The HIV/AIDS situation in South Africa is somewhat different in that we have an estimated 5.5 million people living with HIV/AIDS (I think the US has
1.1 million), and it's mainly a heterosexual epidemic, with black women at the highest risk.
After a long struggle against official denialism, the situation is looking better, with a massive reduction of mother-to-child transmissions.
However, it's interesting how winning certain battles in the fight against HIV can quickly lead to complacency and the misleading notion that things
are now "resolved".
Currently it's really the sporadic lack of sufficient AIDS medication in some clinics, and the constant struggle to keep cheap generic drugs available
that largely still keeps HIV/AIDS in the media.
I've been watching a lot of documentaries on HIV from various countries, such as the US, Britain and Germany, and there are some interesting
differences and similarities.
There's certainly a new alarm over the gay infection rate in the US (which hasn't been mirrored by gay infections in, for example, Australia or some
In the US the African American community has raised similar concerns, accounting for 45 percent of new infections despite being 12 percent of the
There's a similar notion by some black HIV activists that the virus has been cast too much as a heterosexual developmental issue in highly affected
parts of Southern and Eastern Africa (which accounts for 98 percent of global HIV/AIDS infections).
This left the gay HIV experience somewhat as a footnote in the wider "African" pandemic, and little attention was paid to what was happening in
America's own backyard.
It also left disastrous US policies with little opposition, such as high incarceration rates (without condoms) due to the drug war in some
communities, and the lack of needle exchanges.
PEPFAR meant that no US funds would be given to organizations that supported the decriminalization of prostitution in developing countries, and Brazil
(which started making its own ARVs) therefore rejected it completely.
Concerns have also been raised about the disproportionate amount of money spent on defining HIV as a young person's disease, when the infection rates
in Atlanta alone increased 94 percent for heterosexual people over 50.
In that sense, the very fact that the dismal prognosis in the OP's article talks about people of 50 is interesting.
For the initial years of the epidemic it was largely a young person's disease.
This was the crux of AIDS - it killed productive young people and parents in the prime of their lives and careers.
In South Africa the first wave of AIDS in the 1990s meant that the average life expectancy fell from 65 to 48.
Although it was most often seen as a disease of poverty, it actually affected young professionals in nursing, education and the the clerks very
I think what a lot of documentaries on the US are getting at is that there's still a lot of misunderstanding and sermonizing about HIV.
The apparent homophobia in some black churches has completely ignored the rise of infection rates amongst black women for example, which is regionally
comparable between the US and southern Africa.
I'm sure it has also made an impact on gay men.
There is actually a link to a (Catholic) religious site that discussed these statistics, but there was so much of the usual anti-gay rhetoric, as well
as somebody posting adverts for "magic cures" that I decided not to post it.
Nevertheless, not everything can be blamed on the religious abuse of a public health crisis to score political points (especially religious groups who
have hardly done women in developing countries any favors with their pseudo-scientific views on condoms, especially within marriage).
While I can understand that people are social creatures, and life is a progression of influences and counter-influences, there have been times where
gay communities went into a form of denial too, and the message of HIV-positive gay activists was ignored, or even met with hostility.
One thinks of the early attempts to close the bathhouses in US gay areas, and attempts to regulate the blood supply.
While nobody can dispute the fantastic work of gay HIV-positive activists, there were also times and examples of indifference, false accusations of
homophobia, or sheer disbelief.
Not that going into denial was unique to gay people: many governments, churches and entire countries have gone into denial over HIV/AIDS at various
points, thus allowing the virus to run its full course.
When I first tested positive as a gay male in SA, I thought my newly found sense of urgency could inspire more gay people to be tested.
This was sadly not the response, although I understand that many people were suddenly frightened, and they chose the false security of not knowing.
The problem is also with the nature of HIV information itself, which can lead to "AIDS fatigue" (too much and one is less interested), and balancing a
message of hope with the possibly terrible outcomes of AIDS, and living on powerful medications with potential side-effects and no guarantees.
While associating HIV with death seemed to scare people unreasonably, campaigns that seemed akin to soft-porn and erotica are also controversial.
No matter what community, HIV/AIDS is always easy to displace as something that happens to "other people".
It's always that "slut" out there, although you can have unprotected penetrative sex once and get it.
The message that one needs to have loads of multiple partners to get HIV is also incorrect and stigmatizing.
Sure, that will definitely increase the chances, but all kinds of people hit smaller odds every day.
It's not a "type" of person who gets HIV; it could be anyone who had unprotected sex, even a decade ago.
I see some HIV-positive gay men in the US are now talking about the side-effects of their medications (such as constant nerve pain, incontinence and
heart attacks), simply because they feel that the notion that AIDS is "manageable" since 1996 has been pushed to the extent that it made people
careless and over-confident.
Generations going into their forties now will have never seen people with AIDS, who still exist in smaller numbers, but fall off the social radar.
They are rarely shown in media.
A documentary from Britain called "HIV And Me" actually showed very strong stigmas against HIV-positive people, especially outside the gay
I was also shocked to see a gay friend from the UK, who thought my openness about being HIV-positive was too much, and he didn't understand our recent
public activism in South Africa at all.
So there is a degree of denial and a fear that HIV-positive people make entire scenes look bad, or what I'd call "HIV-phobia" in various gay
In that sense I can't help feeling that sections of some gay communities (as well as many others) need a swift kick in the behind, and they better
start working on interventions instead of burying their heads in the sand, and pretending that all is well and hunky-dory.
I'd strongly support the gay HIV-activists in the OP's article.
We don't need a politically correct "gay inc." if the statistics are rising, and while gay orientation or sex didn't cause the virus, we sure as hell
can construct and encourage forms of being gay that don't facilitate the spread of HIV.
edit on 20-1-2014 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)