An HIV Theology: Getting to Zero

World Aids ChildTEMV Bulletin Dec. 2012

Once the AIDS epidemic came to full blossom in San Francisco, latent homophobia burst forth as well, suddenly flourishing in the press and the streets. Overnight, doctors and dentists found reason to drop their gay patients, and bus drivers donned medical face masks when forced to drive through gay neighborhoods.
Then one day a man came from out of town with a rifle and shot a gay man, just like that. He said he was “going fag hunting.” When the hunter’s father was asked by a reporter if he was sorry for what his son had done, the father replied, “I’m sorry he got caught. That wasn’t very smart at all. Raised him better’n that.”
Reading the newspaper, everyone appeared to sympathize.
We of the glbt community felt and, in fact, were so very alone, dying of a plague that everyone said was our fault.
If Compassion looked on our travail, it did so from a distance.
Other minorities were stricken as well, such as Blacks and Hispanics. It was easy to see they were horrified to have anything in common with us queers, and felt us only in competition for what meager resources were available. They thought our community was all rich white gay men. We felt their resentment and hatred.
It isn’t an automatic thing, the mechanism by which similarly oppressed minorities join together against a common foe. The connections of commonality and causality during times of oppression or plague are neither beautiful nor uplifting. There is fear, pain, humiliation, and danger. There are also skin lesions, dementia, and bedpans. No one wants to identify with death and disease. No people hope to see in the current spate of losers themselves 50 years ago, or 10. Safety is found in siding with the ubiquitous majority of others. Safety is blindness and silence.
Go down to Mississippi, for example, in support of Negro voting rights and you might get killed.
March for AIDS funding anywhere and you might get called a queer.
In the face of getting killed or called queer, the many a gut recoils, and heart grows faint. Neither heart nor gut can be trusted to rightly and justly decide with whom we cast our lot.
We need to train ourselves and each other in the justice paths of response to prejudice, ignorance, and indifference. This is an integral part of the spiritual way called Reform Judaism, the recognition of our interconnectedness with the ill and the oppressed, the slaves and the wanderers. Our political and spiritual fortunes are tied up with theirs. Our personal and community redemption hangs on our response. This is not intended as a metaphor, but as a profound religious truth. It is as much of our spiritual path as Sabbath observance and prayer.
Today, AIDS remains a scourge among friends of mine who have battled it for years, the young and newborns of disadvantaged, under-informed and underserved populations.
In Africa, AIDS is destroying families and villages, ripping apart the fabric of whole societies. AIDS isn’t an old problem that we have solved. It’s an even bigger problem than ever before.

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