(The Guardian) — n Aids memorial is being unveiled in New York City today. While it is fitting to have right here in Greenwich Village a grand Jenny Holzer-designed, Walt Whitman-inscribed memorial to the 35 million people who have died from Aids and the 37 million people currently living with HIV, there is little to celebrate locally or globally.
Just across the street, St Vincent’s hospital – an epicenter of the epidemic in its early years – has died, just as so many gay men did within its walls in the 1980s. It is being converted into luxury condos. That a hospital which served the most marginalized would be replaced by real estate for the super wealthy is a fitting metaphor in the age of a real estate developer-turned-president. Indeed, Donald Trump is set to preside over a newly harmful period in HIV history.
HIV/Aids is no scourge of the past in the US. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that one in two black men who has sex with men will become HIV positive, despite having “fewer partners and lower rates of recreational drug use than other gay men”. While the drug PrEP (which can greatly reduce the likelihood of becoming HIV positive) is often heralded as some kind of panacea, it cannot address some of the biggest epidemiological factors fanning modern HIV: access to employment, housing and healthcare. Indeed, in cities like Atlanta, half of HIV diagnoses have already progressed to Aids – precisely because people most likely to be exposed to HIV don’t have healthcare.