In 2005 a friend of mine published a book based on her years of covering HIV/AIDS across the African continent. The book had a big fancy publisher, was translated into many languages, and my friend went on a whirlwind tour to promote it. I remember talking to her about the tour and her telling me that in some countries the book got almost no attention. The publicist explained that editors felt that HIV/AIDS was played out as a media story. That people were tired of hearing about it.
HIV fatigue should describe how exhausting it is to live in this world when you're HIV positive or are supporting or caring about someone who is. Instead it's come to mean how exhausted other people, people who think they don't have a personal connection to HIV, are of hearing about it. Or to be more specific, it's come to describe the assumption by those who control the media, whose lack of creativity may make it hard to conceptualize new ways of telling stories that aren't just still true, but are more relevant today then they were when HIV was a big news story.
December 1 is marked globally as World AIDS Day. December is a month that asks for a lot of awareness. In a few days it's the International Day of Disabled Persons, and in a few weeks we remember and challenge the violence perpetrated against people who work in the sex industry. One reason why I don't believe the fatigue argument is that while many of us are doing a lot, most of us aren't doing enough. We might imagine it would be exhausting to make change in the world. But managing to get through our own lives can be a struggle, and making time for others, particularly people we don't imagine are "like us" may seem impossible.
But here are two things to consider:
First, making change can happen in a thousand ways, big and small. It can be less about how much time it takes in the moment as it is about how sustained your effort is over time. While I don't think you can simply "click for change" as a thousand websites promise, making change is possible in small ways, if you're willing to sacrifice something, and stick with it.
Second, even if you think these issues don't touch your life they do. You might not be aware of it. You may think you don't know anyone who is HIV positive. Hell the person you know who is HIV positive may not know that they are either. So many of us lead lives of isolation which make it easy to feel as if we aren't connected to each other. The threads that connect us may not be visible in the moment, but all you need to do is look another way, or wait for the light to change, and you begin to see them.
Even when you support people who you don't think are part of your community, what you will almost inevitably discover is that they are.
So what are you doing today?
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