Why is HIV Invisible?

December 1, 2011 in General

December 1st is World AIDS Day, the UN’s theme this year is “Getting to Zero” but who would know it here in New Zealand? As I write this, I can find zero public notice of the fact. Nothing in the mainstream print media. Apparently the NZAF put out a press release, but that seems to have sunk into obscurity. I can’t see any evidence of work from Body Positive or the other HIV+ support groups either, but all of this could simply relate to the way the mainstream media just aren’t interested in this topic anymore, not unless it gives them a nice lurid scandal to put in a headline. Or perhaps it relates to a total lack of any media strategy from all these groups.
Maybe the Occupy movement here in NZ are all wearing red ribbons today…or maybe not. The complete indifference from nearly all areas of the social and political world in New Zealand really  fucks me off. People who should be our natural allies don’t even seem to konw about it. Public figures are ignorant. Why isn’t the Prime Minister wearing a red ribbon? I’ll bet (a) he doesn’t even know it is World AIDS Day and (b) if he did, he wouldn’t because it might offend his more conservative supporters.
A friend in the US said the World Bank puts a huge red ribbon on the front of their building in Washington to mark it every year – do we see any effort like that here?
Part of the problem must lie with the long-standing practice of NZAF to have the World AIDS Day street collection on the Friday before the actual day.
This is a really stupid decision, and one that is disrespectful of what this day is about. You don’t move ANZAC Day or Armisitice Day to suit – World AIDS Day deserves the same level of respect and attention, but bureaucratic logic has been imposed on this for years. And the reports show the street collection has gone down again.
A friend who works in public health in a regional centre said it took him ages and to get any material from NZAF to mark World AIDS Day, and even then none of it had the date on it.
This public indifference is not something we can solely blame the NZAF for, but they carry a big share of it. They have an in-house media machine, but it seems particularly ineffectual. Why aren’t there stories in all the major papers or news sites? Perhaps I will get a nice surprise later and see TV reports on the main channels about it all, and the news presenters wearing red ribbons. Or not.
Hell, in the past I’ve had pieces published in the Herald and been interviewed on National Radio for World AIDS Day – all off my own bat. I’m not a media professional, but if I can get that much done why the fuck  can’t the people drawing a salary for this get us out there front and centre?
It pisses me off, because if we don’t keep HIV in the public eye, we lose out on many levels.
Those of us who have the virus feel even more invisible and marginalised for one thing. Living with HIV is hard enough, a little public support today would be good.
For another, the news that HIV is still a real threat and needs to be dealt with and talked about in public is key to keeping people informed and helping reduce new infections.
HIV/AIDS is different from other epidemics. It is tied up in so many people’s minds with issues of morality, shame, and guilt, that it’s hard to have a rational discussion about it at the best of times, but today is the one day of the year that we should be able to have our voices heard and be seen, be visible and be heard.
Millions and millions of people have died from AIDS around the world, millions of men, of women, and children - they deserve to be acknowledged today.
Millions and millions of people are living with HIV,and more will become infected as well, they deserve to be acknowledged today.
Millions of us are alive with it right now, and let me tell you, even with all the medical improvements, life with HIV still sucks. We deserve to be acknowledged today.
To all the people I’ve known over the years who have helped and supported me and others living with HIV, my deepest and most sincere thanks.
To all the people I know who have died from AIDS here and around the world, you live on in my memory.
And to all the people who will become HIV+ today and in the future, I hope you live somewhere you can get good medical care, I hope you live somewhere where you don’t have to feel ashamed of who you are because of a virus in your blood, I hope you feel support, and I hope you know love.
UPDATE:  There is now a piece up on the NZ Herald website - great to see.