Michael McColly Remembers World AIDS Day

In The After-Death Room: Journey into Spiritual Activism, Michael McColly writes about his encounters around the world with people who are confronting the AIDS crisis head-on and helping those who are HIV-positive to live, and die, with dignity. In this essay, he looks back at his personal history of World AIDS Day, which has been formally commemorated on December 1 since 1988 but, as you’ll see here, can’t be pinned down quite so easily.

michael-mccolly.jpgMy first World AIDS Day was in 1981, when I was sitting in a thatch hut in a small Senegalese village listening to the BBC and heard the news from America about a “mysterious virus that had been discovered in homosexual and bisexual men.” I had thought I had run far enough away from my conflicted sexual life by joining the Peace Corps, but when that announcer in London let loose upon the world the word AIDS, it was as if the world had shrunk and the great African sun had turned pale.

My second World AIDS Day came on a chilly April morning in Chicago. I’d snuck out of my North Side neighborhood to a public health clinic on the near South Side to get results from a test nobody wants to take. I remember the young African American men sitting in silence with their baseball caps pulled like mine down over their eyes. I remember the voice of the Latina social worker, “you weren’t expecting this, were you?”

For the next few years I didn’t celebrate any World AIDS Days. I went on no walks. I went to no fundraisers. I wore no red ribbons. When I heard that word—that word that lived inside my body on television, I turned it off. Every day was for me World AIDS Day. I’d joined a worldwide tribe growing larger by some 3,000 every day. I didn’t need to be reminded.


1 December 2006 | guest authors |

Go See My Pals Read in Queens!


This is the grand opening weekend for the Borders in Glendale (on Cooper Avenue at 80th Street), and they’re bringing in two local writers to celebrate. Since I’m friendly with both Carolyn and Jeanine, I’m a bit biased in recommending you schlep out to hear them, but if you live in that neck of the woods I hope you’ll consider it!

1 December 2006 | events |

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