Monday, June 19, 2006

AIDS is a societal problem, not a religious agenda.

I get very angry each time I see the possibility of legislative action which discriminates against anyone. Even though our society is full of offensive people who have committed very offensive crimes, even these people are protected by laws which guarantee their rights will not be violated while police investigate their actions, or while they are incarcerated, or after they have served their prison sentence. Yet our country, which also guarantees the rights of humans, is embroiled in a battle of religious agenda against free thinking people when it seeks to undermine the rights of others based on sexual preference or disease and illness.
The very framework of our constitution is in jeopardy when we are coerced into thinking that we will not voice our opinions for fear of alienating people who wish to legislate another group into oblivion.

I do not know many heterosexual people who will talk about AIDS. I do not know many heterosexuals who will admit that they know someone with AIDS or have lost a family member or friend from AIDS. Especially here in Indiana, but true in Wisconsin as well. I am finding that more and more often, it is a topic that people do not want to talk about. And I don't mean the intolerant fundamentalist types most people associate with AIDS ignorance and condemnation. I mean EVERYONE. The few tolerant humans I have met here do not talk about it and tend to give a polite cough and change the subject when it comes up. At best they contribute nothing to the topic.

A very good friend who has lived with AIDS for over 20 years, speaks eloquently of how he continues to survive somewhat well. I attribute his longevity with HIV/AIDS as having to do with 2 factors: one, he was in the absolute right place (job wise) when he was diagnosed and he had better information than many. He was fortunate to be working with a major pharmaceutical company who was in the forefront of developing AIDS medications. Two, he takes care of himself and keeps close to his medical team.
'Taking care of oneself' is a strange term. Does that mean that one is careful in action? Or that one makes certain they see their medical professionals regularly?
Health care for many people in America is a tenuous thing. People cling to jobs that degrade them, underpay them, take them away from their families all in order to maintain some form of health insurance. People who live with AIDS are compromised in their health everyday. They suffer from numerous maladies, not the least of which is tolerance to the medications they must take to survive. And what if they can not afford these medications? Or if they are too unwell to continue working? Will the USA legislate them to suffer because the religious agenda condemns people with the AIDS virus?
I do not know how my friend stands straight after seeing the devastation in the gay community. I believe that the grief of losing so many friends, lovers, acquaintances might actually cause one to be beat into the ground. Sometimes that is how I feel when I think of how many people that have been killed because of ignorance, lack of medical care, lack of will, etc. I do not know how it must feel to take so many meds each day. I do not know how it feels to have to watch each morsel of food that one eats. Frankly, I feel very fortunate to know him, hear his life stories and see his courage.

I am shocked at the people (intelligent, medical people) who are saying that HIV doesn't cause AIDS. I do not know what they are thinking. I have read some of these theories, especially lately and am really amazed that anyone in the medical field could be that irresponsible.

AIDS is growing fastest these days among the African American female population.
There are many reasons for this; little of which has to do with the sexual orientation of African American women. Yet, in the populations of African American churches, AIDS, fundraising for AIDS and people who have AIDS are not just ostracized, but they are condemned. My personal experiences with Fundamental activists have been so ugly, I point my finger at our law enforcement agencies which stand idly by while people who have obviously been trained to be disruptive and volatile all but physically assault those involved in AIDS fundraising events.

As far as fundraising or advocating, that is in an individual's heart. The amount of people (at least in the USA) who do either thing is small. The number of people who believe in and volunteer for anything is small. The number of people who care about educating themselves beyond the mandated public education system is rather small compared to the overall population.

The United States government has created a political platform based on HIV/AIDS
and those who live what has been termed "high risk" lifestyles. This platform is the gravy to a populace who increasingly prefers ignorance over education, condemnation over compassion, and fundamentalism over fiduciary concerns.
AIDS is an epidemic. It is not a passing phase in the blink of human development.
In the US alone, medical care for those with AIDS and insufficient health care could amount to staggering sums of tax dollars. But instead of education, political agenda attempts to sway the minds of the ignorant with abstinence based rhetoric rather than actions which would decrease new AIDS infections. Instead of educating the youth of this country with honest information about AIDS prevention, we stifle the young and the religious with talk about unrealistic views and 'innocent' victims. Instead of providing realistic preventative measures, we expect people, even those who are incarcerated, to be cognitive of the benefits of abstinence.

This is not a wise recourse for a country which built itself on the foundations of freedom and pioneering spirit. We can not continue to be a world leader while turning a blind eye to the source of eradication of a disease. We can not continue to be a financial giant when we ignore the consequence of letting a viral epidemic empty the coffers of the federal government while pandering to a small, but vocally intolerant segment of the population. We can not ask of other countries to do anything which we in this country aren't fully prepared to do ourselves.

In the 1950s it was taboo to talk of things that were 'not polite'. Over the last 60 years we have expanded our conversations to include even the most personal of subjects. Yet, in 2006 it is still not 'polite' or acceptable to talk of our deceased friends, our afflicted friends, lovers who have died, family members who have died of AIDS. The caveat to this is the Ryan Whites, the millionaire basketball players, or those "innocents" who got AIDS while having dentistry work done or receiving a blood transfusion. If I must be subjected to Erectile Dysfunction ads while watching a movie or checking my emails, then YOU, whoever you are, can listen while I talk of those who have been sacrificed to the politeness which this society masks itself in.

3 comments:

Ron Hudson said...

You are my sweetheart, as usual! Wonderful post, Jody!

Hana said...

Well said. Religion can be such a powerful ally in fighting injustice and disease. How sad to see instances when it is used to promote denial instead, or to twist facts, or to do something like this.

richard kearns said...

jody--

what an eloquent article. i used to live in chicago--am familiar with the midwest mindset. aids and hiv disease are on another planet.

i was at a marketing focus group about an aids prevention campaign a while ago. there were some straight young "kids" -- early 20's -- same age as high-risk gays -- and they just didn't get it about safe sex. gay sex was safe sex. it didn't apply to them.

i finally had to ask, "what would you do if you fell in love with someone who had aids? with someone who was hiv-positive?" they blurted out silly things like, "well, i hope when the time comes that i might have to make a decision about it, i'll be prepared."

"so, in otherwords, do nothing and hope for the best. all you're going to end up being is another infected person."

at least they had the good grace to be stymied.

but there stands the battle.

what would you do if you fell in love with someone who had aids?

richard kearns
rk@aids-write.org