Thoughts on COVID-19 research

I am so grateful to the incredibly brilliant scientists who work so hard developing the vaccines we now have to help the citizens of the world have a fair fight against the Coronavirus COVID-19. I’ve received my first shot (2/2/2021) and am filled with awe and gratitude at the ingenuity and drive so many have had in developing the vaccines. These are miraculous times we are living in – it never ceases to amaze me!

We’ve had another horrible pandemic not so long ago during the AIDS global pandemic. Ronald Reagan was President of the U.S. during the initial years of the AIDS pandemic: so many people died horribly painful deaths and Reagan (and the Christian Coalition AKA American Taliban) did nothing to help their gay brothers and sisters. Sound familiar? Reagan provided no leadership for Federal actions to fund research and put measures in place to stop the spread of the virus, he didn’t even personally acknowledge the disease for the first few years of his presidency, finally formally recognizing the existence and bringing government agencies officially to play in 1987.

The advances that were made in the search for the HIV virus and the development of the numerous multi-drug “cocktail” vaccines (proposed first human subject in late 1987) were the foundations and instrumental in using scientific technologies relating to the speed in the development of the current COVID-19 vaccines. Of course, our computing technologies, our understanding of the human genome, and genetic sequencing are vastly superior to the mid-to-late 1980s when that early research was being done.

A new commercial tonight aired tonight about a new two-drug cocktail, a single pill that provides a way to bring the HIV viral load to zero/undetectable levels. The cocktail enables people with HIV to have sex again with the assurance that they cannot transmit the virus. I am not HIV positive but my brother was back in 1985 and he seroconverted to AIDS and suffered numerous AIDS-related diseases. My brother died of AIDS-related complications in October of 1987 and the first drug cocktails finally were tested and released for a small number of affected individuals after my brother’s death, after the death of many of his friends, after the deaths of so many others in San Francisco.

Finally, a Response and Plan

Yes, I am thankful that modern science and technology have enabled scientists to bring a new vaccine to market in less than one year, essentially 10 months from the real start of the pandemic. Amazing work and I have benefited from this remarkable achievement with my first vaccine dose. I will eventually get my life back to the pre-pandemic era and I am ecstatic about this eventuality.

I am thankful that we finally have President Joe Biden and his administration who will take charge and provide a game plan. The Trump administration had no idea how to establish a Federal government response to the COVID pandemic. A man with compassion and love for his country is now in the White House – something we’ve desperately needed these past four years.

COVID-19 Memorial in New Orleans, LA

But now, we have a similar situation, but this time it isn’t gay men who are dying in disproportionate numbers: Now we have predominately people of color and the poor who are leading the COVID-19 infection and morbidity statistics. We have another virus that doesn’t care about race, creed, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation – it just infects people and many of them die: Closing in on a total of 496,000 to 534,000 Americans dying from COVID-19 by Feb. 27, 2021, at the time of this writing. I think we have to have a revitalization of the ACT UP campaigns and organizations throughout the U.S. to shine the light on these underserved communities who are taking the biggest hit from infections and deaths.

The Power of Silence=Death and ACT UP

Silence = Death Activist Movement

Silence = Death was a project founded before the ACT UP protest group (which later adopted the sticker/image) and the stickers were plastered everywhere in many communities and became one of the readily identifiable symbols and banner cries of the AIDS activism movement. The silence about People of Color and the poor being at greater risk and dying from COVID-19 and its complications must be broken. But social distancing doesn’t lend itself well to huge protest crowds and marches.

Reflecting on the past is typically a waste of time and counterproductive, people always say. But you either learn from history or you don’t live long. I just wish Ronald Reagan had moved faster and an antiviral cocktail had been made sooner so my brother would still be here. My brother had so much to give and loved life and the people around him. I miss him so much.

I hope to help, in some small way, to fight to make sure everyone has the opportunity to survive this pandemic. I don’t want another voice silenced or a life abruptly ended because of our inaction and lack of support. I really miss those voices that were silenced.

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