Featuring Lloyd Turner
World AIDS Day, recognized annually on December 1 of the year, is an international day dedicated to bringing awareness to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Today, we show support to family, friends and community members who have been affected by HIV and remember those who have died from it. An estimated 38 million people around the world are currently fighting the virus. Since it was first identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS-related illnesses. Lloyd Turner, Safety Administrator at Greenbrier Marmaduke, has shared his personal experience of living through the HIV/AIDS epidemic and what World AIDS Day means to him:
“I see the words ‘World AIDS Day’ in December. It is meant to bring attention to a pandemic that has caused more deaths than ever recorded in modern history. While it’s important to be aware of the HIV/AIDS statistics, I see a different side because I lived through this. Like many others, I was fortunate not to contract the virus.
I was 21 years old and just coming into acceptance of who I am, along with my friends from college. I had a great clique of friends, all of us fashion-conscious and thinking we were ‘it.’ I can still see all of us standing in a group in the local dance club, discussing the men we thought were most handsome and available. I had heard on the news about a ‘gay disease’ that was killing us and thought it best while we were standing there to suggest that we needed to be careful. Lee, who was standing to my right, said: “Oh Lloyd, this isn’t New York nor San Francisco, it will never come here.” None of us understood the magnitude of what was going to happen in our world.
Lee was the first to contract the AIDS virus. We all watched our handsome, intelligent friend go from being healthy to steadily contracting one illness after another because his immune system was compromised. He immediately moved to Atlanta to be near the CDC in case any treatments emerged to stop the virus. None arrived and our friend lost his life. The first of many times I was a pallbearer.
For the next few years, I watched my friends get sick, one by one, and leave this world. You could pick up a newspaper and it would read: “Jon Smith, age 21, died from pneumonia.” Parents showed their shame by not listing the actual cause of death… AIDS. As far as that is concerned, after learning their sons had died, many parents would not come to the funeral or collect their things. But don’t worry, we never let a friend die alone. We were family. Doctors and nurses didn’t want to treat those with the virus. Funeral homes also refused service. Many young and old men were buried in major cities by number and no name. Forgotten. That, I guess, is what bothers me the most about this time period. Our friends who lost their lives, are they forgotten? Will the world EVER know the artistry, the talent in design and the creativity that made them stand out when they were alive? I can assure you that I have not forgotten how lucky I was to have known them and been a part of their brief lives.
As I write this, I still get a “raw feeling” that rips at my heart so I will close. There is much more I could discuss, but frankly, if this note reminds someone on World AIDS Day that there is so much more than just one day of remembrance celebrated once a year, then that is its purpose.”