Tuesday, 1 December 2009

World AIDS Day - a time for rage

Another world AIDS day and I am left again with an overwhelming sense of rage about the whole thing.

I am grief stricken and furious that AIDS has become the scourge it has.

The grief goes without saying - because so many dead is just heart breaking. So many dead and suffering in such numbers - there are not enough tears in the world.

But all of this is coloured by rage. Rage, because AIDS is, in my view, one of the greatest failings of humanity. The sheer size and scale of the epidemic now has been created by masses of human indifference, prejudice and ignorance to such a degree that I want to scream - and it's still continuing.

When AIDS was first becoming an issue it was ignored. It was ignored because it was a gay disease. It was ignored because it was an African disease. It was ignored because, to the powers that be, these people, these deaths DID NOT MATTER. These lives didn't fucking count. These deaths were seen as unimportant - even a good thing!

Can you imagine how less severe it would be, how many fewer would have died if the powers that be had actually given a damn then?

But, eventually, the privileged people started dying. Eventually people started to take notice. But the ignorance was already winning.

We had more ignorance coming from religious groups who LEAPED on the epidemic as an opportunity to pursue their own agenda. "Abstinence!" they screamed! No more sex! SEX IS BAD! EVIL! And every step of the way they pushed that and tried to hijack the fight to stop a devastatingly huge pandemic into a way to push their own moral values. Their dogma was more important than untold millions of deaths! And they knew no shame - to this day the Catholic Church is spreading LIES about condoms in Africa.

Let me repeat that. The Catholic church is spreading LIES about condoms. WILLFUL LIES. Condoms, a vital tool in preventing the spread of AIDS, are being labelled as ineffective. How many are dying here because dogma is valued over truth?! That is evil. That is tantamount to genocide.

But the ignorance continued. Governments, confronted with the sudden horror of rising AIDS levels, some facing huge segments of their population being infected started fleeing in denial. HIV didn't cause AIDS they said. They bought into the most dubious AIDS denial research, backed the most quackiest of quack medicine to escape the reality of it.

And ignorance fed ignorance. Ignorance and agenda and denial combined to a ridiculous degree. People scapegoated the disease - it was a gay disease, a drug users disease, a promiscuous disease. 101 ridiculous and foolish "cures" were imagined by fearful, superstitious and ignorant people (the most pernicious of which, I think, was the idea that AIDS could be cured by having sex - unprotected sex! - with a virgin!). Predatory greed lead some evil people to sell their dubious "cures" to ignorant and fearful people (some of these AIDS cures are little more than vitamin C tablets!) Drugs companies with vital, life saving retroviral drugs set the prices prohibitively high - and fought viciously against cheaper alternatives.

And rising from this is an ongoing prejudice against people living with HIV and AIDS. People who can live long, productive, fulfilled lives - are treated with the kind of stigma associated with medieval lepers. Ignorance, fear and prejudice again - and again at the cost of people's lives.

AIDS is a story of human failure. It's a story of ignorance and arrogance and fear and prejudice and greed and pure, evil indifference to our fellow man.

AIDS will not go away until we change that story, fight the evil and redeem ourselves. And that is going to take a lot of work