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For World AIDS Day, let’s remember those we’ve lost to the virus but also remember that we all have an opportunity to fight it.

Today is World AIDS Day, a day that we use to remember those lost to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It’s also used to remember that many more people are currently living with HIV and AIDS. For queer people, this day is especially important because it’s a reminder of what we’ve lost: an entire generation of artists, musicians, lovers, activists, and elders who had so much to give queer life and the world at large. Tens of thousands of queer people were lost to us. Every year, we end up uncovering or rediscovering art, writing, or music created by this “lost generation”, ever reminding us of the thousands of potentials that were so cruelly and violently lost to us. With that said, it’s important to not only mourn for those lost or lament the talents stolen from us. We also need to remember two vital things: one, the tenacity and ferocity with which queer people — both those with HIV and AIDS and those who don’t have it — fought and continue to fight against HIV and AIDS. We also need to remember that their work to get the US government to listen to their demands has been saving all of our lives, and will continue to as we discover new ways to treat and prevent the disease. One more contribution they gave, not just to people with HIV or AIDS or people at risk to it, but to all of us, was the development of the “right to try” principle. This principle essentially states that those who have an incurable chronic or terminal illness — such as cancer or multiple sclerosis — should have the right to try anything that can potentially extend their lives, treat their suffering, or even cure their ailments.

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