In 1979 it was called "gay cancer," and it took the life of an acquaintance. Then "gay-related immune deficiency," or GRID, claimed neighbors, friends of friends, fellow activists. I began grief and death counseling with a segment of the population ordinarily concerned with life's ambitions and enjoyments: men in their twenties and thirties. Hospital visits and memorial services became more frequent.
By 1983, when it had come to be called AIDS, my own friends began to be affected. One was a man I dated in seminary, and I was devastated to learn of his illness only upon receiving a notice of his memorial service. Another friend, a minister, shared his struggle to survive AIDS. In our exchanges he helped me come to terms with my own anxiety about developing the disease.
Preparing a sermon for the commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima, I reread Robert Jay Lifton's analysis of the experience of Hiroshima's survivors. Despite real, qualitative, and quantitative differences which forever separate the experiences, I recognize remarkable parallels between their way of coping and the gay community's coping with AIDS. I draw on the framework Lifton constructed, not only to understand the present suffering of the gay community, but to place that suffering in context with all human suffering.
"AIDS and A-Bomb Disease: Facing a Special Death,"
New England Journal of Public Policy: Vol. 4
, Article 20.
Available at: http://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejpp/vol4/iss1/20