Seeing RED on World AIDS Day 2016

Red is the color of AIDS. If it’s not official, it may as well be. The evidence: the ubiquitous red AIDS ribbon; and most strikingly, the (PRODUCT)RED campaign, “a licensed brand that seeks to engage the private sector in helping to eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa” (by buying certain products in red).

The campaign has a corporate who’s who of sponsors, from Apple to Coca-Cola to Starbucks to the Gap. Even my Angry Birds 2 app has gone red. ’Tis the season of red. It’s World AIDS Day. Roll out the red carpet for AIDS.

If only they would do the same for people living with the AIDS virus. Maybe then the stigma would subside.

It’s great when corporations and celebrities do AIDS charity, with proceeds going towards something that has to do with AIDS. Fighting it. Preventing it. Eliminating it.

If only they could eliminate the stigma that comes from living with the AIDS virus.

“For people living with HIV/AIDS, even our stigma has stigma.”

The stigma seems to never go away. Of course, there’s been progress since I first realized I was infected with the AIDS virus in 1985. Fewer families have been burned out of their homes because their children were infected by AIDS through a blood transfusion. Ryan White is now celebrated, after being vilified for being a kid with AIDS who just wanted to go to school.

Still, stigma runs rampant like carbon in the air.

Seems as if the only people with AIDS the world values are the people who have died from AIDS. Except for Magic Johnson.

Seems as if the world still equates AIDS with death, past, present or future. Except for Magic Johnson.

Seems as if the world, and by extension every soul in it, is still afraid to love someone living with AIDS. Except for Magic Johnson, a beloved hero worshipped and admired from a far—and rightfully so—for his accomplishments past, present and future.

But for the rest of us—us non-famous, non-superhero, non-basketball legend and business mogul—for us everyday people living with HIV/AIDS every day, even our stigma has stigma.

Facebook groups for people (of all sexualities) living with HIV/AIDS are replete with stories of being rejected solely on the basis of one’s HIV status.

Many gay men, of all people, are afraid to touch, love, and have sex with other gay men who are open about their HIV-positive status. As if gay men, of all people, have learned nothing from the AIDS war, nothing from all the dying, nothing from all the knowledge gained by science—nothing except for: “I’m clean and disease-free [as of this date], UB2 so we can bareback our brains out.”

Even PrEP—the pill-a-day regimen to prevent transmission of the virus—turns into a poorly-used tool for the ignorant. For even if there’s a pill to prevent you from having an AIDS baby, there’s still no pill to prevent you from having a host of other sexually transmitted infections that can fuck up your life and longevity.

Gay man, of all people, don’t seem to care about those other infections, judging by their online profiles. Judging by their online profiles, gay man, of all people, just want to stay away from other people living with HIV/AIDS.

If the fags can’t accept people living with the virus, what must non-fags be thinking?

Does a person’s life matter, if that person is living with HIV/AIDS?

Science thinks so. I think so. I imagine just about every person living with HIV/AIDS thinks so.

But what about the rest of the world? And what would it take to make them care? What would it take to get them to understand that they can love and have sex with a person living with the virus and not get the virus? What would it take to reduce, or even vanquish the stigma that prevents people from being open to loving people with HIV/AIDS?

So wonders this longtime survivor on World AIDS Day 2016.