Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

AIDSWalk 2007  0

Posted on September 29th, 2007. About News and Politics, Ramblings.

One might presume from the title that I participated in AIDSWalk 2007, but in fact I did not. However, just now Evan and I were watching the evening news and were informed that Seattle’s AIDSWalk took place today at Volunteer Park. It jogged my memory a bit.

In 1995, I participated in AIDSWalk in Columbia, South Carolina. I was 16 years old, a sophomore in high school in a small town (Chapin, SC), and remember seeing a poster somewhere advertising the walk. It was the "second annual" event at that time. 1995 may not seem like that long ago, but attitudes in South Carolina were so different then. I had been a community theater enthusiast, and because of this met several very talented and kind people, whom I later learned were homosexual. Several knew people who were HIV positive, and my young mind understood that wonderful people could be afflicted with this disease.

I began asking my friends at school whether they would accompany me to the walk in Columbia, but either they were not interested or their parents would not allow it. I drove myself to the event, alone, not knowing a soul downtown that Saturday morning. However, I was quickly embraced by fellow walkers and activists, and we enjoyed our 8k walk around the city. I remember a member of my family (who shall remain anonymous) asking me that night: "Did you have fun with the AIDS people?"

The following morning, I eagerly thumbed through the Sunday newspaper, The State, to read the article covering AIDSWalk – and there was not one. I registered my discontent – it was the birth of my first ever letter-to-the-editor, which was published the next week.

Just two years later, as the president of the National Honor Society, I took five classmates downtown to participate in AIDSWalk ’97, and the turnout in the park was tremendous compared to just two years earlier. The local news cameras interviewed participants, musicians played on a stage, etc. For AIDSWalk ’98, Evan joined me, as I was then a freshman at the University of South Carolina and had met my companion!

I used to believe, back in 1995, that everything important had already been accomplished, and there was nothing left for me to do. What a difference a little perspective gives a person. I have watched this disease grow from a fatal illness smothered in discrimination to a chronic infection managed with medication with better understanding and empathy from those around them, and of course – from an AIDSWalk not even covered in the local newspaper to annual AIDSWalks all over the country where thousands show up to participate.

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