December 1 is World AIDS Day. Today I’m commemorating the occasion in a mostly silent, academic way–the personal side of observance, though somewhere, feels absent. I have some poetry I’ve been meaning to share, some poetry I still need to build up some courage to share, but I’ll get there.
So today I’m writing a paper. It’s due in twelve hours and I haven’t even started it.
The assignment is simple: propose a policy reform and argue its merits. And do lots and lots of research. Except with the holiday and my other assignments and rushing to get caught up on–and finally win–NaNoWriMo, it hasn’t been on the forefront of my priorities.
And now it’s due tomorrow.
This is all relevant because I’ve chosen to write my paper about policies surrounding HIV; in particular, I’m considering laws affecting the funding of treatment programs, but as I begin my research, my focus may broaden or constrict accordingly. HIV is an important part of every gay man’s life–whether it’s good news or bad, statistics still say the MSM population is at the greatest risk for contracting the virus. I may be negative, but I know enough people who aren’t for it to matter to me.
What’s more is that I’ve been able to glimpse the future: At the RESULTS International Conference this past summer, I heard the executive director of the Global Fund assert his belief that we can eradicate HIV completely within the next twenty-five years or so. Can you imagine a world where our children won’t know what HIV is? Where they’ll grow up knowing no more about AIDS than they do about polio or smallpox?
Knowing this end is in sight has made me want to be more proactive about eradicating HIV. I feel like people treat it as a non-issue these days. The drugs are cheaper and more effective and being diagnosed HIV+ isn’t a death sentence anymore. But none of this excuses us from trying to end the disease–and I think, given how far we’ve come in fighting the disease these last thirty, forty years should instead charge us to take the last step and get rid of it forever.
It’s in this spirit I performed my spoken word piece “Victorious” at this year’s Cabaret performance. I plan to share it on Silent Soliloquy in time, but I’m not quite ready to plaster it all across the internet–but I’ll get there. And it’s in this same vein I’ve submitted a Commitment to Action to the Clinton Global Initiative University to help raise awareness and spur action surrounding both domestic and global HIV issues.
And it’s in this spirit I chose my paper topic–a paper now woefully underwritten for the time I have left to complete it. It’s easier to ignore it, I feel, than to find a place to start. I have in mind the argument I want to make. I know the places I’m going to do research. And I’m an awesome writer under pressure. But it’s such a daunting task, and only one of many still, that I feel overwhelmed before I even do anything.
It’s fitting I should write this paper today. Last year and this year World AIDS Day fell over the weekend when students won’t do anything to commemorate the day. They had a film showing on campus last year, but the turnout was lackluster and not many people were reached, let alone inspired to act. I want to change that.
And writing this paper–doing this research–will help me take the first step to achieve this end. It’s a perfect way to end the semester. The perfect way to bring in a new year.
So why do I feel so uninspired?
I want to change the world. I want to change the world and one of the ways I want it changed is to have no more HIV. It clouded my experiences this past spring, it’s been the main topic of the poetry books I’ve read all semester, and in the summer it was precisely the issue I was advocating for on Capitol Hill.
Yet now as I hold this morsel of opportunity in my hands, I’m afraid to act.
Such irony is bittersweet and frustrating.