Breaking the fear

BTL Staff
By | 2009-11-26T09:00:00-04:00 November 26th, 2009|Uncategorized|

Fear is a powerful thing. It starts wars, makes or breaks legislation, creates rifts in families and societies and even holds us back from making those important phone calls or saying those important words.
Fear is a driving force for HIV/AIDS. It’s what compels a parent to tell their own child that they are diseased and not welcome in the family. It’s what has made so many people die in hospital beds, alone. It tells people to wash their hands after touching someone with HIV, or worry about what is on a toilet seat. It’s what keeps high-risk populations from getting tested, knowing what the consequences may be.
Fear may even be landing a Clinton Township HIV-positive man in prison with a felony sentence for biting his neighbor, or keeping a person from adopting a child in need of a home and love.
“In some people’s minds, the word ‘AIDS’ triggers this whole great deal of fear,” commented Michigan AIDS Coalition Executive Director Helen Hicks.
And she’s right. Almost three decades into the HIV/AIDS pandemic, fear is still one of the biggest obstacles to overcome, along with its partner-in-crime misunderstanding. Those of us who have lived with or near HIV/AIDS – with an infected partner, family member or yourself – sometimes live in a bubble where we forget that much of society does not know what we know. They don’t know how HIV is and isn’t transmitted. They don’t know what living with the disease is like. They don’t know much of anything that they haven’t cared to learn.
And what we don’t know scares us.
Breaking the fear means breaking the silence, and it’s one of the most important things we can do as those who do know, who have experienced and who care about eradicating the myths and misunderstanding surrounding HIV and AIDS.
We have to talk about our experiences as HIV-positive people, not unlike the ways that telling our stories as LGBT people helps others to understand who we are and not be afraid of us and our lives. And likewise, we have to speak out for those who are too scared or unable to stand up as HIV-positive people. Moreover, we have to speak out about HIV for those who have lost their lives to it.
AIDS is only as scary as it is unknown. And much of why it is unknown is because we – and our elected officials, whom we must put pressure on – remain silent about it. Yes, we want people to educate themselves about the truth about HIV/AIDS. But it certainly helps when we push them toward that education and provide the tools to learn about it. We need to speak up whenever and wherever possible, and we need to make our voices heard – at the family dinner table, in community gatherings and in Washington, D.C.
Fear is a powerful thing. But together, we can break it.

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 25th anniversary.