January 14th, 2011
12:13 PM ET

Kramer: AIDS is a plague allowed to happen

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/OPINION/01/14/larry.kramer.aids/tzleft.kramer_larry.jpg caption="Larry Kramer co-founded Gay Men's Health Crisis and founded ACT UP, an activist organization that has campaigned for treatments for HIV/AIDS." width=300 height=169]

Larry Kramer
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Watch "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS," an AC360° special, at 9pm ET Friday. Larry Kramer co-founded Gay Men's Health Crisis and founded ACT UP, an activist organization that has campaigned for treatments for HIV/AIDS. His play, "The Normal Heart," about the early years of AIDS and directed by Joel Grey, will be produced on Broadway by Daryl Roth and will star Joe Mantello; it will also be filmed next summer starring Mark Ruffalo and directed by Ryan Murphy. "The American People," his novel about the history of homosexuals in America, will be published by Farrar Straus and Giroux. Kramer, whose partner is David Webster, is HIV+ and the recipient of a liver transplant.

New York City (CNN) - I want this article to break your heart. But it deals with a subject that has had a tough time of it in the break-everyone's-heart department. I'll bet that a number of you will be more angry at me than sympathetic by the time you finish reading it. If indeed you finish reading it.

From its very beginning, most people have not wanted to know the truths about AIDS. This is an indisputable fact that continues until this very minute. I have been on the front lines since Day 1, so I know what I'm talking about.

Here are 10 realities about AIDS, and I've learned them the hard way:

1. AIDS is a plague - numerically, statistically and by any definition known to modern public health - though no one in authority has the guts to will call it one.

2. Too many people hate the people that AIDS most affects, gay people and people of color. I do not mean dislike, or feel uncomfortable with. I mean hate. Downright hate. Down and dirty hate.

3. Likewise, both people who don't have sex the way they do (if they have it at all) and people who take drugs in order to feel better in a world that they find wretched are considered two highly expendable populations by the powerful forces that control this world.

4. AIDS was allowed to happen. It is a plague that need not have happened. It is a plague that could have been contained from the very beginning.

5. It is a plague that is not going to go away. It is only going to get worse.

Read more from Kramer on CNN.com's Opinion page

Editor's note:
Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America– is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting: www.greaterthan.org/moment.

Related: Visit Greater Than AIDS for answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as information about local testing centers.

Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • Larry Kramer • Opinion
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Greg

    The plight of the AIDS victims is beyond reprehensible, but AIDS can easily be eradicated. High-risk behavior is a choice. Just push for better education on AIDS-related behavior – drug use and unprotected male-to-male intimacy. I understand why the world community dedicates so little in terms of resources because AIDS could easily be eradicated with responsible behavior. Early on, little was known about the disease, and many became infected. However, that is not the case. If you want to avoid AIDS, avoid the high-risk behavior that spreads the disease. It is now a choice.

    January 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  2. Catherine Della Vecchia

    When I first heard about AIDS in the mid 1980's, I was raising my family in South Florida, one of the country's hotbeds of AIDS infection and I remember my thought being "thank God AIDS can't touch me because there are no gay men in my family".
    On Sept 30, 1995, my beautiful,amazing 19 year old daughter was diagnosed with full blown AIDS and I watched her fight a valiant battle against the disease for the next year and half. She died on June 12, 1997 and on that day she was exactly 21 and half years old.
    Profound grief consumed my for the next 2 1/2 years.My children and I designed and made a panel honoring her to add to the AIDS Memorial Quilt, I became part of the South Florida chapter, made many friends and then watched some of them die. I have been to too many funerals, memorial services, annual World AIDS day candlelight vigils, AIDS walks and Quilt displays to count and over the years volunteered at many Quilt workshops, helping others create panels to remember their loved ones and process their grief.
    Yes medical research and treatment has changed those infected today, but the stigma and the ignorance is still so much the same. I often wonder why I see so many pink ribbons symbolizing breast cancer, but no red ones and I think about my beloved daughter and how we really haven't come very far at all.

    January 15, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  3. Susan Leisure

    Larry Kramer is one of America's unsung heroes. If you don't know his name, you should. If you have ever lost anyone you loved to this totally stoppable disease, you'll completely identify with his anger.

    January 14, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  4. Brett

    I lost my mother to AIDS in 2006.

    I find the statement that AIDS was allowed to happen is not only offensive but inflammatory and untrue. To suggest that the medical community did less than their best is outrageous and to suggest that people with good purpose did not act to raise funds and awareness and put forth effort to protect the communities most at risk is simply untrue. We continue our efforts even now thirty years on... accusations of conspiracies and divisive comments will only damage the unity required to defeat this disease.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  5. Cindy Rasmussen


    I just finished watching your special on 30 years living with AIDS. Unfortunately, you, like most others, leave out a little-recognized and forgotten segment of this population – those men with hemophilia who have suffered largely in utmost silence during this entire epidemic. There is another compelling story here WHICH DESERVES TO BE TOLD – which you omitted. I suggest you check out the documentary entitled "Bad Blood". It details a travesty of unparalleled proportions perpetrated upon those who depended on blood products in this country; which is largely unknown and unacknowledged – all caused by greed. An entire generation of young men have died as a result of corporate greed...
    please research this and I hope you will have the courage to tell this powerful story. I know the story...I live it every day in my family.

    January 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  6. miren

    My husband died of AIDS in 1986, before AZT before everything. We had a son who was 3 at the time. As I listen to your program the layers of panic and fear are coming to me anew. The night we found out he had AIDS. He lived just three weeks after that. His, my, our horror at the possibility that the whole family had AIDS. Testing took weeks at that time, he never found out we were not sick.

    I remember my son's daycare center's demand that he be tested. A doctor friend of mine had tested me and I was fine, there was no reason to test my son. It would go into his health record and at that time it was uncertain what it would mean. The fear and lack of knowledge was very scary. I had to threaten them with a suit, bring in the Commission Against Discrimination. But a part of me could understand their panic. I took my son out of the daycare center. Life went on.

    So many died. So many heroes. Thanks for the program ...even though I am sitting here crying. I needed to cry again, i guess. Thirty years... Thanks

    January 14, 2011 at 9:47 pm |