Why the Prop 8 Decision Should Be Important to the HIV/AIDS Community
By Paul A. Kawata
August 10, 2010
This article was provided by the National Minority AIDS Council; Paul Kawata is the organization's executive director.
When Dr. Julie Gerberding was the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), she had a big HIV/AIDS summit. We were all very excited; here was a doctor who took care of people with AIDS (PWA), from San Francisco no less, who was bringing us all together to discuss the future of HIV/AIDS prevention. Later we would find out that Concerned Women for America, Traditional Values Coalition and other similar organizations would also be invited.
During the first group session, Peter, the man from Concerned Women for America (oh the irony) told me "I think you are sick and demented; but you probably think I am sick and demented, so I guess we're even." Being the good Asian that I am, I wasn't mad or angry, I was humiliated. I was mortified that this stranger could call me demented. Immediately, I became that little boy who could not catch a ball, that little boy who loved his Barbie.
Those words took me back to a time when I was scared and desperately wanted to fit in. For many gay men, this is the message we get from the world. It's not about our skills or intelligence, it's about who we are and who we love. Its not just gay men: people of color, women, the trans community all get similar messages. When they talk about the stigma of HIV/AIDS, it's more then just the stigma attached to the disease; it is also the stigma attached to the people who get the disease.
What I appreciate about the National HIV/AIDS Strategy is its commitment to address this stigma. From my perspective, there is great value in teaching little boys who like to play with dolls that they are OK just the way they are. If we can send messages to women that they deserve equal pay for equal work and show people of color that America is truly a color blind country, then we won't just have fought a disease, we will have changed the world.
That's why the Prop 8 decision is so important to the HIV/AIDS community. It tells that little boy who couldn't catch a ball that his relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships. Not better than, but equal. Maybe if we believe that we are equal, we will believe that our lives have value. When your life has value, you are more likely to use a condom. When you are worth something, you are more likely to take your medications. If we want to stop HIV, we have to stop the stigma attached to this disease.
Dr. Gerberding's summit ended with Concerned Women For America and the Traditional Values Coalition making a recommendation that the CDC take all the money being used to prevent HIV/AIDS within the gay community and reprogram those funds to pay for reparative therapy for gay men.
They wonder why we hate ourselves ... maybe it's because the world tells us we are not good enough, that we don't deserve equal relationships, that we don't deserve love.
If the AIDS epidemic has taught me anything, it's taught me to love and cherish my friends who are my family. Please know you are all my family.
Positive Policy is a multi-blogger forum for sharing developments in law, policy and activism relevant to people living with, working in and otherwise affected by HIV/AIDS.
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