Jay Blotcher and OutCaster Lucas — Jay Blotcher photo by Bill Bytsura
OutCasting #72 — Part 1 — May 1, 2020
OutCasting #73 — Part 2 — June 1, 2020
OutCasting #74 — Part 3 — July 1, 2020
OutCasting #75 — Part 4 — August 1, 2020
It’s too early to tell about the long-term impact Covid-19 will have on the world — though of course in the short term, we’ve already experienced illness and death and social, economic, and political disruption on a massive scale. Some countries are successfully reopening, carefully, but here in the United States, the lack of federal leadership and the politicization of even such basic preventative measures as wearing masks have combined to make the U.S. one of the worst countries in the world in containing the pandemic. In some states, social distancing and widespread wearing of masks have kept the disease from spiraling completely out of control. But elsewhere, cases are spiking, mainly -- though not entirely -- in states -- and with people -- who have followed the attitudes of President Donald Trump in considering the virus to be a hoax, resisting the preventative measures that have been shown to work, and publicly disagreeing with the best scientific knowledge currently available. In light of this lack of success, perhaps the only real hope that this pandemic will end in the U.S. anytime soon seems to rest on the possible development of vaccines.
Unlike Covid, which in some areas has been contained, at least for now, the AIDS pandemic, which began in 1981, was allowed to spiral out of control, and it was about 15 years from the beginning of the outbreak until the development of effective treatments in the mid 90s. Even now, nearly 40 years later, there is no vaccine. UN AIDS reports that as of the end of 2018, nearly 75 million people had been infected with HIV and 32 million had died.
Some people have been suggesting that what we’re feeling now in the early days of the Covid outbreak must be similar to how it felt at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. But there were crucial differences.
In a commentary in the April 2020 edition of OutCasting Overtime, OutCaster Chris said:
Imagine how much lower the number of people lost to AIDS might have been if people hadn’t hated gay men and had instead recognized AIDS as a worldwide health crisis right from the beginning.
And imagine how you, today — dealing with this new coronavirus — would be panicking if Covid were raging in your community but there was no effective public response. Imagine this sickness and death becoming pervasive among your own friends and family, and asking, pleading, screaming for help, but no one listens, no one really cares about the infected, and the government sits on money that should be released for developing a vaccine or cure or for caring for those who are sick. Imagine the rage and grief you’d feel as your friends were getting sick and dying and the rest of the world was ignoring the whole thing.
Joining us to help us understand and not just imagine is Jay Blotcher. Jay is a veteran journalist and activist. He arrived in New York City in 1982. He began writing for The New York Native, the leading gay newspaper at the time, and then became associate producer of “Our Time,” a weekly TV show about LGBT life in New York City, hosted by the activist and historian Vito Russo. Jay joined ACT UP/New York in 1987, the year the group was founded. He took part in key demonstrations, like the FDA protest in 1988, Stop the Church in 1989, and the demonstration at the National Institutes of Health in 1990. He served as head of ACT UP’s Media Committee, taking the helm from Michelangelo Signorile, an earlier guest on OutCasting. Most recently, Jay was the editor of Rainbow Warrior: My Life in Color, the memoir of Gilbert Baker, creator of the rainbow flag, who was also an earlier guest on OutCasting. Jay is also a member of the Gilbert Baker Foundation and co-founded Public Impact Media Consultants, a PR firm for progressive groups and individuals. He talks with OutCaster Lucas.
In this series, Jay talks about his involvement with Gay Men's Health Crisis, or GMHC, a group providing services for people with AIDS, and ACT UP. Both were co-founded by Larry Kramer, who died on May 27, 2020. Andy Humm, an earlier guest on OutCasting, wrote a powerful obituary in the NYC paper Gay City News. For OutCasting's remembrance of Larry Kramer, listen to the June edition of OutCasting Overtime.
Part 4 includes a commentary from OutCaster Lucas about the importance of following the advice about preventative steps, including social distancing and wearing masks, from medical professionals and not necessarily from elected officials.
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