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Commentary & Opinion
The Culture of Disease

August 1, 2003

"There are too many positive gay role models. In fighting the AIDS crisis over the last 20 years, we have done everything possible to dispel the negative connotations that come with having HIV. ... We did a great job. Maybe too great a job. After all the effort exerted to convince the world that AIDS is not a gay disease, we now have a generation embracing AIDS as its gay birthright. ...

"In our effort to remove the stigma of having AIDS, have we created a culture of disease? We all see the ads for HIV drugs. They illustrate hot muscular men living life to the fullest thanks to modern science. ...

"In my opinion, the messages the drug companies are spreading are lies. The truth is that AIDS is not fun. It's not sexy or manageable. AIDS is a debilitating, deforming, terminal and incurable disease. HIV drugs can bring on heart, kidney and liver disease, as well as a host of daily discomforts. ...

"We have done a terrific job removing the stigma of having AIDS. But in doing so we've failed to eliminate the disease. HIV is an almost completely avoidable infection. You need to be compliant in some very specific behaviors to be at risk. In fact, if every person now infected vowed that the disease ended with him, we could wipe out the ballooning number of new infections.

"Instead, we've sold our next generation into drug slavery and their destiny to medical researchers because we'd rather treat each other as sexual objects than as family. ... We have created an industry of disease that would crumble if AIDS was cured in our community.

"I am calling for us to take back our lives and culture and to stop spreading the virus. I am calling for us to resist the normalization of disease and once again embrace health. I want to see an ad campaign showing a sexy man saying: 'I don't have HIV. I don't want to waste my life and resources on drugs. I am taking charge of my body, my health and my destiny. I am a negative gay role model.'"

Fierstein, a commentator on the TV series "In the Life," won a 2003 Tony Award for his performance in "Hairspray."

Back to other news for August 1, 2003

Excerpted from:
New York Times
07.31.03; Harvey Fierstein

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