The kids are dying: What HIV/AIDS activism and gun violence prevention say about America

The kids are dying: What HIV/AIDS activism and gun violence prevention say about America

Dozens pretend to be dead on the floor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral . The year is 1989. Around 70,000 Americans, predominantly intravenous drug users and young LGBTQ+ people, have already died from AIDS —a death toll that, as of 2018 , would rise to more than 700,000 deaths worldwide. In spite of these numbers, Cardinal John O’Connor, the target of this protest, calls homosexual activity “sinful” and would later prohibit the use or teaching of condoms . One protest poster from the hundreds of people outside the church reads, “Condoms Not Prayer.” Twenty-nine years later, in 2018, young people all across the country again pretend to be dead . This time, however, the activists are not protesting a lack of AIDS-related response: They are protesting government officials’ inaction in the face of gun violence. In the wake of activism prompted by the gun violence prevention organization March for Our Lives, die-ins are used to draw attention to the number of young people dying because of weak gun laws. By this point, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown, San Bernardino, Charleston, Pulse, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe, and other mass shootings have happened . Yet even more mass shootings (Tree of Life, Thousand Oaks, El Paso, Dayton, Virginia Beach), suicides by firearms, domestic violence fatalities, instances of police violence, and other day-to-day gun violence would continue. Activists have had enough; posters read, “We want policy and change, not thoughts and prayers .” Gun violence and the HIV epidemic share striking parallels. […]

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