Copyright 2015 by David Bruce
• Many famous people have acquired the HIV virus or have died from AIDS. The first famous person to announce that he had AIDS was actor Rock Hudson, who died from the disease in 1985. In 1991, Los Angeles Laker basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson announced that he was HIV-positive. Tennis star Arthur Ashe, who died from AIDS in 1993, contracted the HIV virus during open-heart surgery. Other celebrities who have died from AIDS include Amanda Blake, who played Miss Kitty on TV’s “Gunsmoke”; figure skater John Curry; pianist Liberace; Freddie Mercury, the lead singer for the rock band Queen; actor Anthony Perkins, who played Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”; and Robert Reed, who played the father on TV’s “Brady Bunch.”
• In 1982, when she was 16 years old, Alison Gertz had sex one time with a bartender from Studio 54, and she acquired AIDS. At the time, few people knew that AIDS could be caught by heterosexuals, so Ms. Gertz started to tell about her experience with AIDS and educate the public about heterosexual transmission of the disease. After she died in 1992, her friends continued to educate the public about AIDS as part of the foundation called Love Heals. After the friends had spoken about Ms. Gertz at a school, one of the students said that she had been told that one of her friends had died of cancer, although she knew the friend had really died of AIDS. The student then donated $100 to Love Heals.
• The very first panel in the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt commemorated Marvin Feldman, whose best friend was Cleve Jones, founder of the Names Project. Mr. Jones was despondent following the death of Mr. Feldman. One afternoon he and a friend were in a garage talking about the friends they had lost to AIDS, and as they talked they painted names and designs upon some fabric. This was therapeutic, so Mr. Jones invited other people to help create a quilt of panels commemorating people who had died of AIDS. Today, the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is the largest collectively created work of art in the world.
• One of the Missionaries of Charity AIDS patients in New York told Mother Teresa, “Because you are my friend, I want to confide in you. When I can hardly stand my headaches, I share it with the pain that Jesus must have suffered because of the crown of thorns. When the pain moves to my back, I share it with the pain Jesus must have felt when the soldiers gave him the lashes. When my hands hurt, I share that pain with the pain Jesus felt when he was crucified.” According to Mother Teresa, “There was no sadness or anguish in his face. Instead, you could see a great peace and a deep joy in him.”
• In 1992, Elizabeth Taylor, in response to many of her friends and acquaintances dying or becoming ill, started the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. It helps fund organizations that provide patient care, education to prevent HIV and AIDS, and other kinds of support for people with HIV or AIDS. Ms. Taylor paid all of the costs of her foundation – salaries, printing of promotional materials, and the costs of holding benefits. This means that all the money raised by her foundation goes to organizations that help people with HIV or AIDS to live as comfortably as they can.
• Actress Sharon Stone raises money for the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Of course, she knows people who can make big donations of money to the foundation, but she also knows people who aren’t making big bucks. To people with small salaries who are wondering what they can do to help, she says, “Give me one dollar.” According to Ms. Stone, lots of people working together, doing what they can with what they have, although it seems little, will make progress toward solving this major medical problem.
• Penny Raife Durant, the author of “When Heroes Die,” a novel for young people about a man who dies from AIDS, spoke with her younger son about AIDS. The conversation was difficult for her, but the result was good. He told her, “I’m just going to say this once. Now you just listen. I don’t intend to have sex before marriage. But if something would happen and I would decide to have sex before marriage, I would use a condom.” She then told her son, “That’s wonderful. I’m very proud of you.”
• In 1992, Barneys window dresser Simon Doonan created a controversy when he used Magic Johnson as the subject of one of his celebrity windows. Magic had recently been diagnosed with HIV, and so the window focused on safe sex. People objected because a small Christmas tree used in the display was decorated with miniature basketballs and gold-wrapped condoms. Mr. Doonan defended the exhibit by saying that he and Magic were trying to save lives.
• In a London hospital in 1987, Diana, Princess of Wales, publicly shook hands with nine men who were dying of AIDS. This may not seem like much, but the extensive media coverage taught millions of people that you don’t get AIDS from shaking hands and chatting with someone who has AIDS. Princess Di said, “You can shake hands with people with AIDS and give them a hug. Heavens knows, they need it.”
• “Diseased Pariah News” was a zine that gave people with AIDS the information they needed to stay alive. A regular feature in the zine, “Get Fat, Don’t Die,” gave high-calories recipes that were useful in fighting the weight loss associated with AIDS.
• After tennis star Arthur Ashe contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion, he was forced to spend huge amounts of money on medicine. His anti-AIDS pills cost him $18,000 per year. On February 6, 1993, he lost his fight with AIDS.
• “Now that it is increasingly clear that HIV can be transmitted to heterosexuals… the self-righteous must find another reason for gay-bashing.” – Bishop Desmond Tutu.
• “If AIDS is to punish people for homosexuality, what was the Black Death for? To penalize folk for wearing period costumes?” – Jeremy Hardy.
• “For nearly every American with eyes and ears open, the face of AIDS is no longer the face of a stranger.” – President Bill Clinton.
Copyrighted by Bruce D. Bruce
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