The Meningitis Crisis and Early Days of AIDS


By David Mixner

Article originally posted on

You would have to be hiding under a rock not to know about the recent outbreak of fungal meningitis across the country. Originating from tainted steroid shots, close to 200 people have suffered meningitis and at least two dozen people have died from this health crisis. Fortunately, it has been on all the front pages, saturation coverage on the media, the CDC is contacting all 14,000 persons who have received the shot and everyone, if they wish, knows exactly what to do.

How fortunate the users of this particular steroid that they have had such a quick and efficient response from the public health sector, the media and government. It has been impressive, knowledgeable and quick.

However, while this all have been taking place my mind drifted back to the early days of of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. At that time, the LGBT community was fending for itself with little media attention, no governmental action and an overstretch public health system unable to effectively disburse the message. For several years, the community was left floundering for information as our young friends died all around us. The government was missing in action and the best the media could do, if there were any media, was call it a ‘gay’ disease.

There was no sense of crisis similar to the meningitis outbreak or Legionnaires Disease or Toxic Shock Symptom Because it was viewed as a ‘gay disease’ everyone took a vacation and the epidemic rapidly spread throughout the country leaving thousands dead without warning. Many in government declared this was ‘God’s punishment’ on us for being gay men and sat back with smug satisfaction.

Over the epidemic I lost slightly over 300 friends including some of the best friends in my life. Most died before their fortieth birthdays and all were talented, vital and wonderful men. I gave over 90 eulogies in a two to three year period for those young men. My entire existence from about 35 to 50 was consumed with death and dying while still fighting for our freedoms.

There is no question in my mind that if America had responded to HIV/AIDS like they have responded to the meningitis crisis that many of my friends would have been alive today. Because the media, government and social services failed us, tens of thousands died needlessly.

We should never forget. Never. Never.

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