If you read my post from Wednesday you know how I feel about the misinformed and sometimes downright cruel attitudes of some people towards those living with HIV. The fact that there's still a stigma attached to the disease after all these years is mind boggling. Ignorance isn't going to win the fight against AIDS (or anything else for that matter). Ignorance will only make the situation worse--and that's a damned scary thought. Consider this:
- AIDS has killed 30 million people (and counting) worldwide.
- While in the US, gay men are considered the most "at risk" group, that isn't true in all parts of the world. In Africa, women and children are the ones most frequently infected with HIV; anyone who calls HIV/AIDS a "gay disease" isn't just a bigot who needs a good smack upside the head, they're ignorant, and need to wake up and smell reality (and for once, I will not apologize for getting up on my soap box).
- HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) isn't a bigot; it couldn't care less what a person's sexual orientation is and will cheerfully infect anyone it comes into contact with--the virus is spread through bodily fluids: blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. It ISN'T spread through sweat or saliva; you certainly can't catch HIV simply by being in the same room as someone with HIV, or by giving someone a hug or shaking their hand.
- And yes, I realize I'm probably preaching to the choir, here.
- There are over 34 million people in the world living with HIV.
- The good news is that with proper treatment, people with HIV can live healthy, productive lives. HIV is no longer a death sentence.
- The bad news is that proper treatment costs money and in this global economy cuts are being made to even the most crucial of social and medical programs.
- If you'd like your voice to be heard, here's a petition from One.org (click here) calling for continued funding for care around the globe (it's aimed at the U.S. Congress).
- Living with HIV isn't a walk in the park. It might not be sentence it was 20 years ago, but antiretroviral drugs carry major side effects--and that's on top of the social stigma (go back to Wednesday's post for some shining examples of human idiocy).
- There are way too many people who are infected and don't know it. Okay, in my opinion ONE is too many, but the statistics are pretty staggering. The first step in stopping this thing is for people to know their status, get educated, get medical treatment (easier said than done, I know), and protect both themselves and their partners (which IS just as easily said as it is done).
- The next step in winning the fight is putting an end to the stigma, which goes back to getting educated AND showing support.
A long time ago (or at least it feels like a long time ago), I made myself a promise; I said that I was going to stop being quiet about the things that were important to me. I'm not a social activist, I'm just an ordinary person. But I pledge to speak my mind, to openly and vocally support equal rights in marriage, health care, and everything else for everyone, regardless of...well, anything. Diseases don't care whether you're young or old, black or white or Latino or whatnot, they don't give a shit if you're gay or straight or bi or undecided; they don't care if you're male or female or somewhere in between, both or neither. HIV can affect anyone--and it doesn't just affect the person infected. It affects their friends, their families. Why, then, are we as human beings so fixated on ethnicity, orientation, gender, and age? We ALL deserve to love and be loved, we all deserve to be healthy and happy. Let's end the ignorance.
You can buy red ribbons and red ribbon jewelry all over the web, and probably where you live, but with just a little searching, you can find artisans and organizations who either donate a portion of their profits to charity or are non-profit orgs that things like jewelry and clothing as part of their fundraising efforts. Personally, that makes me feel a whole lot better than buying a pin or pendant from some mega corp out to make a buck. (I bought a lovely pair of red ribbon earrings on Etsy.)