Monday, November 11, 2013

A Glimpse of ActUp/RI

ActUp/RI at 'Stranvaganza. Photo by Tom Paulhus.
Image from archives at the John Hay library, Brown U.
I just came across this photo from the heyday of ActUp/RI, it's from a big bash at AS220 called 'Stravaganza. I'm struck by how comfortable I look in a 'teaching' role in this performance piece.
This past weekend I took part in a panel discussion about ActUp/RI after a screening of 'How to Survive a Plague'. It was very confusing to sit through the movie, try to make sense of it, try to make sense of my own feelings, all while trying to respond thoughtfully to an audience.
One thing that became very clear to me is that there was a huge void in my life after AIDS activism. For years, I had had an over-riding purpose, and then, after the protease inhibitors came on-line, and we had a somewhat less hostile President in the White House, it all fell apart. On this Veteran's Day, I'm struck by similarities to the stories I hear about veterans returning to civilian life after combat. You're completely consumed with the daily task of staying alive, and keeping your buddies alive, and then what? Raking leaves out of the driveway? It's impossible to replace that sense of urgency, and often really dangerous to try to.
Being HIV-, I had the privilege to be able to walk away from AIDS. And the new drugs made it seem like most of my HIV+ friends, well I could pretend that they were out of harm's way. Even when my friend Stephen called to let me know he was within a week of dying, I didn't want to burst the bubble, I said I was sorry to hear it, but the next time I saw him was at his funeral.

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