Latex. It's a Good Thing.

Two things here--one is that HoneyHaired Grrrl and I went to the the production of Rent put on by her high school. Rent is the La Boheme of a New York artiste community in the early 80's. HIV is the death sentence carried by the young, attractive, vocally blessed characters we meet; the modern day equivalent of tuberculosis/consumption/the white death in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I doubted that these kids in this midwestern auditorium really understood the bone-chilling fear and hysteria that accompanied a positive ELISA/Western Blot test 25 years ago.

Which brings me to the second thing. HIV infection has a longer survival rate in the United States than Diabetes Mellitus. This to me is miraculous. I remember the early eighties when AIDS patients were admitted to the ICU for the comfort care(read this as respiratory therapy and narcotics)we could provide. We didn't put those young men--they were all heartbreakingly young and they were all men--on ventilators. We had no medical therapies to provide. We had nothing but treatments to ease the struggle of breathing and medication for pain.

I was reminded of those days when I was driving HoneyHaired to the orthodontist and I heard Robert Gallo, one of the gurus of AIDS talking on NPR this afternoon and discussing his Op Ed piece in the Washington Post(linked to in his highlighted name). We've come a long way in 25 years and President George W. Bush is a part of that I was surprised to hear, but thankful.

Here's hoping to a new campaign to educate our young and old, apparently the "geriatric" population is a fast rising and overlooked population for new diagnoses of HIV infection. The Viagra Generation. Perhaps it could become a new Martha Stewart-style mantra, "Latex. It's a good thing."

please note, photos: Rent, AZT, AIDS quilt in Washington,D.C. in 1997


  1. Dear Distracted,

    Thank you so much for writing about this subject. I think about it with great regularity and had not given any thought to the geriatric dimension of the picture.

    It is most certainly only due to a perverse good fortune that I myself was not exposed to the virus between '79 and '89 in San Francisco when I was not living the life of a nun. I do not recall having practiced safe sex, out of pure ignorance, and have the PID surgery scar and scarred fallopian tubes to prove it. There but for the grace of God...

    The photos of the Rent cast and the AIDS Memorial Quilts are both very touching.

  2. I almost forgot, my father's mother died in a sanitarium from tuberculosis, just short of her 25th birthday, when he was only 2 and his brother was only 5 months old.

    Oddly enough, I have a 25 year old Hmong friend whose father was stricken with TB that went totally undiagnosed in the Central Valley of CA until it had sufficiently invaded his spine to cause paralysis. That's the short version. TB is in a renaissance in our area. "What a piece of work is man..."

  3. Just wanted to stop by and say hello and thank you for your comment - you had me cracking up - thanks for sharing my love of (or perhaps, obsession with?) cheese and bread! Mmm.

  4. We've come a ways with HIV but it's still sad to see people die from AIDS. Last year in the ICU life I used to have, we lost 3-all less than 40 and many stricken since their teens. Now if we could find a way to spread the health to other continents that don't fair so well, it'll be a good thing.

  5. This is a brilliant post and I thank you for the important words and powerful photos. Another on my blogroll, a senior activist and knitter who makes condom amulets (!) wrote a great post today that I am sure you will enjoy:

  6. P.S.
    The link I sent before was to the comments section. Here's a better one:

  7. P.S.S.
    I'm way too scattered this evening to be online. I failed to say that RENT is a favorite of mine and my husband's. We even bought the DVD and have actually viewed it several times, unlike other movies we get on DVD and I wind up dusting on the shelves....

  8. I remember in high school when everyone was afraid of getting herpes and then AIDS came along and put it all in perspective...

    As for the geriatric bit, I found myself in the surprising position of giving a new widow near 70 years old dating advice. Funny to tell her to tuck a condom in her bra when goes on a date because if the bra comes off, she'll probably need the condom and it will be handy and not stuck in her handbag out of reach. : )

  9. Two thanks--for this post and for your kind words on mine about HIV and our collective denial. We just have to keep on keeping on.


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