DEAR ABBY: Regarding the discussion in your column about taking pictures at funerals: In 1986, my partner died of complications from AIDS. We were lucky that he was able to remain at home in comfortable surroundings. I am a floral designer and he loved my work, so I worked all day at my former place of employment to do his flowers.
Many friends sent sympathy tributes and wondered if I would photograph the flowers for them. I agreed. When I was alone in the funeral parlor, I took photographs of the flowers and of him lying in the casket. And yes, he did look better that day in the casket than while he was dying. AIDS is a horrible way to go, so don't condemn anyone for saying that the deceased looked better on the day of the funeral. In some cases it's true.
Abby, please remind people that the AIDS virus is still out of control. The drugs are not effective for everyone. This epidemic is still far from over. -- MIKE FROM ST. PETE
DEAR MIKE: You are absolutely right that the AIDS epidemic is still a threat here and around the world. However, a growing complacency is causing many people to let down their guard.
According to Dr. Mervyn Silverman, board member and former president of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR), new treatment combinations are helping many who have been infected. However, a growing number of people, sadly, do not benefit from the new drug therapies.
In addition, there are 40,000 new HIV infections in the United States alone each year. The infection rate is rising among our youth, women, and especially people of color. And AIDS is increasing among our senior citizens, who represent 10 percent of all cases nationwide! Unfortunately, many of those over the age of 50 don't think they are at risk for AIDS -- nor do their physicians -- which results in delayed treatment.
Young people, gay and straight, believe nothing bad can happen to them. This is especially dangerous for gay youth, who have a significantly increased chance of being exposed to HIV through unprotected sex.
In short, people who have lulled themselves into believing this epidemic is over could be dead wrong.