World AIDS Day

Eugene Gordon, ACT UP activists at Pride March, 1988. New York Historical Society Library. Beginning in 1987, ACT UP formed to protest systems of discrimination and profit-making that hindered access to HIV treatments. They also protested institutions, like the Catholic Church, which they called out for promoting homophobia.

December 4th is #WorldAIDSDay. It’s been 40 years since AIDS first shook the social, political, and healthcare systems of the world. Since then, the disease has changed nearly everything it has touched--from the way new drugs are developed and tested, to the way the LGBTQ community is treated and seen around the world, to the way we understand pandemics and their consequences.

Today, people who test positive for HIV can, with the right sociopolitical support, access anti-viral medications that can turn what was once a death sentence into a chronic illness. This transition has been painful, cost millions of lives, and it has not brought an end to the suffering caused by HIV. However, in the spirit of the #TheBeyondBetterProject, we wanted to highlight that HIV/AIDS once meant death, and now, for so many, it means a different kind of life. A life touched by chronic illness, disability, and new embodied experience of aging. Because activists in the gay community refused to die alone in silence, people who contract HIV today face a spectrum of possibility that encompasses a broad range of experiences from chronic illness to disability, and more. The diversity of these experiences intersects with the decisions societies make about healthcare, disability, and human rights. AIDS is still here, 40 years later, showing us all that even in the face of what appears to be a live-or-die pandemic, there is an infinite space of meaning, hope, and opportunity to build something better.