As AIDS has become more medically manageable, it has also gotten increasingly out of control. When once it struck down primarily gay white men, it is now, as Lucile Scott points out in our feature story, “an equal-opportunity offender.” The face of AIDS in 2007 is every kind of face. Yet despite the incredible diversity of the people living with HIV today, individuals (and groups) struggle to hold on to the moniker of “the face of AIDS.” HIV affects everyone, and no one group is or should be more entitled to resources.
Money is one of the key issues driving the competition between groups within the HIV community. With more people becoming HIV positive daily, and resources—both human and financial—dwindling, we often feel we have to compete with one another to survive. As the Ryan White Care Act faces extinction and ADAP funding remains too low, when existing resources can’t keep pace with the needs of the newly infected, the fight for funding is red hot. No group can afford to relinquish the title of “those most affected by HIV” without risking losing support.
Diversity, which can be a great strength, undermines the HIV community’s ability to help itself. When our community is divided, we weaken the potential strength of our combined numbers.
This past summer, two groups who have historically vied for attention, namely HIV-positive gay black men and HIV-positive straight black women, came together to identify the similarities in their plights and break down walls, allowing them to lobby more powerfully for political support, resources and media coverage that more accurately shows the state of AIDS in the African-American community.
The results of their unity have yet to be seen. But it seems that their joining forces would be a better approach than infighting. The HIV community is bigger than it has ever been in America. It is also more complex and its needs more varied. To accurately reflect and address the concerns of the increasingly diverse community requires an open mind and a willingness to work in concert with those who may seem very different from ourselves. The irony is that at the core, of all us who are living with or are affected by HIV have much in common. And we will all benefit from the perception that HIV/AIDS is not a “gay” disease, nor a “black” disease, nor a “woman’s” disease but rather a disease that does and can happen to anyone.
To remind myself of the diversity reflected in today’s “face of AIDS” I need only look around the POZ offices. Some of us are women, some men. We are straight and gay, younger and older, with different skin colors, HIV statuses and dates of diagnosis. We are a diverse crew that brings wildly diverse points of view together in this magazine, making it more relevant to the widest possible range of readers. The combined efforts of everyone at POZ provide a strong model for what can happen when extraordinary people come together to pull in the same
direction for a good cause.