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Movies That Can Fuel Stigma and Ignorance

By Maria T. Mejia

March 16, 2014

As I sat with my wife, Lisa, and watched Dallas Buyers Club, I was like "wow! what wonderful actors!" They really did a good job! And it was part of history. I lived through most of that in those times when this condition was known as GRID, or a condition for prostitutes or drug users. But nothing touches Philadelphia for me. :) It was a very deep movie and it touched me deeply! I guess it is a matter of taste, not taking anything away from DBC.

I was thinking that night after we watched the movie and reading one of the many thousands of emails I get from all over the world and from all ages. A 17-year-old girl living in the USA told me that I inspired her to get tested and she wanted to know if HIV was in fluids as well. My jaw dropped!! And I answered, "Hun, of course it is! This is in fluids ... semen, vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk." This is not the first time I've gotten asked these things. Many, many times teens, and even adults, think that HIV is transmitted through blood only because it lives in the blood. OMG so much lack of education! This made me think ... we are in deep shit here!

Not only are these kids not getting proper education about sex, but they also continue to see in movies the same thing ... mostly gay men with HIV, drugs and sometimes prostitutes. It doesn't process to them until they see people like me or anyone who is not in the category of what it is always shown in HOLLYWOOD! I don't know ... this is my impression. HIV happens to all of us, I tell them! They don't have the information! No one wants to talk about sex in school or at home! They think the most important thing (at least for girls) is not to get pregnant, and they don't know how real HIV is and that it continues to spread like wildfire! Why can't I speak about CONDOMS in school?? WHY?? Why can't I be explicit in telling them exactly how they can get HIV and other STIs or STDs however you want to call them? I am not allowed! Why is there no sex ed in schools anymore? :( This is devastating!

The people who are being diagnosed refuse to come out of the HIV closet and they are afraid of stigma. They feel shame. Others like me decided to come out and share our stories because we can't continue to sit back even if we are judged and maybe even discriminated against. Some tell me that they don't care who they infect and won't disclose because of fear and that it's others' responsibility as well to use a condom!! Ummmm, most people do not have a lot of knowledge about HIV unless you have been infected or affected! :( They continue to think that they will know if someone is "NOT CLEAN" as they say!

Something must be done about this! All of us have to do our part! The ones like me who are infected have to either come out of the HIV closet for the good of others or at least use protection and take your meds so the risk is minimal. PARENTS! Please talk to your kids about sex! Please, you could be saving their lives! And we must have open discussions about sex in schools! If this happens, I believe that we can make a change and maybe get to zero infections like the whole world wants!

I asked my niece, "Do you know who Ryan White or Magic Johnson is?" She is 13 and she does not know. She just knows her tía (aunt) has HIV and I am educating her! It is sad that almost 30 plus years with HIV and people still think that HIV only affects who we see in the movies! Gay men as I said, prostitutes and drug users like in the movie, GIA. And the other movies that have shown a family or women with HIV have not had much impact on the youth. :( I am glad Dallas Buyers Club put HIV on the map again! But, again it started with a man getting high, being promiscuous and having sex with a drug user. I know that many of us got HIV like that, and that is OK. But the youth seem to think that this is the only way that you will get HIV, and as I said they do not even know if HIV is in fluids??? WTH? Another lady wrote me and told me she thinks she has HIV because she bled during sex. I mean really?? People in the health field have lack of info as well in many aspects, and I will touch on that in the future. For now we must all get together if we want to stop the spread of HIV.

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