AIDS pandemic is still a danger to us all

by Beacon Staff • November 16, 2005

While most Americans are quite familiar with the illness, in recent years the country has seemed far less concerned with the problem than it has been in the past.,HIV/AIDS first came to light in medical circles in 1981, and since that time more than 20 million people have died of this terrible affliction.

While most Americans are quite familiar with the illness, in recent years the country has seemed far less concerned with the problem than it has been in the past.

For this reason, Emerson's involvement in the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Week (BC/EFA) is especially important.

The program is the nation's leading not-for-profit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. The BC/EFA draws upon the talents, resources and generosity of the theatre community to raise funds for AIDS-related causes across the United States. Since it was founded in 1988, BC/EFA has raised over $100 million for critically-needed services for people with AIDS.

EFA Week at Emerson, presented by the Musical Theatre Society (MTS), played out last week with a strong turnout from students, enabling them to raise more than $4,500.

The focus of the week-long program was to increase awareness of AIDS among Emersonians and to raise as much money as possible for the fight against this incurable disease.

Though EFA week was successful, it is fair to say that the focus placed on AIDS during the week does not feed into an overarching awareness throughout the country, especially with new dangers like the bird flu grabbing all the headlines.

In the late 1980s and early 90s, the American public began to collectively understand the deadly nature of HIV/AIDS, which for years had been erroneously considered a disease that only infected gay men. Celebrities such as tennis legend Arthur Ashe fell victim to the disease-which, however tragic, did serve to increase the public's awareness on the issue.

Then, in 1991, when NBA MVP Earvin "Magic" Johnson was diagnosed with HIV, the illness became one of our nation's biggest concerns. Tribute concerts were held to help raise money for HIV/AIDS research and care. Pop stars got involved as well.

Members of the hip-hop group TLC wore condoms over their eyeglasses. Rap group Salt-n-Pepa released a single titled "Let's talk about AIDS" to promote safe sex, and movies such as the Academy Award-winning Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks, contributed to the public's growing concern.

Over the last decade or so, however, discourse about the ailment seems to have lessened in America. While there is still no cure, AIDS patients in the western world now typically live for many years after being infected due to the highly active antiretroviral therapy, referred to as HAART.

The scourge of AIDS is being minimized at a time when many breakthroughs in its treatment seem to be near at hand. With developments in gene therapy and other forms of genetic manipulation pushing forward, now is the perfect time to put AIDS in the spotlight.

Possible pandemics may be a threat to our collective well-being, but it makes much more sense to use our time and effort to cure a known killer that is already living among us, instead of one that may never develop.

Emerson is the perfect environment for the furthering of AIDS funding.

If the student body can mobilize as it did last week to raise money, then there is no reason why we can't have an ongoing fundraising campaign with a lofty goal and a noble purpose, to try and stop a truly frightening disease.