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Matthew Ebert Headshot

GRID-Lock

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HIV/AIDS needs a makeover. So many letters, and that slash in the middle is like the Leaning Tower of Pissed-off, and there are too many vowels, especially "I." HIV/AIDS is narcissistic. We need to shake it up like Yahtzee and see what falls out. We need a campaign, a "Re-brand the Virus" contest.

For prevention's sake, I recommend that we go back to calling HIV/AIDS (ugh) "GRID" -- "gay-related immune deficiency." Call me old-fashioned, but I like the '80s name for AIDS, acquired around 1982 and lasting less than a year. At first sight of the symptoms, the media and scientists called it "GRID."

Ridiculous, right? Here me out. Pretend you're in an episode of Mad Men, and I'm Jon Hamm's character. I have GRID, but you want to fuck me anyway. Well, here's what this mad man would say when you look deep into his eyes:

Who cares about the "gay" thing? Don't define "gay" as "masculine," because it isn't. "Gay" is derived from an old English term for a loose woman. Don't even define "gay" as a homosexual term when branding GRID. Instead, use it like older Americans did, to mean "happy" -- "We were gay once, we shared pleasure, but then we got GRID." Get it? See it on the subway? One smiling face holding a box of blue pills?

This GRID campaign will help shake people back into condoms, PrEP and prevention dreams -- big money for Big Pharma. They'll buy it. Because I remember what those words did to me when I first saw them in The New York Times in 1982. I believe Donald Sterling was in the room speaking highly of Magic Johnson at that time.

I receive an Emmy. Thirty-two years pass. Donald Sterling changes his tune by a few notes before Magical thinking prevails. A GRID campaign frees up the word "aids." People can go back to wearing Band-Aids without feeling the worry. And those diet chocolates, AYDS -- someone had the misfortune of relaunching those during the '80s, remember? Well, AYDS can come back too. People can start eating brownies to lose weight again. All of this without the worry of being associated with an immunodeficiency disorder.

GRID. You do not want this. A four-letter word for "FUCT." Diet pills every day. Your body becomes a pincushion, your mind locked up like 53rd and Third. GRID. It's just like HIV/AIDS, only worse -- more stigma, fewer letters -- because in 1982, just like today, GRID = Death. And I think it's important to brand a disease for what it is: slow dynamite. Inflammation of the brain. You will age faster, because there's a fire in the cerebellum, and one in the cortex. GRID grows up real dis-easy -- know what I mean? If you don't, ask someone who does. Ask a long-term survivor of GRID. Ask someone who remembers 1982 in New York, L.A., San Francisco, or any place where GRID made its symphonic debut. Ask a person with GRID.

By changing "HIV/AIDS" back to "GRID," you will allow me to use terms like "GRID-lock" to describe the push for a cure. In 1980 there were less than 50 known deaths from AIDS. By 2014 we have reached over 25 million deaths. In 1993 Nureyev died. I was one degree of separation from the international ballet legend. We shared a lover. In 1994 I acquired GRID. Despite my best efforts to protect myself, the other ballet slipper dropped. Honestly, my best efforts really weren't that hot. I pirouetted right into GRID. I don't think much has changed on that front, especially in the lives of many young men if you look at transmission rates today.

So GRID brings it way back. It says, "WTF? IMHO, SILENCIO=MUERTE." GRID means business in any language, and we need that chit-chat right now. You can tag GRID onto things like CDC, FDA, HRC, GMHC, AHF, AMFAR, and hospitals and clinics across America. And you can remind everyone just what kind of shape we're in when it comes to HIV/AIDS, or, er, GRID: lines crisscrossing the globe like a net catching folks in its path.

Oh, we're still filtering out a few, but GRID is like that drunk at a wedding, latching on for dear death to its host. This net has no end in sight; you either hang on or chew off your limb and bleed out. "HIV/AIDS" doesn't cut it -- the net, I mean -- and it doesn't properly describe what it feels like to be really on the "GRID" when it comes to the virus that causes AIDS. But whatever acronym you use, that thing that keeps circulating like a centrifuge splits blood -- it's time to shut it down.