Thursday, June 14, 2012

HIV and why isn't it talked about much anymore?

There was a time not too long ago when every other movie, song, book was about HIV/AIDS, so what happened? What has changed and why aren't we talking about it anymore?  Sure there are new drugs on the market and people are dying as quickly as they once were.  But the truth of the matter, there are still people dying because the disease and the associated illness that accompany it.  There is still a stigma associated with being HIV +, it is still hard to find dates or people even willing to hang out with you because of it.  This virus, disease, epidemic, whatever you choose to call it, is still out there, and more and more people are getting infected daily.  Did you know that 1 person is infected every 9 minutes here in the United States?  That is an alarming rate of infection, and yet somehow our society has moved passed the hype, and it has been down-played and is handled in a low-key fashion.  Personally, I think that something should be done to bring it back to the attention of everyone.  There needs to be new programs that teach about the dangers of it, talk about preventative measures and we need to make people aware that it is still out there.

Yes, maybe it is no longer an immediate death sentence like it was for some of my friends in the 80's and 90's, but the truth is there are still people afflicted with the illness and they are dying around us everyday.  We don't hear about them as much, we don't know their faces and stories, but it is happening.  Research and better drugs have come on the market and barring any influencing factors an infected individual can expect probably 30 years of quality living now.  But, it doesn't make the threat and transmission of this illness any less dire, and doesn't relieve society of talking about it and addressing it.  Why aren't movies, book and other types of media addressing this like it used to?

Like I said earlier social stigmas still surround a person with HIV and AIDS, even in our own community. Sure there are networks out there that provide healthcare and other assistance to PLWAs (People Living with HIV/AIDS), there are support groups and social clubs etc.  Yet, there is still such a lack of knowledge and understanding in our own community about the disease and all that it entails. I have read some recent statistics in the PLUS living magazine which state that there seems to be a higher infection rate in the African-American community, particularly in heterosexual black females.  Some people have tried to state that this is a direct result of Down-Low lifestyle and behavior. To me it seems like a cop-out a way of pointing the finger and placing blame without ever taking responsibility upon ourselves and our community.  I do realize that HIV/AIDS is not an exclusive gay thing, though many would like it to be.  HIV/AIDS doesn't care if you are male or female, if you are straight, gay or bi-sexual, all it really cares about is if you are sexual at all.

Sex is the major way that this virus is spread, there are some who get it via sharing needles and so forth, but that is a smaller portion of society at large.  The point I am trying to get across here is that this is an epidemic, it can affect man, woman and children of all ages and without the proper education and prevention techniques, training and methods in place, how can we ever possibly plan to curtail this increasing trend of infection?  Should it fall only to the gay community to initiate and put these plans and techniques in place? Is it the governments responsibility? Who?  I think it is everyone's responsibility to talk about this in their homes, families, churches, social clubs, groups and anywhere where people gather, congregate or just plain hang out. There should be flyers and posters in work out facilities, coffee houses, and our ministers should make it a point of educating themselves and their congregations as well.

Unless we each take responsibility and ownership of this the higher the population of infection will rise, we can do something about it if we only stand together, make a concerted effort to bring back this terrible disease to the focus of the people. Maybe it isn't good for politics, and it is hard to face the truth of it all.  But where do we start? How is this going to be accomplished if no one does anything, if we let the myths, and stigmas persist instead of fight back with education and prevention?  Well, I will tell you where it needs to start it needs to start with you!

You need to take responsibility, you need to know your status and you need to actively communicate with your partner.  Get tested together, be safe, and learn all you can about the disease, the drugs, side effects and everything else you can learn.  Being educated is being forearmed against this epidemic.  Take time to talk to your family, kids, and friends about yourself and your status.  This alone will break down some barriers and stigmas associated with the disease, and if you show an active interest in finding out more, doing more and learning more those around you will too.  The next step is for those of us that are artistic, whether you draw, paint, sketch, write, take pictures, whatever it is use your art and put a face to this disease, show that there is more to it, that there is life after it, use your medium to teach and educate about prevention and other aspects.  You are creative individuals use that to your advantage.  Please don't let this be something that is brushed aside, swept under the carpets and whispered about.

Take a stand, do something and above else take responsibility.  We need a wake up call too many of our brothers and sisters are getting sick and nothing is being done to keep that from happening.  I believe that if we can cut down the numbers of people getting infected we can definitely have a winning chance of eradicating this once and for all.  So back to my original question why isn't HIV talked about much anymore?  I think the media hype and emotional drain that hit America in the 80's and 90's stirred up so many people and got them unified in a fight toward a common cause, the vigilance has relaxed and the edge to the fight and the initial panic has subsided, but that hasn't made the infection rate lower, or eased the social stigmas or other negative connotations that are associated with it.  The fight needs to be reinvigorated and a new stance must be taken.  1 person every 9 minutes is too many.  Way too many 1 in every 24 hours is too many...what are we going to do to make a change and a difference?

I am looking for your feedback and comments. Drop me a line at my confidential email bryanzepp@gmail.com.  Join my blog and let me know how you feel.

As always my hopes and dreams are with you,

Uncle B