‘Ownership’ of disease?


This CNN report caught my attention on their website. I see it might have come from here. (Free registration may be required to view either link.)

Speaking as a gay, white man with AIDS, I think this campaign is wrongheaded. Yes, many young, gay men are ignoring safer sex campaigns – for any number of reasons. Yes, they need a serious wake-up call about the upward trends of HIV infection and the fact that the fifteen pills I take each morning, and again in the evening, are not a cure. (Several of them, in fact, are prescribed to counteract side effects of the others.) Yes, gay men still make up the majority of HIV/AIDS cases in western, “developed” countries. That does not make it their (I’ll disqualify myself as young!) disease. Presumably this is public health department money, at least in part, going into what is obviously an expensive campaign.

The fact is that those statistics include men who have been dead for many years. The infection rate among women is growing. The infection rate among racial minorities (African-Americans in the U.S., First Nations peoples in Canada) is growing! Wealthy gay fundraisers would do well to infuse some prevention money outside “the village” of our respective communities.

The campaign has its merits in that it is hard-hitting, in-your-face and aimed directly at gay men. HIV prevention has been a soft-sell for too long. It reminds gay men that HIV is a preventable disease still far too prevelant in our community. I do not want to dismiss it in a head-in-the-sand sort of way.

I’m just not comfortable with ‘owning’ HIV. It is a narrow view when, in this day and age, I am privileged (as are most gay men with HIV) to have access to prevention, treatment and support programs.

The same cannot be said in places, I’m thinking especially of Africa, where torturous death by AIDS among women and children is more the rule than the exception.

Just as I would not want to see those billboards on the streets of Toronto I continue to be disgusted with the ad campaigns, aimed at gay men here, to inject botox to mask over the effects of HIV and the medications which treat it. Such vanity makes me crazy when women and children elsewhere still dare not dream to share our wealth of treatments!

Am I missing something? I would welcome your comments!

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One thought on “‘Ownership’ of disease?

  1. Interesting post. I guess my problem with this attempt to put HIV back as a “gay disease” (or more accurately a “gay man disease”) is that it could have the effect of making anyone who doesn’t fit that profile feel that they can take risks that they shouldn’t really.

    And a lot of teens (regardless of sexual preference) already have a “this won’t happen to me” sort of attitude.

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