I was in lying on the grass in Central Park, New York, this day 25 years ago, recently graduated and weeping with excitement at being in what seemed to me the most incredible, amazing place in the world while the fireworks accompanying the 1812 Overture banged and flashed overhead to celebrate Independence Day.
Back across the Atlantic, a man died in London. At the time, no one knew what was wrong with Terrence Higgins, nor its future significance. That didn't last long.
There's an article from the head of the Terrence Higgins Trust in the Guardian today, together with some audio from Terrence Higgins' partner, Rupert Whitaker.
So - 25 years of appalling pain, horror, sadness, and death, yet many people still behave like it has nothing to do with them.
Still not putting it on
According to a study reported on Aidsmap, about men on the gay scene in three British cities - London, Manchester and Brighton - 22% of HIV-negative men reported unprotected anal sex with a man who was either HIV-positive or of unknown HIV status in the last year.
Oh dear. No, worse than that. Why are you risking your health/life in this way?
No doubt many of these men have sex with women too - whatever they call themselves. Now, I know that - according to other studies - bi men seem actually less likely to have very risky sex. Of course, no one knows for certain - as the whole thing's shrouded in secrecy - but anecdotal and, to a certain extent, other evidence indicates that bi men are less likely to have anal intercourse with other men than are men who are entirely gay. Still, I don't want anyone to die of this horrible disease; I don't rate bi men more highly than gay men, for instance, or even men operating under the delusion that they are entirely heterosexual and just having sex with another man because... well, why not? I don't want any of them to get it.
And according to another study, men in the US who have sex with men - gay, bi, whatever, make up over two-thirds of US syphilis cases. Incidences of heterosexually-transmitted syphilis have reduced but this is more than made up for by the increase in it between men. Not only does contracting syphilis show that you are having unsafe sex (although it is very much easier to get syphilis than HIV through oral sex) but it also makes contracting HIV more likely.
You know what to do
This makes my blood run cold. I know I've said it before, but really, some things can't be repeated too often.
Please - do I have to hang on to your ankle like a heavy weight and stop you going off for unprotected sex. Use a fucking condom.
You might have not seen people around you dying of Aids, but I have and it's HORRIBLE. Worse than horrible. Please, no roulette games. Unlike a lottery win, it really can happen to you. And even though treatment is so very much better these days, the health implications are still enormous.
A bi male friend of mine, who spent the 70s and 80s in San Francisco, and who - due to a mixture of luck, monogamy and unrelated ill-health - managed not to contract HIV, told me how he met one of his peer group on the street there recently. They were both very shocked as each had assumed that the other had died. And how sad and sick-making that this was a reasonable assumption.