I don’t want to write a long blog about the reason for World AIDS day, I’ll put some links at the end so I just thought I’d share some of my thoughts.
Why I think it’s important:
AIDS is still a problem. It isn’t something that happened to a group of gay men in the 1980s and to people in Africa today. It’s real, it’s in our lives in our back yard.
Some things I wish people would realise:
There isn’t a cure.
There are treatments, yes, and people live longer. But their lives are still deeply changed by their diagnosis.
AIDS doesn’t discriminate.
Gay, straight, male, female, young old anyone can get it and it only takes one careless moment or one accident.
AIDS isn’t funny.
This one really hurts me-there is something of a trend among worryingly people my age and a little younger to use AIDS as a joke ‘Yeah he’s got some bad AIDS’ ‘Oh yeah what about his AIDS’. I don’t get it-what’s so funny about it? You wouldn’t joke about someone having a ‘bad case of cancer’ would you? Or is it because....
AIDS isn’t a gay disease.
Yes you’d think we’d have gotten past this by now, but no. Yes gay men were and are a high risk group, yes they were and are a group heavily affected by AIDS. But not all gay men have it, and being straight doesn’t make you safe from it.
AIDS isn’t just happening in Africa
With the above this is a common misconception of HIV/AIDS today. Yes there is a massive problem in Africa, yes we in the West should be doing all we can to help. That said we also still have a responsibility to those with HIV/AIDS in our own countries and a responsibility towards preventing HIV/AIDS spread here too.
Why am I so passionate about this?
Well as anyone who reads this/knows me is aware I’m doing my PhD on HIV/AIDS in drama, the most frequent question I get asked is: Why?
The answer I feel should be why not? Why is this more difficult to understand than any other topic people choose? Well because it’s contentious I guess, associated with negative or ‘dirty’ things. I share an office with fairly conservative individuals and I’m often looking over my shoulder worrying about fallout about what I’m looking at on my computer screen. And there is my answer-because that feeling still exists, because if I was looking at how people with cancer or diabetes or heart disease or any other ‘safe’ ‘nice’ ‘blameless’ disease were depicted then I wouldn’t look over my shoulder.
And what I should be doing is standing on my desk and shouting-this is why it matters, because of people like you, because people swept AIDS under the carpet and looked the other way. Because people are still afraid to talk about it so our children are uneducated, because those with this terrible disease are still afraid to tell their family, friends and employers we maintain the stigma.
And finally because it is heartbreaking. To think of all these people who have died terribly, painfully from this disease while at the same time being ostracised so often by society. To anyone who struggles to understand the scale and pain associated with the AIDS epidemic I point them to NAMES project AIDS Memorial Quilt. This quilt made up of thousands of panels remembers those who died-this was the quilt in 1992:
It's now too big to display in full, and this is just a memorial for a small portion of American lives lost.
I don't personally know anyone who died of AIDS, I don't have it myself. I have also never known a world without AIDS, what I hope I do know is a world where there is a cure, where it may be just another disease that we can fight and that people don't have to be ashamed to talk about whether they have it or not. Most of all I want a world where research like mine becomes merely historical.