The HIV virus is non-discriminatory. It does not care about your race, creed, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Sadly, many people have viewed the result of HIV, AIDS, as largely a phenomenon of gay sex. Why?
When AIDS hit the scene in the early 1980’s it was predominantly in the gay men community – or so it was reported. The Christian Fundamentalists jumped at the opportunity to say that AIDS was God’s punishment for immoral behavior. I remember shuddering at the exhilaration of the TV Evangelists over a deadly illness. The odd paradox of Christians rejoicing at the prospect of a pandemic virus was and is dumbfounding.
The evidence of the past thirty years is clear. HIV is non-discriminatory. But some stereotypes remain. Yesterday was World Aids Day, a day set aside to bring awareness to the general population. My local community had a number of organizations participating in AIDS awareness. There is a nice article in our local paper about the many people participating. The article was well done, but the visual reinforcement of the article promoted nasty stereotypes. The picture accompanying the article was of members of the Pride Alliance – a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and ALLY student organization at the local University.
The students of Pride Alliance, students at the University, are shown smiling and laughing while they distribute condoms and literature about safe sex. Most folks will not read the article – they will just look at the headlines and read the caption under the picture. The impression will serve to solidify unconscious stereotypes.
The County Health Department, local churches, the food kitchen, and other organizations participated in the World AIDS day activities – but the picture hosted by the local paper presented an image of AIDS with a direct connection to sexual orientation. Was this a consciously disguised editorial by the local paper? I don’t know. It was probably done by unconscious reporters who are not aware of their own prejudices.
The editors of the news paper should have caught this direct stab at promoting discrimination.