2011 marks the 30th year of AIDS. "The View from Here" is a special year-long series to mark the anniversary. Advocates, doctors, researchers, politicians, philanthropists, educators, public health professionals, journalists and celebrities are answering the same set of questions each month.
This month, we feature legendary singer, songwriter, and actress Cyndi Lauper, a fierce advocate for LGBT rights and an activist committed to seeing an end to HIV/AIDS.
1. We’ve learned a lot in 30 years. What do we have yet to learn?
We have learned a lot, but we need to keep reminding ourselves and teaching each new generation about HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, the lessons we have learned, like the importance of safe sex and other prevention efforts, ensuring there are adequate and affordable testing services and medical services available for people, and that research be amply funded, all need to be reinforced and advocated by everyone in the United States and around the world.
2. What was your deciding moment, when HIV/AIDS became an important issue in your life?
As soon as I started losing so many wonderful and amazing friends at the beginning of the epidemic. I saw many of them being discriminated against, I saw many of them rejected by family and friends, I saw them not able to get the help that they needed, I saw our government doing nothing to help. There were so many reasons, but it was my love and affection for my friends that drove me to action. It is not a unique situation. If not for the love and support of so many for their family and friends, the government and so many others would not have finally listened and started to act.
3. With ever-increasing public health issues to contend with, why should anyone still prioritize HIV/AIDS?
It is simple, until there are no more people becoming infected, until there is no longer one person dying from AIDS, until there are no longer side effects from the medications people with HIV need to take to survive, until there is no more anguish and pain from this disease, we need to make sure that HIV/AIDS is always a priority, there is no excuse for it not to be.
4. What keeps you up at night?
The fact that so many people around the world are still discriminated against. It boggles my mind that in the 21st century there are still people fearful of people who have HIV, that we are still talking about whether gay people should be able to get married, that 20-40% of homeless youth are gay or transgender because their families turn them away, that woman are still seen as less than in many parts of the world. The list goes on and on. We are better than this - humans are better and can be better than this. We all need to step up and give a damn. We need to do all we can do to get involved.
5. Three decades into the epidemic, what gives you hope?
What has always given me hope from the beginning is the love and affection that people have for their family and friends who have HIV. It was because of their support that things finally changed and things will continue to change for the better. Love and hope are powerful, more powerful than anything else in the world. Sure there was and still is a lot of anger, but it was the love and hope that inspires and still makes change happen.
Are you inspired to make change happen? Share your thoughts with us about Cyndi's responses.
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