Some Curmudgeonly Thoughts on World AIDS Day

You know you work at a university when all of the “save the world” events happen a day early. World AIDS Day is today, but all of the related events by activists here were held yesterday. Apparently saving the world from AIDS is important, but you’ve got to fit in raising awareness before the students start their alcohol rituals beginning Thursday night.

Also I have to confess I’m getting annoyed with the “break the silence” and “raise awareness” angles. For example, actor Danny Glover told the Associated Press that, “If I am disappointed with a tape, we shoot it again. But with AIDS, the movie’s over. It’s up to you and me to break the silence.”

Break the silence? Maybe in South Africa or Zimbabwe, but in the United States you can’t avoid AIDS awareness — if I walk a mile on campus I’m sure to see at least 5 or 6 different AIDS-related posters.

Finally, it is interesting to see that today moderate conservative claims that were so controversial in the 1980s have become mainstream. The United Nations AIDS Agency put out a press release saying,

Broadly speaking, men are expected to be physically strong, emotionally robust, daring and virile. Some of these expectations translate into ways of thinking and behaving that endanger the health and well-being of men and their sex partners.

This seems like a veiled way of saying, “Stop having so many different sex partners, you morons.” When some conservatives in the 1980s tried to suggest that maybe gay men should act more responsibly by limiting the number of sex partners, the idea was pilloried as a right wing attack on everything good about life.

Part of the difference is that in Africa AIDS is largely a heterosexual disease, so the attack on reckless promiscuity is no longer directed solely at homosexuals. Still, those who criticized monogamy as repressive or conversely celebrated casual sex with multiple partners as liberating were dead wrong.

Leave a Reply