By Nancy Asha Molock, Co-Chair, PWN-USA-Philadelphia
“HIV is preventable” … there is something about that saying that just doesn’t sit well with me. Sometimes I would read it on HIV/AIDS informational pamphlets and I just couldn’t figure out why it bothered me so much, until having a conversation with other HIV-positive people. The consensus was that by saying “HIV is preventable,” it makes some HIV-positive people feel guilty about being infected. It’s like someone pointing a finger at you saying: ”You could have prevented this from happening to you.”
I feel that notion alleviates responsibility from the government and places it squarely on the shoulders of the people. Yes, HIV may be preventable — in a perfect world without poverty, homelessness, mental illness, unemployment, domestic violence and drug and alcohol addiction, all of which can make people susceptible to becoming HIV positive. When there is economic justice for women to get equal pay for equal work, HIV may be preventable. Like one positive woman put it: “Then a sister won’t have to do something strange for some change, just to feed her family.”
In a perfect world without HIV stigma and discrimination — where people are not afraid to openly discuss HIV/AIDS, people always practice safer sex each and every time they have sex, and women know about female condoms to use for that partner that just refuses to wear protection –then HIV may be preventable. What would be even more perfect is if more time and money were put into the research and clinical trials for the anti-microbial vaginal gel that blocks the HIV virus. The gel would empower women to control their own sexual health and could put a dent in the epidemic globally by cutting infection rates for women. Now, that would really help to make HIV preventable!
In a perfect world, AIDS service organizations across the nation wouldn’t be closing, or having to scramble for money to provide education and treatment, because of funding cuts. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett alone cut HIV/AIDS funding by more than $4 million in this state. in over three years, how can that action contribute to making HIV preventable?
So, until some serious attention is paid to addressing the social ills that put people at risk for HIV, until more money is poured into research and HIV/AIDS funding cuts are restored, I say “cease and desist” with the saying “HIV is preventable.” Because realistically it isn’t, until everyone (the government and the people) does their part in HIV prevention.
I was in Washington, D.C., April 27-29, for AIDSWatch to lobby on Capitol Hill with other HIV-positive advocates from many states and U.S. territories. Our mission was to educate our U.S. senators and Congressional representatives and their staffs about HIV/AIDS. We told our personal stories and put a human face to the HIV epidemic with the hopes that our attempts will parlay into more HIV/AIDS funding. We are just trying to play a small part in making this a perfect world where HIV could possibly be preventable.
Nancy Asha Molock serves as Co-Chair of PWN-USA-Philadelphia. In her own words: “I am 63 years young, a retired school teacher, mother of two wonderful children and very active in my community. I love to swim, play drums, sekere and work out. I practice Tai Chi, yoga and meditation and eat a plant-based diet (vegan/vegetarian). Let’s see … did I leave anything out? Oh yea: I’m HIV positive and have been for over 11 years. I like to put things in that order because I am much more than my HIV status.”