As COVID dominates the landscape of infectious diseases, a dedicated group that includes Congregation Bet Haverim shares a critical dialogue and awareness that HIV/AIDS persists.
On Saturday night, in keeping with Pride Month, a free communitywide event and virtual play, “Love, M.,” reflects on the early days of HIV/AIDS epidemic. Bet Haverim, Positive Impact Health Centers and Horizon Theatre Company partnered on the event to bring attention to the 40th anniversary of the onset of HIV/ AIDS. It’s a disease that persists in Atlanta with some of the highest infection rates in the country. “Love, M.” is the centerpiece of the event followed by a panel discussion featuring those working on the front lines to bring an end to this disease.
The event was initially designed for Bet Haverim, founded by members of the LGBTQIA community 35 years ago.
Marjorie Osheroff, board chair of Horizon Theatre, is a member of Bet Haverim. “I am very proud of the powerful play by playwright Clarinda Ross … produced by Horizon Theatre during COVID. This was a perfect vehicle for introducing audiences to life during those early days of the AIDS crisis,” Osheroff said.
“‘LOVE, M.’ is a collection of letters that reveal the stories of two mothers and their sons during those days before AIDS was well understood, as families found out their sons were sick before they even knew their sons were gay. Using the arts to open minds and hearts is very effective.”
Playwright Ross, quoted on the Horizon Theatre website, explained “‘LOVE, M.’ is based on extensive conversations with mothers from the last pandemic, as I wanted to understand those mothers and their stories before we lost them. Ultimately, I came home to a very personal story full of humor, humanity & the healing power of love, acceptance, and the thing we all crave – connection. This play is able to personalize the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the way that great stories are able to do.”
As a longtime member of Bet Haverim, Osheroff said she learned from such leaders as Joshua Lesser, now rabbi emeritus of the Reconstructionist synagogue, how to best advocate and speak out when folks are marginalized. “I used my voice and took action to inform the community about this issue and the healthcare inequities that were pervasive in the story of HIV care and treatment. To me Rabbi Josh is a great source of inspiration. Over time, Bet Haverim has supported the Pride movement and the rights of LGBTQIA people, marching together and with the expanded Jewish community in the Pride Parade when Rabbi Josh Lesser was chosen as one of the grand marshals leading the parade in 2018, and to this day the march continues.”
Osheroff added, “Years of working as an oncology social worker made it easy to see when the response to specific health issues can be very politically motivated, creating healthcare inequities. I felt outraged when I realized it had been 40 years since the onset of HIV/AIDS and there is no vaccine or cure while COVID-19 boasts four vaccines produced in under one year! I wondered why this was the case.”
HIV/AIDS awareness event is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/40-year-of-aids-virtual-play-love-m-and-panel-discussion-tickets-157144014979
“Love, M.” is free to stream through the end of the year at https://www.horizontheatre.com/love-m/