The first day of December marks the global event of World AIDS Day. A brief moment when the LGBT community in particularly remember the lives that have been lost, condole the families of those gone and pay tribute to the survivors.
It’s also a time of important fund-raising which can truly make a difference to people’s lives. It is of course, also time of platitudes, of talking of safe-sex whilst engaging in bareback, of telling a younger generation “do as I say, not what I do”. For wider society, it’s one of those rare moments when the ‘gay community’ make it through into the mainstream media, and are once again associated with disease. Too often it seems to me, these campaigns are led by an LGBTQ community in a western context whilst heterosexuals are broadly seen to focus upon the ‘otherness’ of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
It’s also fascinating to see how publications and the world consider this issue. The US magazine, Ambiente has a piece from Maria T Mejia in which she focuses on people who are still dying and the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. The British Attitude magazine looks at the Isle of Man which will be using World AIDS Day as the first LGBT event on the island – homosexuality being decriminalised in 1992. HIV and AIDS is not just an LGBT issue but once again we see the LGBT community taking the lead – on an island that doesn’t even know their own HIV/AIDS stats. The US Bay Times argues that statistics matter less A(though they cite stats) and it is the individual lives behind those stats which matter. The musician, Sir Elton John, who has done so much to raise funds for HIV/AIDS will be in sunny Sydney to light the sail of the Sydney Opera House red – a wonderful image that you might see in your newspapers tomorrow. These images can be important in getting an ‘old story’ such as HIV/AIDS in the media unless you have a new ‘angle’. Events within the Gay villages and ghettos around the world will also focus their efforts on raising the profile of world AIDS Day. The London based events magazine, Boyz, highlights the XXL ‘Safe and Sleazy’ session – also serving as a reminder that when we say LGBTQ, we typically mean gay men targeted for these sort of events.
In fact, take a look at the US based lesbian Curve magazine for example and there’s no mention of World AIDS Day at all that I can see. The same is true for the British magazine Diva. To be fair, it’s also absent from the website of some gay male publications such as Gay Times. The Manchester based outnorthest has a big focus on the local campaign to ‘know your status’ which probably represents where HIV health policy thinking has gone more recently, and is significant for placing less emphasis on prevention (not that any campaign would accept such a claim). This can be contrasted with the San Francisco based Bay Area Reporter which argues that prevention was the big theme of 2011.
POZ magazine has a fascinating floor speech from the Democrat House Representative Jim Himes, linking to this CSPAN page, suggesting you listen from 8.53 when he goes on to argue that we can end AIDS this generation. Queer UK gives a focus to the launch of a new support centre in Suffolk for the Terrence Higgins Trust – Britain’s largest HIV and sexual health charity. The Australian Star Observer reported that the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) has used World AIDS Day to call for Australia to commit to adopting new technology to fight HIV transmission, with the goal of eliminating transmission and new diagnoses before the end of the decade. The Advocate uses the event to focus on homophobia, arguing that as long as homophobia exists, AIDS won’t die.
Finally, Canada’s Xtra! magazine takes a historical approach to World AIDS Day with a video of the US activist Cleve Jones (famously characterised in the film, Milk) and how he originally came up with the idea of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Well worth a watch.