In last week’s chapter we followed Jeff home after his conversation with Ned at the Whitman Walker Clinic. Distraught and filled with despair, we discovered he still loved Jimmy all these years later. Sad but kind of impressive as well.
Uncertain what to do, Jeff convened a luncheon meeting with some of his gay friends who work on Capitol Hill the next day to see if they knew any more about gay cancer than he did. But they turned out to be as clueless as Jeff regarding the disease.
At least one denied there was any such thing as gay cancer. To him it was an elaborate hoax. While others disagreed with that assessment, they didn’t know much about the disease either. However, one of them worked for a congressman who was a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Aware that its Subcommittee on Health had been looking into the matter, he put Jeff in touch with Tim Ward, the Subcommittee’s staff director.
Making up a story that his boss was meeting with some constituents interested in the disease, Jeff pressed Ward to find out what he knew. But even though he’s the most knowledgeable House staffer about the disease, Ward, like Ned Hilliard, knows very little with certainty and doesn’t have much good news to share.
None of the Federal health agencies are doing anything to address the problem as President Reagan and his political appointees are more interested in cutting funding for Federal health programs than in addressing a disease that afflicts socially undesirable people, i.e., gays, drug users, and Haitians, among others.
Others who should be interested, like the medical profession, drug companies and the blood banks, are doing nothing as well. Indeed, even the gay community itself has its head struck in the sand when it comes to the disease.
Jeff offers his help and that of his boss, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, but leaves the meeting discouraged. And that’s where tonight’s chapter, which I’ve now posted, picks up.
I realize things may be moving a bit more quickly in the story than they might have back then, but other than that I hope the story rings true to the times. If you think I’ve gotten something wrong, let me know.
I also wanted to mention that AIDS Walk Washington will be held in two weeks and I’ll be walking as usual. These walks are held primarily in local communities throughout the United States at different times of the year, but I’m told there are similar events in some parts of Canada and Australia as well.
Wherever you live there are charitable organizations assisting people with HIV and AIDS. If you like the story, think about what you can do to help. You can even click on the image below to contribute to the Whitman Walker Clinic (now known as Whitman Walker Health), which plays a major role in this story.
And here’s another link that may connect you to an organization closer to where you live.