November 15, 2013
Usually, I try to cheer everyone on World AIDS Day, but this year is an exception because I will be asking you to boycott the celebration of World AIDS Day. Before you accuse me of being a Debbie Downer, read my reasons and if you do not like them, you can always skip this one and click to the next blog.
One of the declared goals of World AIDS Day is to raise awareness of the pandemic. Let me break the news to you: We lost this battle a long time ago. The case for HIV/AIDS is falling behind on many levels and this lone and only day will do nothing to the Poz community more than to provide another fundraiser avenue to a group of ineffective organizations selling more red ribbons on this particular day. Here I am copying the logic of some of my ardent Christian friends who argue that Christmas has become more about Santa than about Jesus.
The goal of World AIDS Day should be to get people talking about the battle against HIV/AIDS, where we are today, what we have achieved and why we are not winning. This is an important goal during a time where people living with HIV/AIDS continue to pay a heavy toll worldwide. We need to provide the full picture on where the failure is and why.
World AIDS Day this year comes in the middle of one of the lowest points in American politics, where political polarization is based on Obamacare, a bill with major flaws but one that will help people with HIV/AIDS obtain access to life-saving care. Nevertheless, many Americans still object to this bill because they fail to recognize that health care is linked inextricably to other basic human rights.
Now let me take my party pooper skills globally. ☺
Worldwide, this years celebration of World AIDS Day comes amidst endless conflicts in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world. These conflicts destroyed the basic infrastructure necessary to combat HIV/AIDS and provide treatment and protection for persons with HIV/AIDS. In some of these conflict areas, fundamentalist groups continue to target and terrorize people with known HIV-positive status, with little to no media reporting on it.
News about the armed conflict in Syria tells the story of the suffering of various groups, but falls short on reporting about the situation of the people living with HIV who remain stranded with no medical facilities or continuous supplies of medical treatment. This is just one example of how people living with HIV/AIDS are among the most ignored vulnerable groups in armed conflicts. In several other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, political unrest after the Arab Spring is undermining programs to help patients with HIV/AIDS.
Discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS will go unexamined during this years World AIDS Day as several countries continue to enjoy impunity while violating the human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.
For example, the small, rich Arab state of Qatar, nominated to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, brought large numbers of migrant workers to construct massive sport facilities in preparation for the global sport event. The Qatari government forces those migrant workers to undergo HIV/AIDS tests and will deport those who are diagnosed as HIV positive. These procedures have sparked little controversy around the world or even by the AIDS community. Similarly, several other Arab states in the Persian Gulf announced their intention to reinforce travel restrictions and medical testing on those identified as LGBT.
The United Nations bills World AIDS Day as "Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths." It is ironic that while holding this mantra, the UN would not allow people with AIDS serve in several UN stations, in compliance with the host country's discriminatory policies. The functional failure of the UN when it comes to HIV/AIDS makes World AIDS Day a cosmetic surgery to gain some media attention, and no more.
Do you agree with me now that I have every reason not to celebrate the World AIDS Day?
Of course, you can suggest that the above are exactly the reasons to why we should celebrate this day. You can argue in favor of the media attention generated on this day to raise awareness of the challenges we are facing. But the problem is that the HIV/AIDS community lost the media game long time ago. The scarcity of adequate coverage when it comes to the challenges faced by persons with HIV/AIDS makes it very clear that one day in the year will not do the job.
Now as to the argument that this day is very important to raise awareness about HIV transmission, which will help in prevention efforts ... let me respond by saying: Seriously?
In an era of high-speed Internet, online sex-toy stores, cyber-sex, and more free porn websites than Bible and Quran websites, we still have the audacity to claim that this day will raise awareness about HIV/AIDS transmission??!!
One Quranic chapter addresses the Human by stating that "Oh Human! Surely you must struggle until you meet your Lord."
Let us continue our struggle and postpone the celebration till later.
Ibrahim is a professional Muslim man in his 30s from the Middle East, living in the U.S.
Read more of A Poz Salam, Ibrahim's blog, at TheBody.com.