I want to write about “World AIDS Day” today, despite I realize I’m not really accredited to talk about it. Not sure what I’m writing is right or fair.
I feel blessed nobody in my life has ever contracted the illness and I can only imagine what does it mean to live with AIDS or to be in the life of someone who has it. So, thanks God, I can only write about my impressions about the desease. I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant or naive (seeming naive would be better, anyway). At least, I’ve always tried to keep myself informed about it as much as I can.
I can say it looks like we have let down our guard on AIDS, I remember when I was younger and I was hearing about it almost every week from TV, newspapers and magazines. Not from school, sex is always a hard matter to talk about with young people in Italy, and thinking talking about it in class would make the difference. Now, thanks to medicines, patients live a longer life and mass media don’t talk about it like before, they just report some news or statistics from time to time. That’s particularly dangerous for younger people approaching sex for the first time, they should know it must be safe, not just from AIDS.
From studies comes out that there are also irresponsible behaviours from adults who like to play the dangerous game of not using a condom, like in a Russian roulette, finding sex more exciting. Someone even think just one time doesn’t make them contract the virus or that, like it often happens in Africa, going with a virgin could fix them! How dangerous!
The gay community seems the most aware of the problem, despite AIDS regards straight people too. They had huge losses in years and the stigma of having spread the virus in the early years, so they’ve always made a campaign to make their people aware of it.
But there isn’t a definitive cure, yet, which seems strange to me. We go to space, make transplants of organs, but in decades we still don’t have a solution for AIDS! I know we don’t have a final cure for cancer, as well, but I can’t help being doubtful about this matter. You can guess what I mean.
For a long time I’m thinking about that line from William Burroughs’ “A Thanksgiving Prayer” poem which says: “Thanks for laboratory AIDS.” It really impressed me the first time I saw him performing it on screen, I remember thinking: “Yes, of course they did!”. I wouldn’t be surprised if some scientists had received the commission of elaborating the virus for real. If it’s true that about ten years occur before HIV+ persons get sick, it must have happened in years when the then called LGB community was doing its battles for freedom and recognition, late ’60s/early ’70s. Perhaps they wouldn’t imagine the virus would go so far. I know that sounds cynic, but I can’t get it out of my mind. A illness came out from nothing, damaging a precise group of people, is suspicious…
Nowadays, all the world is affected and not all the people have access to medicines. That’s the ugly truth.
I’m following “The AIDS Memorial” accounts on Twitter and Instagram and it breaks my heart to see how many people report about they beloved ones died due to illness related to AIDS: mostly lovers and siblings, but also parents, children, friends, colleagues. Most of them were young men, often in the showbusiness, but there’s an impressive amount of women as well.
I got in touch with them because they posted photos of two late actors I started to know when they were already gone, Richard Warwick and Ian Charleson, both related to the director Derek Jarman, how sad all of them have died because of AIDS! The director was the first famous person with AIDS I heard about, I started to watch his movies at the time he was already dying after I saw his “Caravaggio” on TV. I was too young to follow their careers, despite I remembered later that both Ian and Richard were in movies I saw when I was a child and I’m sorry for that. For a strange coincidence. Warwick and Jarman were both 52 when they died, while Charleson was only 40! What a loss!
Why am I writing this blog right this year? Because this 16 December there will be the 20th anniversary of the death of Richard Warwick and I’m posting on https://twitter.com/RWarwickTribute the stages of his career every day and on that day a PDF file with the roles he played will be available for those interested in his work as an actor. I’m also planning a proper book, but this requests a longer time and more efforts, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it, but I have hope I will.
I’m planning to do the same for Ian Charleson in 2019 (for his 70th birthday) or 2020 (for the 30th anniversary of his death).
I actually wanted to write a blog on my two websites in tribute to the two actors today, but at the end I thought to write on this blog instead.
AIDS is also a matter often discussed in movies, TV series, plays, books for obvious reasons. One of the most moving films I’ve seen, for example, is “Longtime Companion“, about the years when the illness was found out. In particular, I find moving the friendship between Willy and John. The protagonist doesn’t get ill, but sees his best friends passing, one by one.
In Italian, it got the title “Che mi dici di Willy?” (What about Willy?), which doesn’t pay justice to the meaning of the original. The original title of the film comes from the New York Times’ refusal to acknowledge homosexual relationships in their obituary section during this period. Instead, survivors were referred to as “Longtime Companions” of the deceased. In fact, in the film we see ill men who were admired for their beauty facing shame and neglet and their lovers being very lonely after their decease.
What an awful time the ’80s had been to the LGBT community! Not that the ’90s or the new millenium have been better for people with the disease!
Another heartbreaking movie is “Blue“ by Jarman, where there’s just a blue screen, since the director was becoming blind, so the viewer only hears voices of him and the other performers who joined the project, like his muse Tilda Swinton, but also John Quentin and Nigel Terry. Jarman was saying goodbye to the world, it was his testament.
I also remember “Les nuits fauves” by the French Cyril Collard, who also played a role in the film and died for the same illness at 35 in 1993. In the movie he played a bisexual man HIV+ who copes with it and his love for both a man and a woman.
There a are a lot of works, it’s impossible to mention them all.
Here a list of titles with AIDS as keyword on IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/find?ref_=nv_sr_fn&q=aids&s=kw
There’s still a hard battle to fight, never let down guard, never lose hope!