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PROULX: AIDS finish line getting closer?

SHAUN PROULX, 24 HOURS

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

 A journey of hope and work

Today is World AIDS Day and many of us can still recall the true apex of the horrific ravages of AIDS at its worst. Here, in Toronto, we danced to Madonna with friends on Saturday night at Chaps or Colby’s — defunct gay bars — who became ill by the following weekend and never returned again. A funeral a day was the norm for too long a time.

I hope for the sake of those lost boys that conversations and reportage that happen during this World AIDS Day — thirty-five years after the first case of AIDS was identified — aren’t just another repeat of so many we’ve heard over the years. For far too long, we have focused mainly on losses and how far we still have to climb. Little energy has been put into describing how miraculously far we’ve journeyed since those long-gone Saturday nights under the disco ball that turned terrifying.

Last year, 1.1 million people died of AIDS, and while we will of course always remember them, more than that, we owe it to each of them to live with more praise and attention and awareness of the great things we’ve achieved over three decades in Canada.

They are the reason we achieved so much.

My generation of gay men (I’m 48) will actually see old age, whereas the one before mine was all but wiped out.

Even though I was diagnosed HIV-positive in 2005, unlike my counterparts in the ’80s and ’90s, I can count on one hand the number of times I have been unwell. It takes longer to floss than it does to manage my HIV care.

Like so many others taking leading-edge medication, I’ve been blessed to have achieved “undetectable” status, which means so few copies of the HIV virus are present in my blood that today’s monitoring tests are unable to detect them. Some science says the risk of my infecting another person is reduced by 96%.

We now live in a time of Generation PrEP. There is a one-a-day pill called Truvada, which can be taken by those who are not HIV-positive but are at substantial risk of acquiring it. Let the miracle of that one just sink in.

Most of us have wanted, hoped and prayed for an end to this disease for decades, and while struggle does continue especially for those less fortunate (people as close by as the United States and as far away as Africa), here in Canada – like with our same-sex marriage and human rights triumphs – where HIV and AIDS are concerned, we are global leaders. Leaders don’t negate how far they’ve led.

Moving away from telling old HIV/AIDS stories isn’t an idea that will be warmly held by everyone. Many people don’t want to let go of the past, ones that saw millions die tragically; I get it. Many people with a chronic disease or illness hold tight to it as identity; I don’t get it.

But on this day, if we are so blessed to have reached the closest thing we’ve seen in over three decades to what looks like some kind of finish line off in the distance, is it not our responsibility to loudly tell that story more now, those who suffered and passed cheering us on as we continue to reach forward?

Shaun Proulx hosts The Shaun Proulx Show on SiriusXM Canada Talks channel 167. He is the publisher of TheGayGuideNetwork.com and leads a #ThoughtRevolution on ShaunProulx.com.