HIV/AIDS in the USA
According to Hiv.gov (28-02-2018) more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today, but 1 in 7 of them don’t know it. From 2008 to 2014, the estimated number of annual HIV infections in the U.S. declined 18%. In 2016, 39,782 people were diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. The most affected are gay and bisexual men. San Francisco has relatively many people infected with the HIV / AIDS virus (16,000 at the end of December 2017), and the number of people in San Francisco living with HIV is at its highest point.
SAN FRANCISCO, today and yesterday
San Francisco is a dream city, with success almost literally just around the corner (Silicon Valley) and plenty of tourist highlights like the Golden Gate bridge. We land at San Francisco Airport in mid-January, with 20-degree temperature (68F) and lots of sun. And right away we can see how it used to be…. For us this journey is a trip back in time: in 1994 Bert and Erwin, HIV infected themselves visited the Castro, the gay district, where in the early 1980s again and again young men were being struck down by an unknown disease. But it was right in the Castro where the first HIV and AIDS activists fought for respect and better medical care – not only for themselves, but for the coming generation.
A LUNCH TO REMEMBER
At several locations and in different settings, men come together who’ve lived for decades with the virus — to meet, to share a meal, to reminisce, to heal, to laugh and to cry.
But the main reason for these gatherings is to be together, to share experiences and lives.
That afternoon we met some wonderful men who had a lot to tell about love, about life, and yes, also about loss.
Their openness, fearlessness and wisdom made it a very special afternoon. It will stay with us for many years to come.
Thank you, guys, for letting us be there.
Photography: Erik Smits
Text: Ellen Boschman, Erwin Kokkelkoren