December brings many things, such as holiday joy, snow, family, and togetherness. However, it also brings awareness to the disease of HIV. This is the virus that can lead to AIDS. December 1 is World AIDS Day, and the whole month is dedicated to the remembrance of those killed as a result of AIDS, as well as those currently living with the virus. From 1981-2004, over half a million people living in the United States died as a result of AIDS. Since then, the number of deaths has declined. Still, over a million Americans suffer from HIV.
HIV is a disease that attacks the immune system by corrupting white blood cells called CD4 or T cells. This disables the cells, preventing them from fighting off viruses. If HIV goes untreated, it can become AIDS. AIDS is also known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Virus and is diagnosable when the patient has fewer than 200 CD4 cells per cubic millimeter. This lack of defense encourages cancer growth and life-threatening infection. Due to the lack of government acknowledgment or help in the 1980s and 1990s, many cases of HIV went undiscovered, leading to hundreds of thousands of lives lost. Back then, to be diagnosed with HIV was a death sentence. Even now, there is no cure for HIV. However, the recent creation of antiretroviral treatment has allowed patients who have HIV to live longer and healthier lives.
On January 26, 1996, a musical showcasing the lives of people affected by this virus debuted. This musical is called RENT, written by Jonathan Larson and loosely based on the opera ‘La Boheme.’ Since its release, it has won many awards as well as been turned into a movie that features many of the musical’s original cast members. It has also been televised as RENT Live and performed by many smaller theatres all over the country. RENT personifies members of the LGBT+ community who were the most affected by the AIDS crisis, as well as showing the effect of AIDs on addicts. This musical is still widely listened to today and is currently on a national tour, helping to educate and move people all around the world.
To see this musical locally, the North Shore Children’s Theatre’s production will take place on December 20 at 7:00 PM, December 21 at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM, and December 22 at 2:00 PM at Peabody Black Box, 22 Foster St, Peabody, MA. Tickets are 10 dollars for kids, teens, and seniors, and 15 dollars for adults.