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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » the "HIV/AIDS - just another disease!" attitude - who’s to blame?

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Author Topic: the "HIV/AIDS - just another disease!" attitude - who’s to blame?
alaska
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According to recent statistics, the HIV infection rate is on the rise again in the US, primarily (but not only) in the young bisexual or queer male community (Salon.com states: ” In San Francisco the rate of annual HIV infection has doubled since 1997, rising from 1.04 percent to 2.2 percent of the city's estimated 34,000 uninfected gay and bisexual men.”)

The new drug cocktails, which help suppress virus loads to an undetectable level, seem to be luring people into a false sense of security as to HIV/AIDS being an easily manageable disease and are hence being slack about Safer Sex. But are the meds alone the only culprit?

Salon has an article on the issue today (” The "Joe Camel" ads of AIDS?”), where the author claims that direct-to-consumer marketing of antiviral medications with ads that sport extremely healthy looking models and slogans such as “ I take XY medication, because my friends do, too”, are contributing to this general slack attitude about HIV. The FDA (who has had a closer look at direct-to-consumer-ads for drugs over the last few years anyway) has also noted the extremes to which HIV medications advertisement is going these days and last week ordered the drug companies to change the ads within the next 90 days.

So what’s your opinion on this? Do you think the advertisers are to blame? Or are there other reasons as to why so many people don’t take HIV/AIDS seriously these days?

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"We must become the change we want to see."
Mahatma Gandhi


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Touchstone
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Well the advertises and the fact that people are ignorant, or have the dillusion "iit won't happen to me."
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Rizzo
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Yeah, those HIV drug ads are crazy... It is funny and misleading to see those super active models, but what do you want? To make all HIV patients depressed by showing them some sickly emaciated person? Generally I'm against drug advertising, but I don't think it causes people to be less afraid of a disease.

Personally, when I read those ads, I'm extra glad I don't have HIV. Reading about all the side effects is scary.

As a side note, today I read an article about AIDS in Egypt. Seems that many Arabs think being devoutly religious will save them from infection... sigh. I wouldn't be surprised if some devout Christians think the same thing, here.


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alaska
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Just to actually add my two cents: those ads make me angry just like all other direct to consumer marketing of prescription drugs makes me angry.
That form of advertisement is illegal over here, btw (and Pfizer recently got into trouble because they founded a non-profit society for the “information of the public on erectile dysfunction” and had ads in mags that just said there was effective medication and that one should ask his GP, “to give love a chance”). I am pretty happy to have this form of advertisement outlawed over here, because apparently, it seems to lead to problems in places where it is legal.
Well, you guys in the US have it, and while I know you “can’t advertise” an HIV medication with pictures of very sick people or with a depiction of the side effects, but those overly positive ads simply make me sick. Very very sick.

I am very glad those antiviral medications are there, and that people lead better and longer lives thanks to them, but I can’t rid myself of the feeling that because you hear so little about what makes HIV a horrible & deadly disease and more about all the good therapies that are out there, people let down their defences.

I don’t want to sound like grandma, here, but most younger posters here probably can’t remember (or never got to see) the horrible pictures of the beginning of the AIDS crisis, dying people with Kaposi Sarkoma all over their upper bodies... On me, personally, those old pictures, and having an acquaintance die of HIV/AIDS, had a very big impact on me, which simply doesn’t seem to be the case with many (younger) posters who come here. So many seem completely unaware of the fact that HIV/AIDS still exists and that people still die from it – we simply get way too posts that suggest you don’t need Safer Sex (especially not for things like male oral sex)!
That attitude was basically beaten out of us (the older generation *lol*) during sex ed in school - we had information overload on HIV (not on other STDs though), and were very informed that tests were necessary (even though I am not sure how many people actually did that).

Well, anyway, I really don’t want to preach here. I just simply don’t get why so many young people are that ignorant towards HIV/AIDS (and all other STDs for that matter) these days. Especially those who should know better because they live right in the middle of it. That ignorance must come from somewhere, but I really have no clue as to where that might come from.

Anyone an idea? Where does “it can’t happen to me” come from? From not knowing someone of his/her own gender and social class being HIV+? From not realizing STDs don't care about gender/social class/ethnicity? From not knowing about the disease enough?

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"We must become the change we want to see."
Mahatma Gandhi


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Rizzo
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It comes from all sorts of things. It comes from parents' denial about teenage sex. It comes from lack of education about gay sex. Lack of education about the fact that you don't have to be gay to get it. General squeamishness about sex. General squeamishness about disease....I could go on
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Lin
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I remember those pictures. From textbooks and they are staying with me for life. But you are right, while we obviously do not have ads for HIV medication in Singapore, I have noticed a drastic change in how people view HIV.

No longer is it seen as a deadly disease. News reports come out practically everyday with details on the latest medication which can control HIV or prolong a carrier's life. When was the last time you watched a commercial film with someone dying horribly of AIDS? I know it has been a long time for me.

I think people have just become lulled into this false sense of security that even if they have AIDS, as long as they have the money to afford the medication, they can still lead a healthy and normal life. And they might but it also means that people are becoming more lax when it comes to protecting themselves and even the people close to them.

I'm not saying bring back those terrible pictures of people suffering and dying but come on, let's get real. People still die of AIDS, medication or not. It's especially sad in Singapore where AIDS is treated like the plague.

It has to be brought out in the open. Once again, I have to say the answer is education.

I was watching a movie I think when I heard the same question. "Why do young people always think it can't happen to me?"

The answer was because we, or they, think that they are invincible. They have a long way to go. They assume too much. And also, when it doesn't hit close to home, we always seem to assume that it never will. It's hard for me to explain why as well. But I know that 3 years ago, yeah. I felt like Superwoman. Invincible and strong. I could take on the world. I might not be old now but I view the world in a more realistic manner. Bad things can and will happen. Age doesn't count for anything.

Sorry if I confused people with the we/they thing.

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BruinDan
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Ugh...I remember the dawn of AIDS. Like you Caro, I remember watching TV news in the early 80's when I was just a pup, and seeing pictures of the "AIDS spots" all over the victim's bodies. AIDS victims always looked so pale and shrunken, and the doctors were completely baffled all the time.

Remember when Rock Hudson died? That was kind of a shock to the system of many people, including our government, who really hadn't done much up to that point. Once the national consciousness was raised, things began to change and programs were enacted to try and figure out exactly what the disease was, and what it was doing to our population.

Keep in mind, at that time in the early-mid 1980's, the media treated it as a "white, mostly homosexual-male disease." I can remember reading an LA Times headline that said something about "Immune Disease Killing LA Homosexuals." So little was known at that time, its amazing how far things have swung in the other direction.

Any American who was alive in the late 1980's probably remembers the plight of Ryan White. Ryan was a 13-year old hemophiliac who had undergone numerous blood transfusions as a result of his hemophilia. (Hemophilia is a disorder where the blood does not clot properly, so even a small cut can lead to excessive blood loss, and if untreated, death). Well one one of his transfusions, Ryan contracted the AIDS virus. As a result of that, his school expelled him and would not let him return. There was a lot of ignorance at that time about how the disease was spread, and hysteria spread through his hometown.

Ryan became a sort of spokesperson for the disease, and tried to change public perception. He never came to my town, but I saw him on the news night after night, telling people that AIDS wasn't spread by sitting on the same toilet seat, classroom seat, or even the same park bench, as an infected person. It seems silly now, but there was lots of hysteria back then when so little was known.

So one day, Ryan began to get sick. He was hospitalized and a news reporter went to speak to him. He looked pale and weak, but seemed to be handling things well. I remember the reporter asking Ryan if he would trade away all his fame and get rid of his disease instead. Ryan snapped his finger and said "Just like that." He died the next night.

I had never even met the guy, but because he was only a few years older than me, his death made me lie awake for nights after that. To this day, I can still remember seeing him on the news night after night, trying to educate people about the specifics of AIDS.

And now the ignorance has settled in again. And to tell you the truth, I am not sure who is to blame. A classmate of mine who is gay told me that he blames members of his own community. He said he knew several people who were taking the "drug cocktails" which were treating their HIV infection, yet they would still go to clubs and engage in sexual activities there. I don't know where we got this idea that HIV is treatable like diabetes...it's a different ballgame folks.

So I think it's up to all of us to turn the tide, to uproot this weed of ignorance. We can start by practicing safe sex measures (that should be a given), and can help further by educating younger folks who maybe weren't around in the early 80's when the storm was just beginning. It's a lot easier to be jaded and lackadaisical about it now, when the news has other things to cover, than it was fifteen years ago when the Mystery Disease was killing people, seemingly at random.

--Danny

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