World AIDS Day 2008

The World Is Not Enough (World AIDS Day 2008)

Jose Vilson Jose 6 Comments

World AIDS Day 2008

World AIDS Day 2008

AIDS is not a disease in isolation.

My first consciousness of AIDS didn’t come from Magic Johnson’s infamous press conference, per se. Around my way, the acquired immunodeficiency virus was a deadly version of the kooties. Kids would run around tagging each other with “the big, bad AIDS,” and some even alleged that the most unpopular girl in the class had AIDS and all sorts of infections just for the sake of ostracizing her. In other words, we hadn’t been taught the severity of the virus nor would we take AIDS / HIV seriously until someone who everyone identified as “cool,” “heterosexual,” and “worth our time” (kids can be so trifling) contracted it and came out on national television.

Thus, the televised conference of Magic coming out with HIV shook many of us who had previously pegged this wicked disease as strictly for gay men (again, completely uninformed). This coincided with my membership into the Milliken Boys (and some Girls) Club, where they taught some of the older members about sex, a series of workshops I found fun and useful at the same time. However, looking around, these ladies and gentlemen also tended to be the more intelligent people in the house, and while I think we needed to know, there was a much larger population downstairs who needed the information that much more.

Magic Johnson on Time Magazine, February 12th, 1996

Magic Johnson on Time Magazine, February 12th, 1996

Because they weren’t exposed.

Because I saw personally how their lives had been affected by the typical ailments of the hood: early pregnancy, drug addiction, homicide and suicide, and increasing drop-out rates.

And the higher I went in education, the more exposed I was to the dangers of the AIDS virus. In high school, a man came to visit us and show us the 32 or so pills he had to take daily just to stay alive. In college, my Latino organization ran workshops and went to workshops discussing sex, and asked the health center to provide us with as many facts as possible.

AIDS, for those that never made it to that workshop in Milliken, was just another “problem” to deal with rather than a serious pandemic, and the more some social forces began to advocate for prevention and destigmatization over the last 2 decades (public service announcements, musicians, philanthropists), the more other social forces began to just peg it on specific communities (gay men, down-low men, Black women, prostitutes, the whole continent of Africa). Even Magic went from blaming others for his unfortunate and irresponsible sexual behavior to “not having HIV anymore,” or letting people think so, which in turn lends itself to a lack of responsibility on the part of anyone watching.

The impact of Magic Johnson getting the virus transformed the worldwide perception of AIDS, but for dudes or girls in the hood, it didn’t make many of them any more eager to ask the pertinent questions about their sexual health history or wait before making that next big step. By no means am I a sexual conservative, but after all I’ve seen, I really have a profound understanding of the “hard lesson;” if the person doesn’t experience it, then there’s no real connection for them.

We cannot waver in our interest for a cure for AIDS can waver in a time when we desperately need to find cures. At some point, cures can drive down the costs of medicines purchased, sold, and distributed for a costly disease. Information is the #1 deterrent against AIDS. Conspiracy theories aside (because you know how much I love those), I also think the national governments play a role in the research and education of children all across the world. It’s not just a “Black” issue or a “Latino” issue; it’s a world issue.

When it comes to this disease, the world simply acknowledging its existence is not enough. It’s not enough to wear the ribbon and wear red. It’s not enough for us to write blogs and tweets, and watch TV specials on HIV / AIDS. We need a wave of concentration on it, before we have any more “learning the hard way” how dangerous the disease is. We already have 33 million of those.

For more information, please refer to the World AIDS Day 2008 site.

Jose, who wonders what was your personal experience with AIDS /HIV …

p.s. – Thanks to Yobachi for getting us organized around this salient issue.

Bloggers Unite

Bloggers Unite World AIDS Day

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 6

  1. The Jaded NYer

    you know, I remember kids in my class being just as stupid when it came to discussing AIDS, linking it only to gay men until Magic and that Ryan White kid came out with their stories. I remember this woman, too, who spoke out on it- she got it from heterosexual intercourse and was the first female I ever heard of with the disease… can’t remember her name right now…

    In fact, when people came to speak to our health class, STDs and AIDS were never really discussed, just abstinence… of course, I went to a parochial school…

    but I saw/read And The Band Played On and so I knew it was no joke. looking back, though, Eddie Murphy had a skit where he chastised women for having gay best friends, kissing them goodbye and “coming home with AIDS on their lips.” That could not have been good for the cause at all.

    Thanks for reminding us to STAY AWARE and that just because Magic is still around doesn’t mean it isn’t STILL a major epidemic in the world. We still have a ways to go and education is definitely the key!

  2. Yobachi

    My first knowledge of AIDS is when that kid Ryan White died in 1990 when I was 12. Then Magic contracting it in 92, and then Easy E dying from it in 95.

    That Magic johnson announcement was a real stunner becaue he was my favorite player, and still probably all time favorite athletes. What was surprising about Easy is how fast he died right after announcing that he had it. But that he had wasn’t much of surprise. It was almost to be expected if he lived even halfway like his lyrics; cause I don’t remember no NWA lyrics about strappin up with the rubber.

  3. Carl

    My father lost one of his closest friends to AIDS when I was about 4 years old. As much as one has “friends” when you’re 4, he was also someone I considered a second father. They worked together at Howard Univ. Hospital, and I spent as much time with him as I did my dad.

    I only found out in the past year and a half that he died from AIDS… Back then, even in the medical community, acknowledging its existence (let alone losing a medical peer to the disease!) was quite the taboo. My family were the only people to visit our friend in the ward… it sickened me when I found out that his coworkers and associates could treat him with such disdain.

    As far as we’ve come in 20 years, we haven’t come -that- far. Instead of uniting to demand the crisis is managed (let alone solved), we’ve become apathetic… And our losses continue to make us less for them.

  4. Post
    Author
    Jose

    Ladies and gents, thank you all for your wonderful comments.

    Yobachi, thanks for reminding me about Easy E. I forgot he died of it, and as quickly as he eroded, I really do think something more afflicted him as well.

    Carl, we have become more apathetic because everyone’s pretty much resolute on the “fact” that there is no cure for this disease. Definitely sorry to hear about your second father.

    Jaded, I love that you’re still passionate about this issue.

  5. Pingback: BlackPerspective.net » Blog Archive » Blogging To End AIDS Round Up

  6. Faisal

    I’ll list some not well known facts.1.) Contrary to popular beeilf, there are people who are immune. A small fraction of people of European descent are mising a key part of the white blood cells HIV needs to infect you. These people are immune to all of the most common strains of HIV2.) If you get exposed to HIV, not everyone gets infected. The percentage of people who get infected is reduced if you get masive doses of HIV drugs in the first few hours after exposure.

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