a death sentence and is in fact, a very treatable disease. In addition, with preventative approaches like PREP have lowered the risk of infection and made even harder for HIV/AIDS to spread.

A lot of this research advancement is attributed to the coming together of the LGBTQ+ community in annual HIV/AIDS Walk and Run events held throughout the world. Almost every major city hosts an AIDS Walk that recognizes and remembers all those who we have lost to the disease, as well as a fundraiser to raise money for research and development of new treatments and preventative methods, such as Prep. Through these efforts, we have turned HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to being completely undetectable and reducing the risk of infection to the lowest amount since it first spread.

LGBTQ+ History was forever altered by HIV/AIDS and it has taken a whole community effort to come together to fight, not just the disease, but the stigma and misinformation propagated when the virus seemed to have the whole world in its grasp. The first AIDS Walk took place in 1985 in Los Angeles and has since grown to become a worldwide event. The events usually feature concerts and events hosted by local celebrities, a display of the HIV/AIDS quilt to recognize and remember those we’ve lost and of course, a walk and run to take part in part of the fundraising efforts.

Thus, we continue to support our local HIV/AIDS Walk and Run with a big red ribbon and participation to continue the fight forward, for everybody.

Upcoming AIDS Walk Events

If you’d like more information about an AIDS Walk in your area, click here!

By Dirk Smith