This story from Xtra! Vancouver infuriates me: AIDS groups remove ‘AIDS’ from their names.
If “AIDS” still carries too much stigma, which it does, that is what to work on, not re-branding!
I know, at 51 years of age, I am an old fart from the club kids’ point-of-view. Well hang on to your brain cells, honey bees, because I’d stack the wisdom gained from my life experience against your knowledge any time.
In turning your back on AIDS, you’re turning your back on a generation of survivors who know what community really means, who cared for our friends (many of whom were your age), as long as they lived. When they died, as most of them did, we collectively walked ourselves through a thousand good-byes. We weren’t so concerned about stigma when our community was falling around us and home-care teams needed to be assembled. And yet, to be sure, there were many examples of stigma – a harsh reality. On an international scale Rock Hudson was on his death-bed before he admitted having AIDS. It was after many years of the disease before President Ronald Reagan ever mentioned AIDS publicly.
I do not consider my HIV/AIDS diagnosis to be retractable. When I had an AIDS-defining infection, cryptosporidiosis, that was very close to killing me I don’t believe the AIDS genie went back into the bottle after a long, arduous treatment. This is not some perverse badge of honour, it is my story of survival a few years before the advent of antiretroviral therapy.
An HIV diagnosis is not what it used to be, thank goodness, but it should result in a major change in behaviour nonetheless. Treatments have side effects you really ought to want to put off for as long as you can so a little more I-give-a-fuck is in order.
Would changing the name make you any more likely to try to avoid HIV infection?
I responded to the Xtra! article with this:
It’s behaviour that still needs changing
If I thought for one minute that removing the name AIDS would change the behaviour of kids too young to remember when AIDS was killing – dead – our friends, or would facilitate more people seeking help, or would change the lax attitude towards infection (something like “I’ll only have HIV and there’s pills for that so why should I care if I become infected?”) then I’d be all for springing for the cost of removal of AIDS from websites, letterhead and pamphlets.