I give now, because I could not give then.
In 1979, when I was 22 years old, I played volleyball every Thursday with a group of gay men at a park in the Montrose section of Houston, Texas. It was a very special fellowship, and it was my first exposure to a community where I felt accepted and safe and at ease. I wasn’t out to my family or my co-workers or to many of my friends. This band of young men was my only real peer group. After every game we would go out to dinner and then to one of the local gay bars for drinks.
Unknown to us, an epidemic was coming. Some were already sick, but no one knew why or how to treat them. Then they started to die. It was a sad and fearful time. And when it finally became newsworthy, the press called it GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). It wasn’t until the summer of 1981 that the CDC formally called it AIDS. There was no one to help—no resources, no agencies, nothing. Even if I had been financially able to contribute, there was no place to send the money.
AIDS Services of Austin (ASA) was founded in 1987 after years of volunteerism and activism by the LGBT community. In the early years of the epidemic, few outside that community were willing to step forward and help. Resources and money were limited. There was little to no support from local government, and none at all at the federal level. Luckily, times have changed, but there is still a great need. There is still no cure.
I remember a time when I was helpless to do anything. Now I can make a difference in the lives of others.