Educating the World on HIV/AIDS Prevention
by Maria Glover Wallace, MS, MBA
This Women’s History Month, I reflect on the service given by LGBT women during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s to the countless victims who suffered alone and in silence with limited support from their families of origin. Graciously, this “chosen family” stepped in to care for the daily needs and provide comfort during end of life transitions.
As a young woman in Chicago, I was devastated watching the illness consume both my dear cousin and a close childhood friend. Although I was not living openly as a lesbian, I was a vocal ally and felt deeply connected to the LGBT community and searched for ways to mobilize with others. Eventually I found my greatest impact sitting by the bedside of my loved ones in hospital isolation rooms. I was fully present; willing to read favorite scriptures, and offer comfort with a warm hug, laughter and a smile.
As I witnessed the piercing stares of hospital staff and the absence of regular visitors, my heart broke a little more each day. When each of their battles were lost, I mourned while others pointed fingers and speculated the disease origin, expected totality and predicted devastation. It was truly a sad and scary time for my community.
Since then, I have witnessed the storytelling of many urban lesbian and bisexual elders filled with personal connections to the struggle during the epidemic that parallels my experience. Today, an intraconnected community is still vitally important as the work continues to mobilize and educate the world on HIV/AIDS prevention, protection and testing. Today, I am hopeful. Today, I am thankful.