“And what about all those HIV-negative people who write on HIV/AIDS issues? Do they think we can’t speak for ourselves? Find something else to get passionate about,” said an HIV-positive blogger.
He was responding to an inflammatory blog piece that was posted on the same news website where, incidentally, the three of us are contributing writers. The sore spot that so often becomes inflamed was the assertion that the HIV positive community treats newly diagnosed individuals with open arms, in fact, turns them into heroes. The HIV negative blogger went on to say that his HIV-negative status should be the model that, particularly the gay community, should revere and push to the forefront in this decade’s long struggle to fight HIV infection.
While I can easily comprehend how both of these bloggers came to their respective places of thought, neither does anything to strengthen those bonds that are so necessary if we are going to eliminate HIV from the landscape in the near future.
When I was taking care of my former partner, Robert, I always felt that whatever was happening to him was happening to me. While I sat by and watched this disease slowly take over, fear and pain were a part of my life, too. The diarrhea, the thrush, the weakness, although manifesting itself in Robert’s body, was also felt by me. Every time I saw him getting ready to throw up, my stomach lurched a bowl full of acid into my mouth.
The same was true for Robert on those days I would be feeling ill. He would heat up a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup and serve it up on a tray for me in bed. “Are you feeling any better? Remember, I’m the one that’s supposed to be sick,” he would say, “Not you.”
On a very personal level we relied on each other. Robert was much stronger than me emotionally, and I relied on his judgment a lot of times probably as much as he counted on me to do things for him when he was too sick to do them for himself. I think I just looked at him as my partner who happened to get sick a lot. HIV was a topic in our conversations when we would read about the new medicines going through clinical trials, but it certainly wasn’t how we defined ourselves. Perhaps as a gay community that’s how we should look at each other as well.
In the beginning of the AIDS crisis back in the 80s, it was the people who were infected with HIV/AIDS who got the ball rolling, but it was our reliance on each other that defined the movement. More clinical trials and funding towards research and care for PWA wouldn’t have happened without the support from the rainbow we all claim to live under together. The Ls, the Gs, the Bs, and the Ts worked with the scientists and policy makers to make things happen. Although there were always setbacks because of internal bickering, for a large part the improvements in medical care for people living with HIV have been monumental.
Quite frankly, as with all other minority status groups, the problem is within. Both aforementioned bloggers have placed themselves on opposite sides of the viral divide, and both of them are wrong.
In fact, if I ever meet that blogger who thinks HIV positive people have superior authority when it comes to all things HIV, I plan to tell him that. And being an equal opportunity name-caller, I will do the same for the HIV negative blogger who whines about not getting enough attention for his being negative.
Neither one of these bloggers angered me because of their so proudly held HIV status; they angered me because quite simply they are both assholes.