So Far Along, So Far To Go

Letters 11/19/2008

I am a 20-year survivor living with AIDS, and another World AIDS Day (December 1st) is fast approaching. Much has changed; much has stayed the same or gotten worse.

I have lived long enough to see food trays left at hospital room doors of people dying from AIDS. Now the dying are being fed and tended to. I have lived long enough to see the preventative measure of "gowning up" come and go. I have lived to see the stigma of AIDS unchanged, conflicting AIDS transmission fears and infection rates spiraling out of control.

I have lived long enough to see a young man with AIDS-related dementia wander in the rain wearing nothing but his pajamas, looking for his car. I have helped change the diaper of a 35-year-old man's lover. Some have withered away, suffering from wasting syndrome, spare as a baby bird. Now, due to advances in HIV/AIDS medications, that kind of dementia and wasting syndrome are rarities. I have seen a family change the locks and strip a home bare while a man was at the cemetery burying his loved one, only to return to an empty, locked home. I have seen families and lovers left broken and bereft after losing loved ones to AIDS. Those losses and bereavements continue.

I have mourned the loss of better men and women than I. Many more are still living in the shadows with AIDS, fearful of the stigma, weary of being alone or shunned, tired of medication side effects. Many others are brave enough and strong enough to stand up and fight for continued AIDS services funding and awareness. I am blessed in that I am still here fighting/writing, with thinning grey hair, bifocals and my A.A.R.P. card in hand. I am living proof of the incredible medical strides made in managing HIV/AIDS. I am blessed in living to see nieces and nephews come into my world and bring forth great-nieces and great-nephews. I am blessed in that I continue to continue.

In 1991 I saw the first Red (AIDS Awareness) Ribbon. Since then, there has been a literal rainbow of ribbons. Now, another World AIDS Day is upon us and like most others I have seen, it will come and go with small, poorly attended remembrance and awareness ceremonies. This year, another 56,000-plus Americans will become infected with HIV/AIDS.

We need to wage a war on AIDS. This is a disease we know how to prevent. This is a war we know how to win.

Robert W. Toth



I was delighted to read that Cleveland City Council is considering passage of a domestic partner registry. While some people may see this as a trivial issue, those of us who are in committed relationships but not married know how much of an impact this initiative could make.

When a couple registers with the domestic partner registry, they receive an official government document stating that they are recognized by the city as a couple. This is important because there may be many situations where a person will need to produce some sort of documentation that they are in a relationship.

For instance, in certain circumstances, only immediate family is allowed to visit a person admitted to the hospital. If a couple is registered with the city, it is much easier for the hospital to ascertain quickly that someone's partner should be allowed to visit them. Similarly, providing documentation makes it much easier for human-resources professionals at businesses that provide partner benefits. Direct documentation that authenticates two unmarried people are living together makes the process quicker and more efficient.

The countless benefits of a domestic partner registry should make this an easy decision for Cleveland City Council members. Let's hope they act quickly so that all families will be equally recognized in the city. Sue Doerfer, MSW, LISW

Executive Director

LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland

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