Today is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and I must say that for me, this day is about more than awareness…it is a day of knowledge…it is a day of remembrance. As a man of color in the LGBT community, I must say that HIV/AIDS, unfortunately, is constantly marketed to us. We see advertisements for HIV/AIDS medications at every commercial break. The media tells us to “Get Tested,” “Know Your Status,” and other slogans of power. However, I see this day as a day not to remember the disease, but one to remember the strong men and women of color who have been fighting through not only the disease, but the stigma behind it, as well.
The stereotypes associated with being HIV-positive, are engraved in our society. If you have HIV, the stigma is that you were sleeping around without protection with no care in the world. We forget about those who are BORN with HIV or those who were victims of adultery and drugs or medical carelessness during blood transfusions. Whatever the case of contraction, the men and women of color who have been burdened by this stigmatized virus are warriors.
This day reminds me of the men and women who use this burden to become the many members of powerful movements for the black community. They open their own businesses. They become actors, dancers, spoken word artists, musicians, and more, and they demand peace and love rather than hopelessness and victimization. The virus has become motivation to take care of themselves in the way that not only HIV-positive people should but in the way that we all should.
So on this day, I implore you to not just think of it as a day of mourning or a day of remembering the worst. HIV/AIDS is not the end; it is the beginning to take your life to the next level. It is that wake up call to let you know that it is time to see your worth.