$50 for 50 by 50 #2: AIDS Project Los Angeles

I’m turning 50 this year and instead of whining about it, I’m trying to do something positive by donating $50 to 50 different charities before I’m 50 years old.

Okay, in an attempt to be gracious about a dead woman, Hilary said some stupid, uninformed stuff about the history of AIDS in this country.  She apologized and then she really apologized and I’m good with that, especially considering how much she and her husband have done or tried to do over the years related to the disease (much of which is detailed in the really apologized link above).

In a way I’m glad all this happened.  I mean, I hate it when people I like and support and admire say stupid, uninformed things but that just proves they are human – I’m thinking of glass houses and great, big stones.  But at least it kicked AIDS into the national conversation again, something that it sorely needed.

I came to Los Angeles in 1985, when AIDS was already a crisis and I worked in the gay bars as a bouncer, a bartender, and a DJ.  I saw the crisis up close during its worst days.  I lost several people that I could call good friends, probably a dozen more that I was friendly with, and at least a hundred others that I knew.  For awhile there were funerals every week – not just one but many.

Since then things have changed, dramatically.  The advancements in drug therapy have turned a certain death sentence into a chronic, but manageable disease.  The “PReP” treatment regimen has become as close as we have been to an inoculation.   Still, there are over 50,000 new infections every year and 1 million people in this country living with HIV.

I am one of them.  I don’t talk about it a lot, mainly because it’s a non-issue in my life.  I take pills, I see the doctor every 4 months for blood tests, and the virus is completely undetectable in my body.  It is much more likely that I will die from a recurrence of esophageal cancer than I will of HIV.

But I am both informed and lucky, in that I have really good health insurance and great access to quality medical care.  A lot of people are not informed and/or lucky and for them, organizations like AIDS Project Los Angeles are an imperative.

In 1982, as a panicked community faced a deadly new disease, a group of four friends attended an emergency meeting, determined to help. They raised $7,000 at a Christmas benefit – the seed money to launch AIDS Project Los Angeles, which began with five clients. Today, they serve more than 11,000 with first-rate HIV/AIDS care and prevention programs and fight for smart, effective HIV-related public policy.

Learn more about APLA on their website or check this article on About.com for other notable AIDS organizations in the United States.

My second $50 for 50 by 50 has gone to APLA.

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