No, there are no bananas or oranges infected with HIV; nobody is hiding HIV-infected needles in petrol stations; immigrants have not transmitted HIV to the national police this summer (or any other). It is incredible, but now that we have all the information (and misinformation) at our fingertips, there are still some who believe and spread lies and unfounded rumours that only contribute to carry on the apprehensions, the mistrusts and the infinite stupidity. March 2019 marked 25 years since the first release of Philadelphia, the film that gave the disease a face (and no less than Tom Hanks’ face). It helped create more visibility in order to understand better the background of the virus, such as the prejudices and the rejection that the sick persons had to face.
The ‘gay cancer’, as it was called at the beginning of the ‘80s, took thousands of lives without the doctors being able to prevent it. Ignorance and fear (a very dangerous combination) of a virus that didn’t stop spreading, led to build walls against the sick persons. This is how Denzel Washington expressed himself in the plea to defend before a jury that Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) was fired because he was a carrier of the virus, “They did what most of us would like to do with AIDS, which is just get it and everybody who has it as far away from the rest of us as possible. The behaviour of his employers may seem reasonable to you, it does to me. After all AIDS is a deadly, incurable disease”, he says, “but they broke the law”. The argument of the defence was even more enlightening: “Andrew Beckett is dying and he is angry because his lifestyle, his reckless behaviour have shortened his life”. Wow! And all that without turning a hair. The reckless behaviour they spoke about is homosexuality.
When the first cases appeared in heterosexuals, AIDS lost (in part) its derogatory connotation as a disease of ‘homos’ and ‘junkies’. The death of famous personalities like the actor Rock Hudson and the musician Freddie Mercury made people understand that the infected persons met all kind of prototypes and belonged to different cultural levels. There are currently two different scenarios. HIV kills 4.000 persons per day in Africa. There is still no vaccine and about 40% of the worldwide affected people are unaware that they have this disease. However, the infection will be controlled by 100% of the cases if the persons get a right treatment, and the disease will become chronic.
But do we still point the finger at those suffering from AIDS?
The role of activists has been key to contributing to knowledge and subtracting fear of the disease. After having been diagnosed as HIV carrier in 1988, the American artist Keith Haring set up a foundation and embraced the motto ‘together we can stop AIDS’. The theme of his artworks flared up and its figurative forms started to represent with wide strokes not only childhood, sex and death, but also AIDS. Social engagement and safer sex were his mantras from then on. That's why his foundation collaborates with the sex toys brand Tenga through specific designs that claim that sex and the search for pleasure shouldn't be something we are ashamed of. A part of the proceeds from the sale of the models designed by the Haring Foundation are donated by Tenga to the JFAP or Japan Foundation for AIDS Prevention.
The stigma and prejudices are just fought with education, and it seems that we do not have enough. Otherwise people with HIV would not have restrictions when trying to become part of the national security forces (according to experts, a person with HIV has fewer risks than a diabetic to perform this sort of functions). It is even more surprising that HIV-positive people are not admitted to residences for the elderly because it is still thought that they have an infectious disease. There is something that everybody should know at this stage: while on treatment, a person cannot transmit a virus, not even without protection methods.
In EroticFeel we would like to embrace Haring motto: ‘Together we can stop AIDS’.