Thirty Years of AIDS

The AIDS epidemic turns thirty today, June 5th, 2011.

Thirty years ago, in 1981, the CDC published a report documenting the cases of five young Los Angeles men. All five men suffered from Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP pneumonia, today regarded as a sickness associated with HIV/AIDS), and two had died already.

The report contained a crucial note: all five men appeared to suffer from a "cellular-immune dysfunction related to a common exposure" and a "disease acquired through sexual contact." 

The CDC had seen a recent spike in medication prescriptions for PCP pneumonia, and began an investigation. Within a year and a half, the existence of the disease - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) - had been established. 

The fear associated with AIDS was widespread. In those days, there were no treatments, support services, or even general knowledge about the disease. HIV-positive status and AIDS was essentially a death sentence. And HIV-positive patients were often ostracized from their peers.

In 1989, just eight years into the epidemic, a few friends gathered in a Baltimore church basement to cook and package healthy meals-to-go. The purpose? Provide lifesaving nutrition to people dying from AIDS, who often suffered in rejection and isolation. Working on an initial grant of just $8,000, Moveable Feast was born, subsisting on a mere three employees and serving just ten clients two days per week.

A Moveable Feast staff member working in the kitchen at Waverly Presbyterian, one of our previous locations.
Today, for those who can afford it, HIV/AIDS has become an almost manageable condition, given advanced ART treatments and other drugs. Yet too many HIV-positive people still struggle with the prohibitively expensive treatments, and the disease affects their life in every way imaginable - physically, financially, socially, and emotionally. And there is still no definitive cure. Over the past decade, HIV/AIDS has come to be construed as a "foreign" or "African" disease - certainly not something that hits so close to home.

Yet, consider the following: 

Maryland ranks #21 for population size, but #4 among US states for new HIV infections per capita. In past years, we've even ranked at #1. In recent years, our very own "Old Line State" has consistently come in at the top five across the nation for new HIV infections.

There are 29,021 Marylanders living with HIV today. Of those, 59% live in the Baltimore Towson Metro area alone. Among US cities, Baltimore ranks at #4 for HIV incidence. 

Moveable Feast was founded upon a commitment to our neighbors living with HIV/AIDS. In 2010, we reaffirmed our dedication to the Baltimore HIV community by forming the Partnership for Life. The Partnership for Life, a coalition with Chase Brexton Health Services and AIDS Interfaith Residential Services (AIRS), is a joint venture aimed at:
  • Increasing HIV/AIDS awareness and community outreach in the Baltimore Towson Metro area 
  • Providing housing, food, and health care for people who live with HIV. 
Each year, the Partnership for Life holds the B'More Aware of HIV: The Living Red Ribbon event, geared towards bringing greater awareness to the Baltimore area and engaging community support for local programs. From Baltimore City and beyond, people gather to form a huge living HIV red ribbon. Last year, nearly 600 people participated in the living red ribbon, breaking a new Baltimore record!

The Living Red Ribbon, formed at Rash Field at the Inner Harbor in autumn 2010.
Moveable Feast is working to help those in Maryland suffering from HIV/AIDS. 2011 marks the 30th birthday of the AIDS epidemic in America. To "celebrate," consider educating yourself about HIV/AIDS and other STDs, getting tested, visiting the special display at the National American History museum, or showing your support for Moveable Feast by donating or volunteering. Remember, 2011 also marks the 22nd anniversary of Moveable Feast services to clients.

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