“That’s how I want to be remembered. As one of the men who won the war.”- The Normal Heart; Larry Kramer
This past Sunday, the RentMonster team was honored to participate in the 25th Annual Magic City AIDS Walk/Run. Four of us set up a table in Railroad Park, handed out waters, and watched the beauty of Birmingham unfold. There were people who were obviously runners, but what struck me the most were the people who weren’t. The people who came to run, not because it’s great exercise, but to honor a loved one who is living with or had lost the battle with AIDS. The people who came to run to raise awareness that we can continue to slow the spread of this terrible disease if we are educated. The people who came to run so that one day there will be a cure.
In 1981, the CDC observed the proliferation of a rare lung infection in young, previously healthy, gay men. It appeared to compromise the immune system, and allow other infections to creep in, unimpeded. By the end of the year, there were 270 reported cases of this mysterious cancer, and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was a full blown epidemic.
In 1985, the Birmingham AIDS Outreach was founded as a “grassroots response to the devastating and fatal impact HIV/AIDS was having on the Birmingham community.” For the past thirty-one years, BAO has worked to provide free HIV testing and counseling services and prevention outreach to the citizens of Birmingham and to create a support system for individuals living with HIV/AIDS.
In 2016, HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence. There are millions of HIV positive people who live relatively normal, happy, fulfilling lives thanks to Western medicine and counseling services like those offered at BAO. But that doesn’t mean the fight is over. The hundreds of people we saw on Sunday, of all races, genders, and sexual orientations are a beautiful representation that the only way we win the fight is together.