World Aids Day and Numismatics?
Okay, it is a few days after our annual global reminder that AIDS/HIV is still with us and still affecting various portions of the population. Sorry I did not post this on the proper day, I was traveling.
However, is also is a sad reminder for me about the loss of Michael J. Druck. Mike and I grew up together in NYC numismatics in the 1970s, I went to work for the American Numismatic Society, he for MTB. By late 1989 we both were working at Stack’s. It was during those years that his illness became more aggressive, and he became more active and vocal about it. As a hemophilic he received a bad dose of clotting factor – as it was deemed too expensive to check the blood supply at the time. Wow, to be killed by the drug that you needed to live. What a predicament. What absurdity that a company, or organization (International Red Cross), or country (France and the US) would not consider testing important enough. Most hemophilics of his generation or earlier are all dead, that is why you do hear of that illness anymore. You can read his article in the New York Times here.
On the other side of the pond, Nicholas Lowick, islamic specialist and curator at the British Museum died from the illness in the late 1980s. The Royal Numismatic Society has created a fund and award in his honor.
Sure, in retrospect we can say many people's initial responce was all wrong, but the illness still has a large stigma attached to it in the “developed” world, and an even voodoo-like stigma in some less developed countries.
Be educated, be careful.
Medallic Art has had some very interesting responses to AIDS/HIV. Canadian Sculptor Del Newbigging has done a series of medals.A cast bronze work exhibits the hatred of words and labels used to belittle and shame the victim. The scene is the angry crowd wielding bats, and defending their actions by carrying a holy book. The reverse is a famous rhyme, and a hanging victim. Newbigging notes on his website description that: “words can destroy the victim. By acknowledging the power of words, perhaps humanity will be able to control them when they are used to attack and kill.”
He also has designed an eight medal badge set denoting the various ethnic, religious, social groups prosecuted by the Nazi regime. The color triangle codes used by the Nazis to distinguish the groups forms the continuity of the series. The pink triangle has seen a resurgence of use since the late 1980s with certain groups in the AIDS movement.
So, on this World Aids Day, you can play a part in education, and work with politicians to fund research properly.