Friday, December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day

Support World AIDS DayToday is the 18th annual observation of World AIDS Day, and the theme is "Keep the Promise." Back in 2000, heads of state made a promise not only to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS but also to begin to reverse its growth by 2015.

As one of the main coordinating sites for the worldwide observation of this special day notes, however, around 65 million people across the globe are living with HIV/AIDS, and the number of people affected, rather in decreasing, increases every day. More than 25 million people have died since the disease was first identified in 1981, with 2.9 million dying so far this year. Southern Africa and the Caribbean are the worst hit regions on the globe, but the AIDS pandemic touches every nation and colony on earth. World Heath Organization estimates suggest that if current trends continue, 117 million people will perish, making AIDS the third leading cause of death in the world.

"Where are you now, now that I need you,
now that I need you, now that I need you?"

Last year I posted a very, long personal entry, which included thoughts and poems about HIV/AIDS, but this year I'll take a different turn, posting some important links to check out, and offering part of this space to the late writer, scholar, critic, ancestor, and altogether fierce person Melvin Dixon (1950-1992), who died from AIDS complications 14 years ago. His first book of poems, Change of Territory, which appeared in 1983, dazzled me when I first came across it; there is nothing in it that deals directly with HIV/AIDS, and hardly anything that's overtly gay, but its record of journeys, of travel and exile, of presence and absence, of a search for names and places to call home, resonates I think very well with the journeys and losses of AIDS pandemic's 25 year span. I also want to evoke Melvin, whom I knew a little, because his life and death are emblematic to me of AIDS pandemic's ravages. He was only 42 years old when he died, a year older than I am today (at the time he seemed so--grown, as they say), and in his short life he was on the move: he had published two novels, an important critical study of African-American literature, and a book of poems, and he'd also translated the collected poems of the great Senegalese poet and co-founder of Négritude, Léopold Sédar Senghor. All that in 42 years. I often think of what he, like so many of the people felled by AIDS over the years, might have accomplished had he lived. He'd be in his late 50s, perhaps still teaching at Queens, certainly publishing more books of poetry, more novels, the essays (and more) that my colleague Dwight McBride has so finely edited with Justin A. Joyce (Melvin Dixon: A Critical Reader, Mississippi, 2006).

"Where are you now, now that I need you,
now that I need you, now that I need you?"

Bernie as always has a very thoughtful entry on the topic, as well as a World AIDS Day Blogroll. Several points he and others make are invaluable in addressing the ongoing HIV/AIDS's ongoing toll:

Educate yourself--read up on HIV/AIDS, and learn how it's transmitted, how it's treated, and how you can take care of yourself and others by asssessing risks, negotiating your behavior, and taking precautions.

Share your knowledge with others--share what you know, even if people do not want to hear it. You might be surprised. As the old slogan says and it's still true: Silence=Death.

Take responsibility for your actions--Acknowledge the risks of your actions, take precautions and take responsibility for your behavior.

I would add: GET TESTED regularly. Do not assume that because you look or feel fine that you might not be HIV positive, and don't assume the same of others. More than 38 million people across the globe have HIV and don't realize it.

A few other sites to check out:

Keith's Debunking of Myths About Black Men & AIDS + List of World AIDS Day Events

UNAIDS: A Joint United Nations Program on AIDS's World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day on MySpace World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day Resources at The Body

Two poems by Melvin Dixon (at right, portrait by Robert Giard, from

Angels of Ascent

to Robert Hayden

You know us, all of us, by the tracks
we left in Norfolk and Nashville,
Ann Arbor and Detroit. You know us
by the hollow of our screams
shuttling from street to street:
cautious Stefan, zany me, and Richard
with his chattering teeth on edge.

One of us stayed with you for a time
in Tennessee, someone you claimed
as "orphan boy" and hugged
late at night. Your words
conjuring mysteries of the body
sent him looking for kin.

And still we search. You hear us
hissing like the sea at shipboards,
whisking our arms in first flight.
Your name fluttering in our talk
"Robert Hayden gone a-movering,
movering home."

One in New Have I shook your hand,
held onto that flesh of words. You knew
what mystery children we are, how we ache
in dark and dreamy valleys of paradise
for absolute gravity, with no names
for the spaces we inhabit, nor any
last tears for being there.

from Hemispheres

Beware all round shapes:
earth, moon, sun,
kneecaps, elbows, eyeballs,
and the ridge of any man or woman
that can pull you in deep.
Beware globes of the body
moving on an axis
of easy pleasure.

"I can take you around the world,
to the end of the world," he smiled.

"Travelin'," I said.

Where are you now, now that I need you,
now that I need you, now that I need you?

© Estate of Melvin Dixon, University of Kentucky Press, 1983.

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