In 1987, I was a 26 year old living in Los Angeles and trying to face the horror of having tested positive with HIV. Television blasted daily reports of the death toll, the suicides of people with HIV, and even the deterioration and death of Rock Hudson. But nothing frightened me more than an episode of Oprah Winfrey, when she visited a West Virginia town living in hysteria over an HIV positive man using the public pool.
Watching the fear and anger on the faces of these people is scarier than their Dynasty-era hairstyles (Oprah’s amazing ‘do could house her next academy for girls).
I’m getting the shivers again. In a new segment, Oprah revisits the town and the people there who cried out for the banishment of their HIV positive resident.
There are actually two videos I want you to see, and they are fascinating bookends around that ignorant time and our lives today. First is the Oprah piece showing her return to the community (her site also has a follow-up with the town’s angriest man, Jerry Waters, who is older but not much wiser).
Then watch a public service video, produced as part of the recent United States Conference on AIDS, that joyfully shows how far those of us with HIV have come, and what a community that supports its members really looks like.
Here’s the Oprah segment:
And here is the PSA from the United States Conference on AIDS, produced by the National Minority AIDS Council:
Thanks for watching, and please be well.