The Scarlet Letter “A”

Most of us know someone who is either infected with HIV or someone who has passed from an AIDS related cause. Currently there are a little over 1 million people in this country living with HIV and tens of thousands of deaths every year. HIV is preventable but not curable (that’s debatable, but that’s a conversation for another day). Unlike 20-30 years ago, everyone now knows how to avoid contracting HIV. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised towards AIDS awareness and to develop a cure. Activists like Sheryl Lee Ralph throw benefit concerts every year (Diva’s Simply Singing!) and celebrities such as Elton John & Alicia Keys are everywhere lending their talents and their voice to the cause. There are AIDS walks in mostly every major city and July has even been designated as National HIV Awareness month. Not to mention the AIDS quilt that was created as a memorial to those who have died an AIDS-related death and the infamous red ribbon which is supposed to promote awareness of HIV/AIDS. With all of this publicity it’s hard for me to understand why there’s still such a stigma associated with having AIDS.

Now, get ready for what I’m about to say: I didn’t say all of this to say that I’m an AIDS advocate. I bring this up because I am at a lost as to why anyone would be ashamed to admit that they have HIV or AIDS. I find it odd that it’s only following a person’s death, family members will proudly announce their loved ones HIV status. I understand that people should be allowed to disclose their own HIV status, but in order to support this disease it’s important to know who has it & who doesn’t.

I know that there are still some very ignorant people out there that will discriminate based on HIV/AIDS status and some who just don’t understand the disease. But if you are proud enough to wear the ribbon, raise money for a cure or petition for health legislation then you should be proud enough to admit that you are carrying HIV or have full blown AIDS. Why be so shy about something that affects you personally? Why aren’t your friends & family members able to have an open discussion about your status with other people? Why is it so embarrassing to admit that you have AIDS when you’re living but it is okay to publicize names of people with AIDS on a quilt once their dead?

Don’t get it twisted; I am certainly not anti-AIDS even though I support other causes. But as an African American woman & who knows that African Americans are disproportionately affected (African American men in particular) I believe that I have the right to know if the man I’m dealing with is carrying AIDS. And since we can’t trust that everyone will be forthright if they are HIV positive, I’m all about that Scarlet letter “A”.


Talk to me; let me know your thoughts….


*For more information on AIDS awareness, visit: Black AIDS, AIDS or the CDC.

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