Sunday, March 17, 2013

What is HIV-friendly?

First of all, thanks for asking. It is indeed an important question, one we don't ask often enough, if ever. It is also a question with multiple answers, I believe. I don't think I can give, here, all the answers, and I don't proclaim I know all of them, either, but here are a few, in my humble opinion.

First of all, I'd like to say that LGBT community and media are examples of what it means to be HIV friendly. Some may say that they have an obvious reason, because AIDS first touched the gay community, back in the beginning of the 1980s. But nowadays, HIV has touched everybody and every country, and we should all embrace being HIV friendly. Yet, sadly, HIV and/or AIDS are mentioned in the mainstream community (or media) only on December 1st (World AIDS Day) or to announce major developments in finding a cure. Nowadays, thanks to social media, the words HIV and AIDS are used more often, which is fantastic, because HIV/AIDS is still here, we still need to deal with it, all of us, not only the LGBT community or media, who's been on the front lines of talking about it from the very beginning.

That being said, HIV friendly can be:

* a media outlet that's not afraid to report on HIV/AIDS or mention the terms HIV or AIDS on a regular basis, providing AIDS prevention and education tools, for example, together with other important information on the subject, or reporting on HIV/AIDS medical or not medical related events
* to follow the above point, a publisher open to publishing and advertising HIV/AIDS books, literature, etc. that goes hand in hand with any bookstore, newsstand, etc that offers HIV/AIDS materials and displays them so that everybody can see and find them
* any kind of art form that uses HIV/AIDS as a source of inspiration (from visual arts to performing arts, videos, movies, music, etc); those of us who've been in the tranches for too long, we (I assume) are familiar with works like Angels in America, Philadelphia, And the Band Played On, etc... we need more of those, new HIV/AIDS related movies, plays, musicals, books, etc, and not just touching on the subject, because if you get too deep people won't read the book or go see the movie, but really show the reality (then and now) of living with the virus
* a community of any kind that's not afraid to talk openly about HIV/AIDS (no, not saying that it's a 'punishment from God' etc) but truly talk about it, also any community that accepts individuals living openly with HIV/AIDS and defends them against related stigma, for example (that community can be an ASO, a church community, or any other kind)
* someone, anybody, who's not afraid to make the words HIV and/or AIDS part of their daily vocabulary, not as 'bad words' or words that carry some sort of shame, but words we need to know and understand; the more we use these words, the more we learn about them and, hence, we learn to protect ourselves and prevent ourselves from getting infected, because not talking about AIDS doesn't help, quite the contrary
* I would like to see a TV program/channel/anything dedicated to the pandemic; usually, it's mentioned briefly (don't blink or you'll miss it) in the mainstream media; AIDS is not something like a boogie man we need to stay away from, rather we need to learn everything we can about it, through whatever means we can, to better understand it and stay away from getting infected, HIV/AIDS... knowledge can save lives

I can go on, but these are only a few of the things that come to mind. I agree that we should talk more about the pandemic, on a regular basis, without fear to mention it by name, rather with dedication to educate others about it.

Alina Oswald
 Alina Oswald
Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS

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