AIDS discriminates because we discriminate

Published: November 2, 2010

AIDS discriminates because we discriminate.

With these five words, AIDS Free World hope to cause people to pause and ask themselves:

Why does HIV tend to infect certain people rather than others? Why are rates so high among people in eastern and southern Africa? Among people, especially women of colour in rich countries? Among men who have sex with men? Among people who survive by leasing their bodies to strangers with money to spare?

HIV seems to select the very people who are already living at a disadvantage – the millions of people whose levels of poverty make the wealthy feel uncomfortable, or whose methods of coping make the privileged squirm. Is the virus programmed to leave the mainstream alone, and find the people societies have pushed to the edges, forced to the fringes, shoved underground, rounded up and driven out of sight?

AIDS-Free World’s view of “high-risk groups” is this: women are at higher risk of HIV because they’re exploited, abused and oppressed. Africans are at higher risk because African poverty and disease pose no immediate threat to Western-world comfort.  Gay men are at higher risk because their lives are more likely to be judged and threatened. Sex workers are at higher risk because societies have always simultaneously demanded and demonized responsibility-free sex.  Prisoners are at higher risk because, deprived of water, food or personal safety, sex is all they have left to trade for survival. Drug users are at higher risk because addicts will always be criminalized by the ‘war on drugs’. Poor people are at higher risk because their friends, family members and lovers with HIV are deprived of drug treatment that could control their HIV and make them far less infectious.

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