Editorial: Choosing our legacy on AIDS

By |2018-01-16T12:34:08-05:00November 25th, 2004|Uncategorized|

Unlike both Vice Presidential candidates in their 2004 debate, we here at BTL know that HIV/AIDS is spreading among African-American women at an alarming rate. And worldwide, AIDS hits women hardest in the world’s poorest countries, even as they are also struggling against economic and, all too frequently, physical violence. That’s why the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Women and Girls, HIV and AIDS…. Have you Heard Me Today?”
Our community is all too aware of the damage done when those who have the power to make change don’t listen to people with HIV/AIDS. For poor women in the Third World – or Black women in Detroit – today, just as for the gay community of twenty years ago, silence equals death.
But even as we struggle to make sure that the voices of poor women, and of Black women, with HIV/AIDS are heard, we must also not lose sight of the fact that, in America and here in Michigan, gay and bisexual men remain the highest risk group for HIV/AIDS infection. AIDS is not a “gay disease,” but it is a disease that is debilitating and killing an alarming number of gay and bisexual men, and the rate of HIV infection is increasing, not decreasing, in this segment of our overall community.
Another risk here at home is that federal funding for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS is shrinking, and at the same time the funds that are available are being shifted from proven community-based organizations to large health care corporations, from programs that took a science-based stance on prevention to those that teach abstinence until a marriage that we aren’t allowed to have. Right here in Detroit, people with HIV/AIDS are in real danger of being forced to trade the community helper they know for the Dr. Inc. they don’t, and the friendly prevention counselor they know for a religious zealot that they would rather not know at all.
Our entire community – HIV positive and negative alike – can and should play a decisive role, both in decreasing the number of infections and in advocating for the right of HIV positive people to choose the treatment options they prefer. The right wing does have one thing right – responsible sexual behavior is the only proven way to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. And our advocacy – or our silence – will help determine the survival, or the death, of community-based programs, as well as whether prevention programs are based on science or on religious dogma.
Twenty years ago, Ronald Reagan had a responsibility to people with HIV/AIDS. We all know the horrific consequences of his failure to live up to that responsibility. Today, our community’s responsibility to our brothers and sisters is no less. The legacy we will leave is ours to choose.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.