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 Margaret Cho, a comedian, actress, author, and native San Franciscan who has never forgotten her roots. As a young girl growing up in the city, she witnessed some of the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic. She has never forgotten those experiences, and she has never stopped fighting for LGBT rights. When Cho fights homophobia and stigma through her work, she fights two of the strongest driving forces behind new HIV infections.
1. We’ve learned a lot in 30 years. What do we have yet to learn?
We need to find a cure. We need to keep educating people about what this disease is and how it's spread. We need to take care of everyone who is living with HIV/AIDS and everyone who is at risk of becoming infected. We need to learn so many things, and we've got a lot of work left to do.
2. What was your deciding moment, when HIV/AIDS became an important issue in your life?
When I was a kid growing up on Polk Street in San Francisco and seeing people die right in front of me. One day they would be perfectly healthy beautiful young men, then they would be getting thin, then in wheelchairs, and then you wouldn't see them anymore. It was the most heartbreaking thing you can imagine. People that I loved and people I didn't know just withering and dying right before my eyes. I never will recover from that, and I will never stop fighting to end the ignorance around HIV/AIDS. I will never stop hoping and praying for a cure.
3. With ever-increasing public health issues to contend with, why should anyone still prioritize HIV/AIDS?
It's simple: we should still prioritize HIV/AIDS because it's a deadly disease that affects people in my hometown of San Francisco and in communties around the entire world.
4. What keeps you up at night?
The two big things that keep me up at night with regard to HIV/AIDS are homophobia and ignorance, particularly when I see it in others and when I see it in myself. That to me is the most terrifying.
5. Three decades into the epidemic, what gives you hope?
After 30 years of this disease, young people still give me hope. The young people who are starting LBGT clubs at their schools, who are active in queer politics, who are teaching me so much. They really are the best.
Margaret just shared her views. Do you have any messages you would like to share with her? What keeps you up at night, or gives you hope? What was your deciding moment?
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