When I originally moved to San Francisco, after finally being relatively comfortable with my HIV status, I was ready to start making a difference. In my head, I would join the legions of activists who would line the streets demanding an end to HIV/AIDS. We would meet late at night and plan our strategic moves upon the streets of the city. Onlookers would see us and join in our efforts with signs and powerful chants. All of our hard work wouldn't immediately pay off, but it would start a dialogue within the local government, which would continue to make its way, all the way to the White House. At times, our passion would lead to unruly protests, and although that was never our intention, we would all stay and fight the fight, no matter the consequences. All of this never actually happened, as it was a complete figment of my hopeful imagination. When I later made the move to New York City, my highly active imagination was so shattered from the harsh realities, that it didn't even conjure up any activism fantasies to have crushed once again.
What I did see in both cities was a gay community that either didn't have any fight left to fight, or just, truly, didn't give a shit. Why fight for something that a large majority of those infected within the gay community, didn't even know they had? And those who knew their positive status, and were on medication, would now be able to live a long life, right? Some even went as far as taking the stance of relying on that one-pill-a-day mentality, if the worst-case scenario were to somehow strike them. But it won't happen to you, right? So where did all of our activists go? How did we become a community of lazy people, who helped groom a new generation of "we don't care enough" kids? Or has HIV activism just evolved? Is the internet and social media our new form of protesting?
If we have reached the point of online protesting superseding holding a sign on the street with hundreds (and in some instances, thousands) of others, then we might be doomed. I don't say this to diminish any of the hard work people and campaigns are doing online. But, the reality is, if all we have are online protests, how seriously will those who should be listening, or those who are being targeted, pay attention?
We are fortunate to have a few who are making a difference via social channels, but their missions are much different than the missions of our great activists from our history. Campaigns such as HIV Equal and The Needle Prick Project are more geared on education, and putting an end to the disgusting and unjust stigma that surrounds HIV and AIDS. But who is putting together the group of people who want to tell the drug companies to make HIV drugs accessible to everyone? Or forcing our government to stop pussyfooting around budgets, and just pony up the money we need to finally find a cure to this disease that affects so many around the world? And what about putting an end to the discriminatory anti-HIV laws that still exist in our own, damn backyard? Where are those people? When you find them, let me know.
I don't believe that my questions are invalid or that my lost hope within our community is unjust. I feel that the activists within us all just need to be awakened. So, you don't have HIV -- why should you care? Well, if you are that ignorant to the facts of reality that surround your self-created bubble of stupidity, then maybe I don't want you on my team just yet. Make an effort to learn about your friends or community that encompasses your existence. I bet you will find that within those you know, is at least one person who is somehow affected by HIV. And isn't that person or people worth your time and effort -- even just a little?
If we continue to stand back and take the lazy approach, the three letters, that our community doesn't tend to fear as much as they should, will continue their wrath of destruction from within. It's time to set an example to everyone, because HIV is not just a gay thing, it's an "everyone in the world" thing. Activism starts within a small group and continues to grow and inspire as well as encourage. We have amazing allies who are standing on the sidelines, already fighting the fight, or just waiting for you to ask them to join you. I'll help you create your picket sign, if you promise to help me carry mine home...once it's all over with.