Musings —07.22.2010 10:46 PM—
“In November, 1990, LIFE magazine published a photograph of a young man, David Kirby — his body wasted by AIDS, his gaze locked on something beyond this world — surrounded by anguished family members as he took his last breaths. The haunting image of Kirby’s passing (above), taken by a journalism grad student named Therese Frare, became the one photograph most identified with the HIV/AIDS epidemic that, by then, had seen as many as 12 million people infected.”
My Dad was an immunologist before he became a bio-ethicist. When I was a kid, I remember him coming home to tell us about a frightening virus that didn’t really have a name yet. Some of the doctors at the hospital, he said, were perplexed by the profound toll it was taking on three “H” communities – Haitians, homosexuals and heroin users. I remember him saying it was the most formidable virus any of them had ever seen. “If it does what we think it is going to do,” he said, “it will kill millions of people.”
It did. Every year, now, it kills about two million people. Many more live with it.
When that photo appeared, I – like everyone else – thought it was extraordinary. I was appalled by Benetton’s use of it to sell sweaters – but, as the above link to Life makes clear, David Kirby’s parents felt it was the right thing to do. They’d know better than me.
Anyway. I don’t post this photo to mark some sad anniversary or anything else like that. I just put it here to remind myself that it is a terrible, terrible disease, and that it is still with us.