Monday music: Sorrows and resilience

I have few words to describe the waves of grief and anger that have been washing over me over the past few days. I’m in Melbourne at the International AIDS conference, where we are mourning the loss of members of the global HIV community in Malaysian flight MH17.

Perhaps from Monday Music this week you would prefer a moment’s silence. Instead, I’m sharing music that for me, has a particular resonance at this time.

Memoirs of an AIDS Activist was born of the AIDS crisis in Australia. It’s composed by Lyle Chan, who was activist in the early 1990s. He helped Australians with HIV get access to experimental drugs, both through activism and lobbying, and by importing meds from the US that had not yet been approved for use in Australia.

The memoir, in whole or in part, is being performed several times throughout the AIDS 2014 conference. Some people I know have said they don’t feel they can go to a performance, since MH17. I understand that.

I can imagine that for them — as it is for me — this tragedy is a jagged, visceral reminder of those days when there seemed to be a funeral every week, for someone who had died of AIDS. They want to be able to listen and appreciate the music, not have it overwhelmed by present shock and grief.

I’m going to go. I’m going with friends and colleagues from those early times. Maybe I will sob through the whole of both events. I don’t know, but I think that listening to Lyle’s composition may help me to keep moving forward in the process of dealing with the deep sadness I still carry from those hard times. From the excerpts I’ve heard already, I know it will help me to remember the strength and resilience of people around the world who’ve been fighting AIDS in so many ways, for so long, including those members of our HIV family who died in MH17, and who still die from AIDS every day around the world. And strength and resilience is what we need, to beat this epidemic.

Here are some excerpts from Memoirs of an AIDS Activist.

Lyle Chan and I started our work in HIV/AIDS at around the same time in the early 1990s, so it was a thrill for me that I got to interview him recently about the Memoir.

You can also read more about the stories behind the music, and listen to some of the music, on Lyle’s website.


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