Survivors and activists demonstrate 40 years after the discovery of AIDS

On Valentine’s Day 1982, Dabb Garner was diagnosed with HIV / AIDS in San Francisco. I was 19 years old.

With the United States turning 40 years since the virus was discovered, survivors like Garner are taking time to reflect on the lives and stigma of those who stayed behind. Garner and around 75 million people around the world have been affected by HIV / AIDS.

“You have to remember, during this period of time, there were no laws protecting people with HIV. Therefore, someone can be fired from their job, fired from their place of residence and hit the streets within 24 hours after people find out they have HIV. Garner explained.

Garner, who was married to his partner Brad, in 1985, adopted a baby named Candice who was also diagnosed with HIV / AIDS.

“In August 1989, she had to go to the hospital, and we were hugging her when she took her last breath. It was probably the worst day of my life, ”Garner said.

Just four months later, Garner lost Brad to the virus.

“My partner got very sick and had a temperature of 104 degrees,” Garner recalls. “We took him to the hospital. I had no idea that once they brought him back, I would never see them again. “

Seven months later, Garner was hospitalized with the virus but survived.

In an effort to help overcome survivors’ guilt, by losing their partner and child so quickly, she founded Project Dab the AIDS BEAR, a community organization for citizens affected and affected by HIV / AIDS.

Researchers like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Dr. Monica Gandhi have studied the virus for nearly four decades. Both remembered the first detections of the virus; Fauci recalls that five gay men in Los Angeles developed symptoms similar to pneumonia.

“It was at that moment, 40 years ago, that I realized that you had goose bumps going up and down my spine, because, being a person with infectious diseases, I said: ‘My God, it’s going to be a new infection, ‘”Fauci told ABC News. “

Fauci also mentions the turbulent challenges when most patients began to die from seemingly unknown causes only a few days apart.

“One of the things that has become very clear is that when you are dealing with a completely new outbreak and an evolving epidemic, you learn things in real time,” Fauci said. “It was literally just a few months, as you’ve seen, IDUs, hemophiliacs, transfusion recipients, male sexual partners with this disease, and finally girls born to women, who were probably infected.”

Fauci noted that the virus is still described as “homosexual immunodeficiency.”

Even as more people with HIV / AIDS continue to live and live longer, experts and activists say the stigma attached to the virus remains. As with many health-related problems, it disproportionately affects communities of color and the LGBTQ community.

Ladia Joyce, a black woman from the south, remembers the time she received a life-threatening diagnosis in 2016 after contracting the disease from an ex-partner.

She said: “I am HIV positive. And now that?”

Joyce said she felt left out and polarized, particularly as “a straight, straight, black woman with HIV? In the belt of the Bible? “

That is why I became an activist to help other people with HIV / AIDS.

“It’s always a moral Olympiad when it comes to black women and HIV, it’s like we’ve done something to make sure we get that diagnosis,” she added.

The virus, which initially only infected homosexuals while men, is now infecting African Americans at some of the highest rates, while just 13% of the US population accounts for 42% of all. new diagnoses, according to a 2018 report from the Centers. for Disease Control and Prevention Diseases and their prevention.

“When there is discrimination, when there is stigma, it is difficult to access services, it is difficult to go to a medical center and say, ‘I need preventive services,'” Gandhi said. Virus expert, for ABC News.

“It is difficult for you to talk to your family about your sexual orientation and for your family to help support your access to services,” he added. “Discrimination and predisposition to pathogens go hand in hand.”

Now, as an advocate, Joyce is doing her best to break the stereotypes and myths surrounding the virus.

“The relevance of care, the myths, the stereotypes, the stigma, the cost of medication… the same things that they might have been dealing with in the 80s, especially when it comes to minority communities, we still face”, He said. saying.

Experts, including researchers like Fauci and Gandhi, said they are concerned that due to the recent focus on COVID-19, some momentum for HIV / AIDS testing may be waning.

“What really surprised me in 40 years is that even though the progression of HIV has seemed very rapid, at least over the course of 40 years, what we have done with COVID-19 – in just seven months, it has improved dramatically. COVID-19 vaccines. “Cash – it means to me that HIV is still a disgrace,” Gandhi said. “Rapid progress with COVID-19 should translate into a better job on an HIV vaccine.”