Even at Rally to End AIDS, Stigma is Present

Todd A. Heywood, a freelance journalist living in Michigan
and a member of the Center for Independent Journalism is on assigment
to RH Reality Check
at the National Equality March in  Washington. You can
follow Todd reporting from the march on twitter @rhrealityCheck. Heywood also has
interviews with Cleve Jones as well as HIV activist and author Shawn
Decker and will be cornering many others for interviews on Sunday so
check back regularly to see what the movers and shakers are saying
about gay America and the equality movement.

WASHINGTON, D.C.– As I waited quietly for Shawn Decker to finish his sound check for his band’s appearance during Saturday night’s HIV/AIDS rally, I had the opportunity to listen to the comments of those walking by. While some were so interested in the rally, dubbed Rally to End AIDS, that they made donations and received t-shirts, others were fat less open to the event.

Sitting on a bench behind the stage, I overheard an African American male tell his friend he was excited that there was to be a free concert. That is until he saw the sign that the concert would be dealing with the AIDS pandemic.

"I ain’t going to no rally for AIDS," he loudly opined. His friend empahticaly concurred. 


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  • equalist

    There is most certainly still a great deal of stigma on AIDS. I believe this is in large part due to cultural influences, and lack of education. AIDS is still very much considered a disease of homosexual males, when the statistics show that:
    # African Americans account for 48% of new HIV infections. (which given the cultural view of HIV infection, would imply that 48% of homosexual males are African American, a statistic proven wrong when you look at the breakup of homosexuality, showing that 37% of men surveyed in america admitted to having some kind of homosexual contact, and 12.8% of the american population identifies as african american, and of this, statistically, about half are male, leaving a figure of 6.4%.  With 37% of men showing a history of some homosexual activity, even the most generous statistics simply don’t add up with the cultural view.)

    # AIDS is the leading cause of death for African American women aged 25 to 34 and HIV rates among Hispanic women are increasing. (Again, proving the standard cultural view of HIV being a disease of homosexual men wrong.)

    # The number of women living with HIV has tripled in the last two decades. (Yet another statistic to prove the HIV as a homosexual male disease wrong.)
    With these statistics, the necessary action is clear. Women need more education on HIV infection. The cultural view that HIV is a disease only transmitted by homosexual male sex needs to be stamped out if we are going to protect our women more fully. The current view gives women a false sense of security that because they are women they are not susceptible to this disease. That kind of false security can be hazardous to women’s health. A woman, not realizing her risk, may be more tempted not to protect herself than a woman with a good knowledge of all the facts out there. A man may also put himself at risk by thinking that because he is having heterosexual sex with a woman he has no risk of contracting HIV. Education and knowledge are our greatest tools in the fight against diseases such as HIV. So why aren’t we utilizing them?
    Equal rights, equal responsibilities.