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I Agree: We Are Not A F***ing Scorpion!

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

March 18, 2011

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I remember the days when family members wouldn't let HIV infected family members eat out of their plates or use there glasses. And still today, I get whispers of stories just like this. I think ads like these continue to perpetuate the "ugliness" that has been the root of HIV hysteria and hate.

I overheard a conversation with a woman and a doctor at the clinic on Tuesday. She hadn't been to the clinic in two years, mostly out of shame. And she does have an OB/GYN doctor at another clinic, but she is too ashamed to tell her that she has HIV. So shame has prevented her from getting the proper treatment and care to prolong her life. And ads like this only reinforce shame around our HIV status.

And then let's take it a step further. I can just imagine someone looking at these images and saying, "I would never have sex with someone like that." Yes, I'm saying that these pictures reinforce the idea that the only "certain types" of people actually have HIV. And at the end of the day, most people will think that they could never in a thousand years have sex with a person like "that."

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Yes, I submit that images like this continue to reinforce that people with HIV are "ugly." The fact is, HIV is ugly, not the people with HIV! Another fact, you may not be able to spot that "ugly" in a crowd, which gives you a false sense of security because with images like this you actually think somewhere in the back of your mind that you will know if a person is infected with HIV. Big mistake!

The fact of the matter is, HIV has no particular face. It's all of us. Me, Maria, and you. And the last time I checked, Maria and I both believe that we are fabulous women! Nothing ugly about us on the inside or out. And I certainly hope that you feel the same way about yourself.

This campaign might have been well intended, but for me, it only created more stigma and shame around HIV/AIDS. I know if it had been in the United States, AIDS activists would have forced that campaign down. #ForReal. There is a part of me that wonders how Europeans with HIV feel about being compared to Hitler and who on God's earth would think it was ok? What the HELL were they thinking?

The other major point is this, yes, HIV is a dangerous disease that will alter your life forever, and yes, it could even kill you. But it's everywhere and only a change in behavior can protect you, not some misguided judgement about what type of person would have HIV.

HIV is not a "boogie man" that's gonna get you. HIV is all of us and when you buy into the stereotypes of who would have HIV, you put yourself at risk. So I will say it again, wrap it up! You cannot look at a person and tell.

I mean come on! When you look at the pictures of Maria and me, don't you say "Damn! They fine!" Stop lying, you know you do, whether we are your "type" or not we got a little something going on. And that's the point. You may not know who is infected. In fact, 38% of all newly infected people with HIV are infected by people who didn't even know their HIV status.

So I say it yet again, when you fuck without a condom you are a fuckin fool. There is no sex worth your life. Stop fuckin without thinking. And equally as important, stop buying into the stereotypes about people with HIV/AIDS. All it does is help to create more stigma and shame for people living with HIV, and at the same time gives you a false sense of security.

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See Also
What Does HIV/AIDS Stigma Look Like in Your Life?
More on Stigma and HIV/AIDS

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Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.

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