It's World AIDS Day.
It's scheduled at a weird time of year, isn't it? Right in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, this day dedicated to one of the deadliest plagues to beset modern humanity is often overlooked. There's shopping to accomplish! Who is really going to take a break to talk about HIV?
It's sort of a problem cropping up in recent discourse when dealing with the AIDS epidemic. The majority of visible American media is satiated on the idea that HIV is no longer deadly, a circumstance exacerbated by the white supremacist and classist notion that HIV-treatment options are available to all, an idea repudiated by the realities of racism and poverty. With all this static and all this dissonance about the nature of HIV and its consequences, it's easy to see why an ongoing scourge, which slowly murders people globally, can fall out of the public eye.
It is no longer cool nor widely acceptable to talk about HIV and AIDS in the terms that they deserve nor with the sense of urgency that the epidemic requires. Poverty-stricken indigenous South Africans are wasting away in the suburbs of Cape Town, while the advent of PrEP has convinced white middle class gay men in the United States that HIV is no longer a big deal. The priorities are clear: as long as those most privileged among us (like myself) can survive, the disease is manageable.
It isn't. If you think it is, please talk about it with someone newly infected living in Namibia, in Chad, in Alabama... Or on the street you live, sleeping behind your dumpster.
While you gear up for the holidays, please understand that there are some that will never see the holidays again. Please understand that there are those of us who lost an entire generation of elders to this disease, leaving us bereft of wisdom and historical perspective. Keep in mind that there are those among us who miss loved ones who died too soon, too young, too... dead.
Why do we not talk about this anymore? American mainstream gay culture is busily divesting itself of its urgency in talking about HIV, while American mainstream straight culture is divesting itself of any interest in the topic whatsoever. As funds for treatment and research slowly but steadily dry up, things are beginning to look bleak for those not advantaged enough to access prevention and treatment. What do we do? What do we do while people are dying and no-one cares enough to do something about it?
The next step forward, whatever the oligarchic ruling class may tell you, is clear to anyone with a sense of logic (or compassion). The de-stigmatization of HIV is paramount to education. Education about HIV is a necessity to prevention. Prevention is necessary to saving lives.
I hope for a cure someday during my lifetime; with avid desire I wait until I'm able to stop taking these pills, these little pills that rule my little world. Until then, I hope to stay alive, and I hope that others live through this, and I know that some of the people infected don't have a chance in hell, and I'm really fucking sad about that. Capitalism and the state and AIDS have ensured their demise. I hope they pass in comfort.
I know they won't.
As long as people are more obsessed over Black Friday than December 1st, AIDS will exist and will continue to kill people. Thousands of them, globally. As long as people care for profit margins and gift wrapping and the American status quo, people will die victims of narcissistic negligence at the hands of the most wealthy society in human history.
Happy World AIDS Day.
This essay originally appeared on Ian Awesome's blog OneAngryQueer.