I Polished My Gun For This?

Yesterday was perfect for the Scotiabank AIDS walk: not a cloud in the sky, warm enough that I didn’t sweat buckets and everyone smiling, working it for a great cause. I managed to crest $2500 in donations – mostly because of you people who come to read and mostly because I did it entirely by social media (aaaand a few donations from family, of course). If I haven’t thanked you personally, I apologize and thank you now. I thank all of you.

She's a Trooper - Pic Courtesy of SharkBoy.ca

As expected, hundreds of pictures were taken and I made a bit of a splash in the pool of corporate teams that filled the walk. But know that I had to justify my presence a couple times.

Googley eyed woman: Why you a robot?

Me: I’m a Stormtrooper.

Googley eyed woman: Not a robot?

Me: No. I’m from the movie Star Wars?

Googley eyed woman: (to friends) Take my picture!

And so it went. One woman hesitantly asked me for a picture, “Because I find you scary.”

“I’m just me!” I say, obviously forgetting what I have on – the symbol of poor aim and jack-booted fear throughout the galaxy.

“I’m afraid because I want your gun in my mouth.” she said. Smiling.

Seriously.

At one point I took off the helmet to hydrate and a young woman ran up to me for a picture. She was wearing a metallic, bright Arabic scarf, thick horn rimmed glasses, tousled hair,  and cut off shorts just at the knee. “Why are you in costume?”

“I’m bringing some nerd cred to the Walk. You should know, right?”

“I’m not a nerd!” Woops. Okay. Whatever.

Inside the suit you literally can’t see down. If you hold one flattened palm over your eyebrows and the other on the upper part of your cheek, that’s the range of vision I had, not to mention I wasn’t wearing my glasses. At one point I could hear a woman asking me for a picture and I kept turning around. And around. Until I heard “Down here!”. She was in a wheel chair and I nearly fell into her lap trying to find her.

The Walk itself was ok. I stumbled twice over some pylons down at Queen and Church, very embarrassing, but for the most part I made it OK. Two blisters and a dry mouth. Sharkboy says I was stumbling on the way home due to exhaustion/dehydration but I think it was an inner ear infection.

At home we sat through the news about how “Word On The Street” over in Queens Park was such a success despite the oncoming threat of the printed word by eReaders. This particular story got a full 2+ minutes with lots of cut away talking heads about how great books are. Then, after a ton of world news, the AIDS Walk got a full 20 second spot with a mere mention of why and a scattering of video of people walking. Granted, I was watching to see if I made it on the news but the shocking lack of news coverage depressed me.

AIDS walk, unmasking and howler monkey
Howler Monkey photobomb. Pic by Postbear

I’m kind of bummed that HIV/AIDS is being relegated to the back burner even though it’s not gone away. It sickens me that big pharma has not released any significant 3rd generation drug patents into the wild for cheaper development, researcah and most importantly: distribution. The average cost of a monthly prescription for anti-retroviral  medication runs from $900 to $1300 with insurance companies picking up a good portion of that tab (if the patient is lucky enough). Doing the math, that means at the low end of the cost for meds times all the HIV positive people in Canada adds up to roughly $230 million a year in meds alone.

I’m generalizing. But the fact can’t be ignored that HIV treatment is big money.

Over the last decade, HIV has been placed on the same public consciousness shelf as diabetes in terms of “manageable diseases” (did you know those glucose monitoring machines are literally given away for free, but the blood test strips run up to $1.50 each? Test your blood three times a day for a month and that adds up!). The fact that “cures” are dangled in front of our faces ever so often (that ultimately don’t pan out) makes it real hard for me not to put on my tin foil had and think that if they wanted to cure this disease, they could have years ago, but it’s now a profitable industry that can hardly be stopped overnight with a “Eureka!” discovery that halts AIDS in it’s tracks.

I know. I’m crazy. But after being on this planet for 46 years I know that money is the greatest motivator and when it’s flowing in at such an alarming, constant (gardener) rate, then turning off the stream is nearly impossible.

Now if you excuse me I have 9-11 EVP files to listen to.

Photos from SharkBoy.ca and postbear’s Flickr Stream

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3 Comments

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  1. Replicant: There was woman who asked to hold my gun. Never. Ever. Let them hold your gun. It will disappear or break or worse, be used against you. When I said “No” to her she said, loudly, whinily “Come on!!”

    “No,” I repeated, singingly.

    “COME ON!”

    “nooooOOooo!” I shouted through my bucket. She gave up.

    No mind trick needed.

    postbear: Considering it was a Sunday night news piece, the fluff of books and their cool authors in a park made for some good soundbites, over the sad reality of HIV/AIDS.

    As for the cure, I’m not convinced. Call me kooky but with big pharma constantly filing new patents for genes and new protein sequences, makes me think that they’re close, if not there already, just covering their asses for the cash that will flow in. I get what you’re saying when it comes to the flow of information – it generally flows out – and if there was an altruistic lab tech who knows their company was sitting on a cure s/he developed, how big of a yacht would it take to keep them quiet?

    I know. This makes me sound like I’ve been watching too much Sci Fi channel, reading too many Michael Crichton books, but I can’t get past the idea that in the last 10 years there hasn’t been “better” drugs, or a 4th generation of anti-retros brought out to the market yet all this money is going towards “research”, which, by your own admission, is difficult to communicate successes.

    To summarize: It’s going too damned slow for my liking!

  2. i think we can blame a lot of the media trouble with a better-funded marketing team for word on the street. they have some serious money coming from sponsors and run events across canada with linked promotions and all the attendant press. AIDS-related events will always fluctuate in popularity, and it’s just bad timing to have two attractions in one timeslot – sort of like pride day and cottaging day.

    i share your cynicism regarding drug companies and their hunger for cash, but i think finding a cure for anything would be difficult to suppress for a few reasons. first, discoveries and advances are made incrementally, building on the knowledge base that all researchers create. so, any branch of research is contributed to by a variety of semi-competitors who can’t effectively hide their discoveries or they risk losing out on treatments and patents (and therefore $) that other labs will inevitably produce. that leads to the second point, which involves the money that labs and companies would lose if they didn’t produce results at an appreciable rate. the alternative is that a cure has been discovered and we’re just seeing all the sustaining treatments come out slowly so that one company or a cabal of them can stretch out this profit model, which is something i very much doubt. third, hiding a cure is probably impossible unless we’re talking about a rogue team that is at once incredible well-funded and yet completely removed from the research sphere, which is probably the story one could write in a sci-fi apocalypse thriller, but is almost impossible in the real world. though the internet is terrific at disseminating some kinds of information, cutting-edge tech data is still at the force-share stage. i think any rogue lab would be at least five years behind anyone who is operating in the open and swapping information with colleagues. add to this the extreme difficulty in acquiring some of the required equipment to study viruses, not to mention top-notch brainpeople (who’d have to be hoodwinked, forced to work against their will, or actually be evil), and i think we can discount this. the only other option, conspiracy at all levels of research, is something i’d only be willing to accept if humans were exponentially more competent. we’re just terrible at keeping secrets and not betraying others, even with billions of dollars at stake.

    oh, and if any lab did have a cure on hand: they know they could give it away for free or charge a penny for it and still make billions on the books and speaking tours and the hundreds of other jobs and backers they’d attract just by being the ones who ended a pandemic, not to mention the non-monetary benefits of fame, etc. honestly, if your company could cure a viral disease and its attendant syndrome within a few decades of the discovery of the virus, you’d be rolling in cash forever. not that i don’t like a good conspiracy theory, of course.

    thanks for hauling me along. use any of the shots for anything you like – they’re yours to toss about.

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