Red Ribbon

It’s World AIDS Day. Although my activism and identity were forged in HIV/AIDS work, I have found over the past few years that the messages of disease prevention, and of a community and identity built not around health and connection, but around serostatus, have lost the intensity and luster. And rather than bringing a world together to fight for basic health care and infrastructure, the work in the West vs. the developing world brings different standards of living, different expectations of the meaning of “basic needs”, into stark relief. I recently read something a friend wrote about why he left the field of HIV/AIDS work. My path was somewhat different, and somewhat later, but similarly it just stopped making sense to try to shock people with information that was no longer shocking. We had become a part of the nonprofit industrial complex, and were worried at least as much about raising enough money to pay for annual raises as we were about providing services to our clients. Our messages were empty, and pathologizing, and hadn’t kept pace with the times and the communities.

Still, every year on December 1st I wear red, and think of those who have passed, and remember finding my way to a community that felt like home. Though I don’t live there anymore, I wouldn’t be who I am now without it. This year’s theme is “Universal Access & Human Rights”, which I hope will be more than empty feel-good words. Tonight I’ll light my candle and be glad for the people who are in and have passed through my life. And I’ll feel lucky tomorrow when I return to my regular life and thoughts.

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