World AIDS Day: Look to the Future, Educate Yourself and Watch a Documentary

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. There are lots of different ways to recognize World AIDS Day and the approximately 33.3 million people infected with HIV worldwide. President Obama spoke at George Washington University today where he looked to the future of HIV/AIDS treatment. He reiterated Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s message from several weeks ago about the US’s continuing commitment to fighting the global AIDS pandemic. “Today is a remarkable day,” Obama said. “Today, we come together, as a global community, across continents, faiths and cultures, to renew our commitment to ending the AIDS pandemic – once and for all.”

Also looking forward, New York City released new HIV treatment recommendations today encouraging earlier pharmacological intervention for HIV patients. Even Alicia Keys is joining the fight; her Keep a Child Alive documentary is set to air this evening. Even you (yes, you) might want to do some personal prevention awareness. Maybe today would be a good day to review HIV risks for women who have sex with women or the Centers for Disease Control’s HIV/AIDS statistics and fact sheets.

But HIV/AIDS awareness isn’t just about looking forward to the future, but also about remembering those who’ve passed and hearing the stories of their friends and family who survived them. The documentary We Were Here is screening all over the place for World AIDS Day today and throughout December in locations across the US. We Were Here premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and documents the 1980s in San Francisco when the AIDS epidemic was still called the “Gay Cancer” or the “Gay Plague.” It even takes the time to discuss lesbian involvement in outreach and support efforts. We Were Here is definitely worth a watch, I mean, it has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. It will also probably make you cry.

If you really want to get teary, try reading through aids.gov’sthirty page gallery of picture of people facing and supporting loved ones with HIV/AIDS. For more ways to raise awareness, check out Amplify’s list of ways to get involved.

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Lizz is a consumer, lover and writer of all things pop culture and the Fashion/Style Editor at Autostraddle.com. She is also full time medical student at Brown University in Providence, RI. You can find her on the twitter, the tumblr or even on the instagram.

Lizz has written 273 articles for us.

47 Comments

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    From that CDC article:

    “One such individual, a 20-year-old African-American woman, revealed that while she contracted the HIV virus, she did not have a history of the typical signs of risk behavior. She had never engaged in sexual intercourse with a man, did not use injection drugs or other substances, had no tattoos or piercings and had received no blood transfusions. Her only partner was a bisexual female who had HIV.”

    Reminds me of why I will never date bisexuals. I prefer to stay disease-free, thanks.

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      So you read an article about a disease that has taken the lives of many women and GLBTIQ people and at the end of it the thing you felt was most important to share was your opinion that bisexual women carry disease? Classy.

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        Seriously? I get that June’s comment was awful but can we please stop using ‘cunt’ as an insult. Cunts are awesome. Using it to insult someone is misogynistic and I’m kind of surprised to see people using it on AS.

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          Most bisexual women and butches are very misogynistic, the creature who posted the c-word as an insult is a bisexual butch so yeah, not really surprising unfortunately.

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          ya rly. because of course, it makes perfect sense that women who are butch / bi would hate women, i.e. themselves ;)

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          Internalized misogyny, evident of women of kowtow to men and/or emulate the patriarchy’s definition of masculinity, where anything defined as “feminine” is deemed inferior. Read up on your feminism.

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          Want to back up that ridiculous statement with ANY sort of proof other than your own hate and prejudice?

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          I have read up on my feminism. Other feminisms, too. What you are really asking me to do is to read up on YOUR feminism, which you appear to think is the only one. I’m familiar with the argument you are making. I disagree with it. Chalk it up to patriarchy-induced false consciousness if it makes you feel more secure dwelling within the confines of your totalising ideology.

          The author of this post, Lizz, asked below that we refocus on awareness of HIV / AIDS, so I am going to step away from this comment thread now. Have fun getting your kicks from spreading your bigotry in a forum that was designed to be a space to talk about ending the global HIV epidemic.

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          Wow, no longer human even. “Creature”. You’re using your own brand of the c-word, and it doesn’t make you any better than Grace B. Good job.

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          I’m a creature now, am I?
          And I’m actually not a misogynist thanks, I’m a dedicated reader of both feministe and the pervocracy and I’ve taken 4 women’s studies courses. I use “cunt” because it’s the only swear left that people have an actual reaction to. “Asshat” just doesn’t provide the same shocking quality or the same discussion. As you’ve just proven

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        What exactly is your problem with people making their own choices regarding their sexuality? So she chooses not to fuck bisexuals, big fucking deal. That is her prerogative, no-one has the right to argue that she should be open to anything that makes her feel unsafe regardless of her justification.

        You are just a hop, skip and a jump to suggesting she should lay down and take it.

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          I agree. Everyone has preferences in relationships. Even many bisexuals I’ve met don’t wish to date other bisexuals. I don’t see them getting judged for their preferences.

          Me, I prefer to be with a woman who isn’t constantly eying men and who isn’t a disease/flight risk. I want someone with whom I can have a deep and meaningful connection, and I don’t feel that’s possible with a bisexual. Bisexuals have straight privilege (but force themselves into the lesbian community) and don’t nearly understand the sort of systemic discrimination and tribulations that lesbians go through. I don’t find there to be any common ground.

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          That is kind of a bullshit generalization of bisexuals. I, for example, am not a potential carrier of disease; I am faithful and monogamous regardless of the gender of my partner, and believe me, I do not constantly eye men. Maybe you’re getting bisexual women confused with “straight woman looking for a kinky thrill”. Because, please, what a horribly ignorant and offensive stance you take. And yes, your comment also qualifies as biphobic so now wonder you don’t see what the big deal is when another biphobe echoes your discrimination.

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          Like everyone else who took offense at that comment, I don’t care if she isn’t interested in bisexuals, but I think I have a right to feel hurt by the implication that I am something dirty by being who I am. That was highly offensive, and regardless of sexual interests or preferences, no one should make careless comments like that in a public setting. And seeing as quite a few people don’t seem to realise how hurtful that kind of comment could be, I think it was even more important that I wrote a response, so that it can be seen that those comments DO matter and DO have the capacity to harm.

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          Her justifications are not immune to scrutiny, especially when they are obviously rooted in bigotry, just like people who refuse to consider dating people of color based on the same justification.

          It is their prerogative to make decisions based on bigotry, just as it is others’ prerogative to label them as bigots.

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      Which is why gay men should just refuse to date gay black men because they have a higher incidence of HIV infection. Or! Why all straight men should refuse to date straight black women because the last time I checked they are the fastest-growing demographic of HIV infection. Or! Grow the fuck up.

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      June, I don’t know why you’re being bashed when what you’re saying is true. Various studies have shown that bisexual women have significantly higher incidences of STDs than lesbian women and even straight women. Lets not even get into the other risks that are frequently a byproduct (or maybe I should say ‘bi product’!) of dating bisexual women. To the delusional overly PC posters giving June a hard time, sorry but when it comes to my health I’m not going to be PC, other young lesbians should know the risks (health and otherwise) of getting involved with bisexual women, I’m not happy to sit back and keep quiet for fear of offending people when the health and wellbeing of people is at risk, sorry.

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        Hi! My name is Sally and I am a Gold Star Lesbian. I thought I would tell you that fact so you feel safe that you won’t catch an STD from me over the internet.

        I see that you have an opinion on bisexuality shared by many other people, including in the gay community. I respect your right to have this opinion, despite the fact that I disagree with it vehemently.

        I am going to hazard a guess that you are a gay lady and, if that is true, I am very saddened that you feel the way you do about bisexuals. One of the hardest things that all people of non-mainstream sexualities and gender expressions have to deal with is judgement.

        How often are we tarred with a very large brush by society, that paints us not as individual human beings but as stereotypical figures in some giant picture of deviance? Do you agree that it is unfair to make assumptions about the behaviour and beliefs of everyone in a subset of people, based on the behaviour and beliefs of a few? Do you agree that such attitudes undermine the whole rationale of equality for all? Furthermore, do you agree that this way of thinking contributes to the discrimination, stress and mental health issues that have been shown to be greater in the non-straight population?

        Some bisexuals behave irresponsibly regarding safe sex. Some bisexuals are promiscuous. Some bisexuals hide in relationships with someone of a certain status because it makes life easier. Some bisexuals break people’s hearts.

        Replace “bisexuals” with lesbians, gay men, transsexuals, queers, straight people, human beings. All those assertions will still make sense, because we’re all as rubbish at relationships as one another.

        Perhaps in your personal experience or group of acquaintances, you have found a high incidence of behaviour among bisexuals that you disapprove of or find dangerous. Is that true in the next city? In the next country? For the all the kids and people who lie outside of statistics because they’re still too afraid of judgement to come out and live truthfully?

        I don’t expect this will change your mind about anything, but I want you to seriously consider that it is your attitude that is putting people’s wellbeing at risk.

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          TL;DR generic PC comment blah blah blah. Spare me.

          It’s funny how you failed to address the statistics about bisexual women having significantly higher STD rates than lesbians and straight women but hey lets not let facts get in the way of your PC crap.

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          You never have your partners get tested before sex, before a relationship? Getting tested regularly is an important safe-sex practice. Statistics do not apply to every single person – that’s the point of statistics, to estimate rates of occurrences. Why not give people a chance before you judge them based on their sexuality? If you don’t want to date someone with an STD, that’s okay, but painting an entire group of people as dirty/bad/unworthy is nonsensical.

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        HEY, YO. IT’S NOT JUST BISEXUALS.
        Way to NOT consider that a lot of LESBIANS may have had prior sexual contact with the opposite sex (if you’re into binaries and all that jazz) which puts them at risk, too.

        If you’re worried about your health and well being, you should USE SAFER SEX PRACTICES regardless of your partner’s/partners’ sexual history(-stories). Then you don’t need to worry. Not dating bisexuals is your choice. Not dating bisexuals because they are “dirty” is bigoted, hateful, and soooo not queer-positive.

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          Exactly, not to mention the fact that even gold star lesbians may have slept with a woman who has previously slept with a man. The only way to ensure you are safe is to use protection. Yes, there is room for education and knowledge about the risks of sleeping with ANYONE, however there is no need to perpetuate the cycle of stigma and discrimination.

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          Well, AP, I see no need to take a heightened risk, especially where my personal well-being is involved. Sure, there’s STD risk with any partner, but being with a bisexual puts one at a greater risk for such ( http://www.autostraddle.com/world-aids-day-look-to-the-future-educate-yourself-and-watch-a-documentary-122889/ ). Would you cross a street at some random spot, or would you go to the crosswalk that’s 10 feet from where you stand? It’s an issue of risk minimization in several factors: disease, flight-risk, drama, and so on.

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    My best friend, a lesbian, has been HIV positive for almost 20 years. I remember how terrified we were when she got the results, it seemed like a sure death sentence at the time. I spent about 2 days in bed, curled up in a ball and crying.

    She has been remarkably healthy for the most part, the drug cocktails providing both adequate t-cells and significant side effects. She has gone off and on the drug regimens over the years but these days her immune system is requiring more and more support. She isn’t able to do as much outreach and education now as she used to but she does what she can.

    I love my friend. She is one of the bravest people I know.

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      After reading the comments above, I feel the need to point out again that my that my friend is NOT bisexual, she is a lesbian. Lesbians are not excluded from being at risk for HIV.

      If you are trying to reduce your exposure to HIV, you’d better just become celibate.

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    When I was an undergrad at U. Wyo, we would have a week long AIDS awareness campaign on campus every year. There’d be free testing, condom/dental dam distributions, educational events/fliers, and (my favorite) the AIDS Walk. The AIDS Walk is a 5k pledge walk that is held to raise money for a state-wide program that assists people living with AIDS. Like, if someone couldn’t get their own groceries this program would pay someone to go shop for the person. It helped people pay for meds or for transportation costs for doctors’ visits (in Wyoming, transportation costs can be massive because you have to drive so fucking far to find civilization). They would even help families of people who had died pay for funeral expenses if they needed it.

    The last year I was there, we got to display several sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt made by people from Wyoming. At the entrance to the ballroom where it was displayed, there were big boxes of tissues on tables. It’s a good thing, too, because I was sobbing like a baby before I was even half way through the room. That Quilt is a brilliant, powerful statement and a wonderful memorial to those we’ve lost.

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    Thanks for posting this, Lizz. I feel like a lot of younger people, myself included, have a tendency to assume HIV / AIDS is a thing of the past. This is a great reminder that not only do we need to be aware of the risks but also that HIV / AIDS still affects many in our community and we need to support those people.

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    Thanks for this post, Lizz and thank you for linking to the HIV risks for women who have sex with women. I definitely never had same-sex ed. when I was in school and I’m constantly reading what I can about it–just so I’m informed!

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    In the words of Jeffrey Sachs, “The Obama administration had pledged $4 billion during 2011-2013 to the Global Fund, or $1.33 billion per year. Now it is reneging on this pledge. For a government that spends $1.9 billion every single day on the military ($700 billion each year), Washington’s unwillingness to follow through on $1.33 billion for a whole year to save millions of lives is a new depth of cynicism and recklessness”
    http://www.aidsfreeworld.org/Publications-Multimedia/Speeches/On-the-Gutting-of-the-Global-Fund.aspx

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    everyone should get tested for aids!
    a) it’s almost always free [but you should still donate!]
    b) it helps them out because the more people who get tested, the more funding they are able to receive [at least at the place i used to go to in philadelphia]
    c) even if you aren’t at risk, you’re setting a good example
    d) take a friend, sometimes people are too scared to go alone even if they should get tested
    e) you get a mini counseling session where they ask you questions like “if you were to find out you were positive, would you have friends or family members to support you?” and you get to say yes and remember that you are loved
    f) whether you test positive or negative, you should take yourself out for ice cream afterwards for being so responsible and getting tested

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    my best friend is hiv+. i used to think this disease was long gone, but since he came into my life, i realized that it was very real, that it still strikes people’s lives. thank you for this post. :)

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