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Whatever Happened to Aids?

August 23, 2010

The late 80’s and early 90’s were big on Aids. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting someone targeting this particular issue. Nowadays it seems like the only time you ever hear about it is in connection to Africa or U2. I was reading the latest blog post over at Let’s Eat Cake today: Your Blood is SO Gay, which addresses the fact that blood donor clinics still refuse to accept blood donations from men who engage in sex with other men. Click here to read more about it.

Later today, I was watching my daily dose of the Golden Girls and the episode I stumbled upon on YouTube just happened to be about Aids. In this particular episode Rose receives a letter from the hospital where she had a gallbladder operation that says there’s a chance that she may have had a blood transfusion that was infected with HIV.

Rose gets an Aids test and the next 72 hours, the time she has to wait for the results, are filled with anguish and address some of the stereotypes attached to the stigma of being HIV positive. Rose has an argument with Blanche where she says that this isn’t fair, that she’s a good person and that unlike Blanche who has slept with a hundred men she doesn’t deserve this. Blanche, quite rightly, responds that Aids isn’t a bad person disease, that Aids isn’t God’s way of coming down and smiting those who have sinned. It’s a great little piece of dialogue and minus the God part, Blanche makes a great point about Aids not being a bad person disease, which is basically what’s implied when you lumps hookers, drug addicts and homosexuals into the prime targets of this disease. The implication being that all these people are bad which simply isn’t true.

There’s an attitude out there in this fair world of ours that states that a person who contracts Aids through “deviant” means like getting a tattoo, getting paid for sex, or getting fucked in the ass is somehow deserving of their fate, while a person who “through no fault of their own” contracts Aids because of the negligence of a hospital is to be pitied and becomes a prime example of why this fair world of ours is one hell of an unfair place.

I happen to have some tattoos, and I may or may not have engaged in sodomy and boy am I fucked if I happened to have been paid for it too. It’s a miracle I’m still alive. Arg, I suddenly got really annoyed with some people’s holier than thou attitudes. Anyways…this wasn’t supposed to be that kind of rant. Moving on.

The Golden Girls episode actually made me think of how my grandmother died, which is what I came on here to write about in the first place. I was 12 or 13 at the time (something like that) and this was right at the beginning of the 90’s, just about when this episode first aired actually. When my grandma died we moved into her house (which happens to be where I’m writing from at the moment)  and one day when I was picking up the mail I saw that there was a letter addressed to her. Not being too particular about breaking federal laws when it comes to opening someone else’s mail (especially when they’re dead), I took a gander and it just so happened to be the very same type of letter Rose received.

It stated that my grandma may have been the recipient of a bad blood transfusion. She was already dead, so I suppose that was one last thing to worry about, but my young mind started to wonder about what state she was in when she was found dead. I remember calling my Dad and asking him who had found her and if there was any blood at the scene. He was a little ambiguous about the blood part, but I did manage to get out of him that my uncle had found her. I could picture the gruesome scene in my mind, my uncle walking in and finding her dead lying in a pool of her own blood. Of course, in my imagination my uncle also happened to have gotten a massive paper cut on his hand at that very same moment and not knowing the danger he was possibly putting himself in and filled with concern for my grandma he didn’t think twice about taking her in his arms and mixing his blood with hers (remember the paper cut).

That’s not quite the way in which I expressed my fears, I simply told my Dad (who does not have lax views about opening other people’s mail, his father was a mailman after all) about the letter I had opened and that if my uncle had been in contact with her blood (a scenario I wasn’t actually sure was even a remote possibility) that he should get an Aids test. My Dad shrugged his shoulders or at least intoned the vocal equivalent since we were on the phone at the time and said it was nothing to worry about. The whole thing was swept aside just like that and a letter that had moved me to fear and worry didn’t really mean a hell of a whole much in the grand scheme of things.

Imagine getting a letter like that (actually addressed to you) and you’re still alive. Boy! I guess Rose really did have a reason to freak out like she did.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Nicole permalink
    August 25, 2010 5:58 pm

    I really liked this article. Im glad you pointed out the interesting way Blanche is to be pitied because she’s an “innocent victim”, framing her in opposition to all those “guilty” gays, whores, less thans. It’s a constant struggle working in the HIV-AIDS crisis to destigmatize what it means to be Positive and to show that it’s a disease that affects everyone. furthermore, that making “bad choices” (a label usually assigned to anyone who does sex work) is always dependent on social circumstances (ie: women who are coerced into sex or sex without a condom or sex without testing, because of social norms). thanks for writing this.

    ps: the article recommended at the top is homophobic crap though!

  2. August 25, 2010 7:56 pm

    Hey Nicole, Did you read the whole article I linked to? I don’t think it’s homophobic crap. The title and the first paragraph were meant to be rather flippant, I think, in tone as opposed to be taken seriously, the author then goes on to be more serious and points out the discrimination at work.

    Also, if you read the comments section there…I address the whole “bad choices” things that like you say is usually assigned to people who do sex work, which I point out is not a bad choice in-of-itself.

    Anyway feel free to disagree and point out why.

  3. Elizabeth Catherine permalink
    August 30, 2010 6:23 pm

    On the subject of AIDS, I just read this in the NYT. It’s kind of a soft humanistic piece but I enjoyed it.


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