I started working in the HIV field in 1998, when I was hired (by Annie Silvia, who now works at JSI) at the Boston AIDS Consortium, a small AIDS service organization for which I later became the Executive Director. At the time, I was beginning my third year as a Ph.D. student at Clark University, but had an urge to start “doing something productive” after so many years in school. I was interested in gay/lesbian politics, and was drawn to HIV/AIDS work because it had been so closely connected to the gay/lesbian civil rights movement.
I knew no one living with HIV, but felt a profound and significant loss within our community. An entire generation of smart, witty, creative gay men died too soon, and their full potential impact on this world would never be realized.
Also, I knew that my new and growing rights as a gay man were owed to those people (gay men, lesbians, and their allies) who literally took to the streets to demand that our government respond to this epidemic. Their courage, their battles, and their spirit propelled the gay rights movement forward in ways that may not have been possible without this epidemic.
The level of citizenship I enjoy today – free to marry my partner, if I wish, and more importantly, simply able to be me, openly and without fear – is because of the impact of HIV on our community. So I continue in this work, nearly 15 years later, to celebrate those who are still with us, and to honor those who are not, and whose loss continues to impact my life each and every day.