When I started blogging, I didn’t know anyone like me online and only a couple offline. I didn’t even start using AIDSmeds yet. Now I know there are so many people like me. I knew there were 65 million of us, I just didn’t know any of us. I knew the names of some celebrities who died of AIDS – most recently, in Israel, Ofra Haza, a very famous singer who died secretly in her home and I am not even sure how the press got a hold of the fact that she was positive. I don’t know if she died from neglecting the disease so much and not seeking help until it was too late, and unprofessional help at that (because money will buy you the best medical attention but also the worst neglect and coverup if you seek that). Not long after her death her husband killed himself by overdosing on cocaine and running on a treadmill. His heart exploded. His family refused to make the autopsy results public, to reveal whether he was positive or not.
Haza always had a public image of someone who was immaculate, virginal, pure. Unlike most successful female singers nowadays, she never exploited her sexuality. The public image of her husband was of this rough man who was involved in shady business operations abroad (and yeah, to look at him, he is certainly not someone I’d go to bed with, condom or no; that is not to say I haven't done that with equally scary people), someone who has kidnapped the virginal 40 year old singer into a dark world of contamination. This is pretty much the image of HIV/AIDS in Israel to this day. Something that happens because you meet the wrong people, get involved with the wrong things. Something which corrupts you, a manifestation of your corruption if you will. I don’t think this image changed any in the years since Haza’s death.
In Israel there is always a sense of “not now”. Of course there is no time, resources, capacity, to do something about HIV/AIDS. Do you really think a country fighting to survive (insert crisis of the week:) terrorism, war, economic collapse, immigration waves, corruption, violence, social chasms, environmental emergencies or just plain making it safely back from work on the asphalt jungle has time on its agenda for a few/a hundred/a thousand/four thousand/and counting citizens who chose to have unprotected sex? And cost the government so much? They should take their drugs (however harsh they might be, they should be grateful for anything they can get their hands on, even if it’s rat poison) and sit quietly until they die. No, they should work, because my tax money shouldn’t cover those who don’t cover their asses. But wait, I don’t want them working in my office/in my son’s school/as my hairdresser. No, the best thing is if they go away. I don’t want to read about them in the paper when I am having breakfast in the 10 minutes I have before running to the nearest traffic jam. I don’t want to think about anal gay sex when I’m relaxing with my paper. OK not just anal, anyway I don’t want to think about it. Whatever happens in women’s genitals is best left undiscussed. Yes I know some guys get it too, the ones who went to massage parlors in Thailand or visit the Russians here. Well they deserve it. They shouldn’t go there in the first place and they should cover it up if they do, I don’t have to pay for the results of their stupid actions. Let me just mind my business. And I don’t want my kids thinking about these things either. Sure I want them to use condoms when they have sex (when they are much older of course), just like I don’t want them to smoke and drink, but I don’t want me or my kids to pay for the sexual mistakes of others, and I although I don’t exactly wish them death and don’t mind that they get some treatments to make their life last longer, I don’t want to know anything about it. We understood that in the 80s you didn’t know but now is the 21st century and it’s your fault for getting into this situation, so don’t bother us with that anymore.
Yes, I think that pretty much sums up public opinion in Israel. That is the mainstream, moderate, educated, pretty liberal opinion, because there are a lot of people who would just let us die if they had control over the budget, and devote the money instead to breeding a special kind of red cow to be sacrificed in the third temple or something equally functional. I think in 2015 (or is it 2025) these folks will be the majority, Israel will be Back in Black.
So I’m not writing about my life today, OK? I am writing about other people, them who got the bug before me, them who even got it after me. They are blonde, dark, tall, short, thin, fat, middle age, young, fat, educated, windowed, sex-crazy, celibate, gay, hetero, bi, American, Norwegian, Mexican, Chinese, Israeli, Yemeni, Surinamese, Dutch, British, Canadian, Cameroonian, Zimbabwean, South African, rich, welfare dependent, former prostitute, maternal, active, pretty, ravaged - I could go on and on, but tried not to include only the characteristics of the people who I consider friends, who also have HIV. At one point in time HIV entered our organism and determined not just a life of drug dependency (if we’re lucky) and a further degree of social seclusion, it also determined that we would meet each other and care about each other. Just this little piece of DNA. So now I can sit at home and read about this topic, which has become the most important one for me, and I am still struggling with that because I know that there are so many other things to deal with in this life, and so many beautiful distractions. Is HIV on my own agenda? Not always, so I can’t really blame Mr Newspaper. He has a lot on his plate. Kids to get to school, taxes to pay, a demanding boss. Can I ask him for more than he had already give? Can I ask him to care? Do I have to compete with cancer patients, abused children, disenfranchised workers to get into his mind, can I stop being a Topic and start being a Person? Only if I make HIV a dinner topic I s'pose. Can I do that? Can I get over my fear of seclusion and work towards inclusion? Or do I only care about my positive peers now? Am I a 100% HIV because I live with it? Or can I be divided, and will this division turn into a pretence that will turn into a deeper form of shame?
I guess I will keep asking, and read what others have to say, and be a part of that:
International Carnival of Positivities 17 – big thank you to Ron Hudson who does this wonderful work of putting isolated HIV writers out there in all their diversity… and relate us to each other.