A baby girl in Mississippi appears to have been cured of HIV and some in the medical community are calling it a game changer. The virus was spotted 30 hours after the girl was born; an hour later doctors began an aggressive regimen of widely available drugs. A month later virus levels were undetectable in her immune system.
The child is now two and a half and off medication and still appears cured. Some say this amazing case gives them new inspiration and fresh hope that a cure is possible, at least for babies. The battle is still raging: 1,000 babies are born with HIV each day and every year about three million people die of AIDS or AIDS-related complications.
Over half a million are children. Hearing of a baby being cured fills me with hope that maybe one day this monster will be slayed. This monster that my generation grew up in fear of. Now we all live calmly with AIDS, partly because many people with AIDS are growing old, but also because we’re like Pavlovian dogs who’ve grown accustomed to the fear. In the 80’s and 90’s it wasn’t like that. The entire nation, indeed the globe, was gripped with fear as this mysterious fatal disease rapidly grew into a global pandemic.
It was always fatal, usually in a quick and brutal way, and doctors were baffled as it mowed down millions. Where my parents’ generation, the baby boomers, had free love and key parties, my generation had sex as Russian roulette. I remember hearing about someone who got it the first time they had sex. With so much hysteria it was hard to get honest information out to people, so for years the myth that it was just a gay plague was as resilient as the virus. For years homophobia overpowered clear thinking and shaped public policy.
Pat Buchanan said nature was exacting retribution on gays. William Buckley wrote that there should be mandatory testing for gays and the results forcibly tattooed on their butts. It was politically acceptable to do nothing while Rome burned. For most of Reagan’s presidency he barely mentioned AIDS and repeatedly denied CDC budget requests–partly because of the Christian Right, which was a crucial part of his coalition.
We could spend an hour mapping out a history of AIDS and it wouldn’t be enough, so bear with me–but in the 90’s many began to understand it was everyone’s problem and we began to destigmatize the infected.
Bill Clinton increased CDC funding 150%, created an office of AIDS research and released a national AIDS strategy. And in a way the AIDS battle propelled the gay rights movement forward as it forced people to stand up and come out as a way of fighting for their live and fighting for normalization and putting a human face on homosexuality. After AIDS tried to turn homosexuality into leprosy, the gay community responded by demanding their humanity.
Let us pray that we can build on the Mississippi case and liberate more people from the virus and continue to liberate more gay Americans from the last de jure discrimination left in America.