The Long View is a series of ten long review essays (up to 3000 words) on Australian writers and writing, commissioned by Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre. You can read the other essays here. I chose to write about AIDS in Australia and Timothy Conigrave’s 1995 memoir Holding the Man.
Tracing the origins of HIV and AIDS is a slippery task. You can always go one step back. For Australia, HIV was an American import, helped along by gay men who frequented cheap Skytrain flights between here and San Francisco in the early 80s. Before that, there was so-called Patient Zero, a gay and promiscuous French-Canadian plane steward who knowingly and unapologetically infected hundreds of men around the world, triggering off a global epidemic. And we can go even further back than that, to the moment of first transmission: most likely an African hunter who contracted a simian version of HIV by accidentally mixing his blood with a chimpanzee’s while slaughtering it for food.