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Don Burns 
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Re: “Ruth Coker Burks, the cemetery angel

I lived through these dark times, when no one knew what was killing gays by the tens of thousands. It started slow, like most disasters. I started high school in 1981, and graduated in 1985:

DEATH TOLL FROM AIDS IN THE U.S. (Source: Amfar)

1981...100
1982...518
1983...1,600
1984...3,996
1985...8,533
1986...12,030
1987...16,290

By 1988, AIDS had killed more U.S. citizens in seven years than the Vietnam War killed in 12 years (from 1963 to 1975).

1988...20,967
1989...27,527
1990...31,110 (cumulative total 120,453)
1991...35,690
1992...38,333

By 1992, AIDS was killing almost more Americans in one year than all the service members who died in the entire Vietnam War. I know because my boyfriend at the time, Rob, died of AIDS around this time. He was abandoned by his family and died with only me at his bedside.

1993...39,749
1994...36,645
1995...48,979 (cumulative total 319,849)

By 1995, AIDS deaths in the U.S. reached an all-time high. The New York Times reported that AIDS has become the leading cause of death among all Americans ages 25 to 44. This was also the year the triple drug cocktails were finally introduced, and people began to survive.

1996...42,155
1997...28,688
1998...20,108
1999...19,025
2000...18,235 (cumulative total 448,060)

To put this into context, during World War II, we lost about 100k citizens per year during the war to combat. AIDS had killed about as many Americans by 2000 (granted, over about two decades) that our enemies did in six years of the most brutal war our planet as ever seen. Most of these people were dying alone, abandoned by family and friends. Judgment, it was called, by a wrathful God hellbent on punishing his wayward flock.

By 2004, AIDS had killed over half a million Americans, and another 25 to 30 million worldwide. Today, cumulative death toll from HIV/AIDS is approaching 35 million. This death toll has decimated the global gay community, and while there are no reliable figures, in heavily gay neighborhoods like in the Castro in San Francisco, perhaps half (or more) of the gay population died from 1980 to 2000. This impact cannot be understood unless you know the context. This is the story of one such woman, an angel, who found herself in the midst of a modern day Black Death. Thank you, Saint Ruth Coker Banks.

https://www.facebook.com/don.burns.14

12 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Don Burns on 05/05/2016 at 9:49 AM
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