Though the enormity and complexity of HIV / AIDS is more than one lesson plan can capture, Dana White has provided an in depth primer on the subject. Art by Sarah Epperson.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Terms & Definitions
|AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)||The most advanced stage of HIV infection. A person with HIV must have an AIDS-defining condition or have a CD4 count less than 200 cells/mm3 (regardless of whether the person has an AIDS-defining condition) to be diagnosed. There is a severe loss of the body's immunity, significantly reducing its resistance to infection.|
|ART (antiretroviral treatment)||A combination of drugs prescribed to treat and suppress HIV in the body, helping individuals achieve an “undetectable” viral load.|
|HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)||The virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, if not treated or treated improperly. HIV is a chronic condition. HIV is spread mainly by having sex or sharing injection drug tools, such as needles, with someone who is HIV-positive.|
|HIV Criminalization||Laws and attitudes within the justice system penalizing HIV transmission, with the burden of disclosure and prevention oftentimes falling solely on the person first carrying the virus, even when the risk of transmission is negligible.|
|PEP (Post-exposure Prophylaxis)||A course of antiretroviral medications (typically three of them) prescribed within 72 hours after a recent possible HIV exposure, to prevent transmission.|
|PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis)||An antiviral medication prescribed to prevent HIV infection in people who are at risk, most commonly Truvada. PrEP is for continued, monitored use as long as the prescribed individual feels at risk.|
|Stigma||Shame, negative attitudes, negative judgements, or disgrace associated with a person, condition, quality, or circumstance. HIV stigma is the pervasive shame, disgrace attributed to the virus and to those who are living with the virus, often resulting in discrimination and criminalization.|
|Undetectable||An HIV-positive person is said to have an “undetectable viral load, when fewer than 50 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood (<50 copies/mL) are detected by lab test. Reaching an undetectable viral load is a key goal of prescribed antiretroviral therapy (ART) and makes HIV untransmittable.|
|Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U equals U)||Based on scientific evidence, if an HIV-positive person is on HIV meds with a consistently undetectable HIV viral load, the HIV virus cannot be transmitted to a sex partner. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that, "People who take ART daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner."|
From its’ recklessly publicized American onset in the early 1980s, Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID), which would come to be more accurately known as HIV/AIDS, was associated with life choices and sexuality seen as deviant. It’s this framing of the virus and who it impacts that would eventually veil the truth of its reach. Though it has primarily and most significantly impacted gay communities and injection drug users, particularly Black people and POC, over the years we’ve seen the virus touch the lives of people of all races, genders, sexualities, and from all walks of life. HIV/AIDS is an indiscriminate virus that has changed the way we think about sex. The whole concept and marketing of “safe sex” was, in fact, borne of the AIDS crisis.
For well over 30 years, HIV/AIDS has remained one of the most stigmatized public health concerns. As treatment and prevention tools have advanced, completely changing the trajectory and life expectancy of those living with the virus as well as reducing risk for others, HIV stigma persists.
Best practices for talking about HIV/AIDS
When speaking about HIV/AIDS or about people living with the virus, stigma is often unintentionally reinforced or perpetuated. Ending stigma and ending the epidemic begins with how we discuss it. Below is some guidance for affirming and appropriate communication about HIV/AIDS and those affected.
|Say This!||Not That...|
“I don’t have HIV.”
“I’m not sick.”
|“They are living with HIV,”|
*Never disclose someone’s HIV status without their consent.
|"They have AIDS,"
And never, “They’re dying.”
|“They use condoms during sex,”|
“They have condomless sex.”
|“They have safe sex.”
“They have risky (unsafe) sex.”
How to get involved
For more information about how you can join the movement forward in fighting both the stigma and spread of HIV/AIDS, the following organizations and campaigns are a great place for allies to start:
|Organization & Website||Mission|
the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power — a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals, united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis.
|AIDS Healthcare Foundation|
a global nonprofit organization providing cutting-edge medicine and advocacy to over 910,000 people in 39 countries. Currently the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the U.S.
|Black AIDS Institute|
|a non-profit charitable organization founded in 1999 by Phill Wilson to promote awareness and prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS by focusing on African American communities.|
|Center for HIV Law & Policy|
a national legal and policy resource and strategy center in the United States working to reduce the impact of HIV on vulnerable and marginalized communities and to secure the human rights of people affected by HIV.
|Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation|
|a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing pediatric HIV infection and eliminating pediatric AIDS through research, advocacy, and prevention and treatment programs. Founded in 1988, the organization works in 12 countries around the world.|
Greater than AIDS (Kaiser Family Foundation
|through targeted media messages and community outreach, Greater Than AIDS and its partners work to increase knowledge and understanding of HIV/AIDS and confront the stigma surrounding the disease, while promoting actions to stem its spread.|
|International AIDS Society|
an association of HIV professionals, with 11,035 members from more than 160 countries working at all levels of the global HIV response.
|National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC)|
a nonprofit organization located in Washington, D.C., leading with race to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV epidemic in America.
|United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS)|
the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Take the discussion of HIV and its stigma into your personal network or into your local community. Until there’s a cure, we are all facing this epidemic together. Poets, playwrights, directors and other creatives have documented the history and current complex lived realities of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Many of them lost their personal battles with the virus. From the groundbreaking poetry in Ceremonies by the late Essex Hemphill to the present-day television series POSE, or the Broadway revival of Angels in America, these works can be used to guide impactful conversations with your peers, colleagues, or neighbors. Here is a short list of recommendations:
In the Life, Joseph Beam (1986)
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1980–85), Randy Schiltz (1987)
Ceremonies, Essex Hemphill (1993)
Reports from the Holocaust: The Story of an AIDS Activist, Larry Kramer (1994)
The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer (1985)
Angels in America, Tony Kushner (1991)
RENT, Jonathan Larson (1996)
Angels in America, HBO (2003)
The Normal Heart, HBO (2014)
POSE, FX (2018 – ongoing)
Philadelphia, Jonathan Demme (1993)
RENT, Chris Columbus (2005)
How to Survive a Plague, David France (2012)
Meet the Contributor
Dana Vivian White is an Afro-Latinx, HIV-positive, non-binary writer and speaker living in Washington, D.C. They’ve provided keynotes at Wesleyan University, the 2017 Northeast Queer Trans People of Color Conference at Princeton, as well as a TEDx talk at the University of Maryland. Additionally, White has published poems with Vetch Journal, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Lambda Literary.