Michael Walker and Dr. Kate Fordham
For the first time since we began writing our column for Oasis, we did not receive any questions during the month of June, so instead of our normal question-and-answer format, I'm leaving our July column to Mike so that he can provide a narrative which should be of interest to you all. I am on vacation in Arizona with my two sons this month, so it is a good time for Mike to present this information since I am not around to co-author the usual column. In the meantime, I hope all of you have happy and safe summer vacations and keep those questions coming!
We all know how terrible a health threat AIDS is; as young gay people we are informed of these dangers day-in and day-out, constantly reminded of them by a lecture in our school or a news report on television. I think there's little doubt that most young gay men and lesbians are concerned about their health enough to treat AIDS as a serious matter, but the question remains of exactly how we go about combating this disease both in our personal lives and also in our extended communities. You see, AIDS does not just affect the person who suffers from the disease physically, but it also has far-reaching social, economic, and health effects which the whole population feels in one way or another. For example, a person who has what we clinically describe as severe or "full-blown" AIDS -- a manifestation of the viral infection with its more serious medical symptoms -- will require health care which may produce medical costs tallying thousands of dollars in just one year or less time. This person will also have to provide for their own livelihood in some manner and they may find it difficult to do so if their AIDS-related medical problems are so severe that they can no longer work.
You may already know this information or you may wonder why I am even bothering to mention it within this column. After all, this column addresses gay adolescents and young adults, not doctors or health care administrators, so why bring up subjects like this which are depressing and which the adolescent can do nothing about? Well, the reason I mention this in the column and address it in such a way is because there are things which you guys can do about it; each one of you can help fight the horrible epidemic which AIDS has become in the gay community in some fashion. Some of you will simply do your part by not acquiring the virus yourselves, and thus preventing further spread of the disease. Other of you may wish to become more involved in efforts to help those who have the disease or educate your fellow youth about the dangers of the disease and the ways in which its transmission can be prevented. The possibilities are truly endless. You might choose to volunteer at a local hospital or hospice agency which deals with people who have AIDS. Or maybe working with a group in your high school or middle school which is devoted to safer sex education among the school's students would be better suited to your liking. Think of the talents and aptitudes which you possess and the types of things which intrigue you. Maybe you're interested in public speaking and thus would enjoy talking to other people your own age and educating them about AIDS. Like I said, you can take this concept and go wherever you wish with it; the bottom line is that there's plenty of work to be done and there is certainly some way in which everyone may contribute to our battle against AIDS.
I know that you all hear a lot of talk about "pride" in the gay community. I know when I first came out and started becoming more involved with gay-related groups I thought to myself, "the idea of pride is great, but how can we manifest this pride into something useful?". I suspect many of you have wondered about this as well. Doing something to combat the damage which AIDS has wrought on the gay population is one way in which you can let your pride in being gay shine and show loud and clear. To me, it's far better than marching in a parade or posting flyers; it's something where you have the enormously gratifying feeling that you are doing something which is helpful to another human being, that you are making a change for the better in someone's life.
I happen to be a fan of the great Barbra Streisand, and as some of you may be aware, Barbra has a song entitled "Ordinary Miracles" in which she sings about the small ways that the average person can better the world. I like to think that some of you out there will find a way to work some "ordinary miracles" on your own.