The Gay Plague

Debunking the gay disease myth

By Angela Hu

Rough anal sex without condoms, sexual escapades in bathroom stalls with strangers, unsterilized needles shared among the masses—gay men have long shouldered the burden of the AIDS stereotype.

AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, once known as the “gay plague,” became an omnipresent grim reaper in the 80s and 90s. America denounced gay men for their supposed “loose homosexual” lifestyles, often described as those who fucked bareback and passed heroin needles like mashed potatoes at a family dinner. Wake up, America: AIDS is not over.

Onondaga County experienced a recent surge of HIV/AIDS cases among young men under the age of 25. The state Health Department reported 914 cases of HIV/AIDS and an average of 47 new HIV cases each year in the Syracuse area since 2007.

When AIDS pirouetted onto the scene in full flamboyance, over-the-top Evangelicals wagged their fingers and praised the Lord for punishing these men with an infection that brought them to a slow, agonizing, and embarrassing death. The plague, charging full-throttle with its rainbow-encrusted devil horns, targeted one fairy after another until AIDS became synonymous with promiscuous gay men and unprotected sex.

But that was the 80s, when Madonna was barely a virgin and the Detroit Pistons were relevant. In 2010, whether you identify as gay or straight, white or black, Asian or Latino, old or young, male or female, rich or poor—nobody escapes the effects of AIDS. Contrary to popular belief, the AIDS epidemic isn’t only limited to the gay community; this so-called “gay plague” knows no gender, race, or class.

In the last 20 years, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the total number of AIDS cases rose to a staggering 988,376 people. And out of those 988,376, only half identify as gay men. The rest are drug users, blood transfusions gone wrong, and—oh yeah, straight cock-vagina fucking heterosexual couples.

In the great U.S. of A., where we still lack that inconsequential thing called universal health care, about 50 percent of heterosexuals contribute to the annual rise of the HIV and AIDS count, and over 1.1 million people live with HIV and/or AIDS. Within that pool, an estimated 21 percent have no idea that they currently have the disease.

Globally, an estimated 33.4 million people currently live with HIV/AIDS. Due to poverty and a lack of education, Sub-Saharan Africa dominates the AIDS statistic: 22.4 million adults and children have AIDS, 1.9 million of them newly infected.

Get a fucking clue: AIDS no longer means the “gay disease.” The social stigma attached to HIV and AIDS was only part of a political agenda pushed forward by ultra-Christian conservatives who couldn’t fathom that two men can actually have a real, meaningful relationship.

It’s a sad realization that even in 2010, AIDS is still taboo. Ever heard of Magic Johnson? Lakers point guard, NBA MVP, and—wait for it—AIDS activist. The all-star basketball player contracted HIV not because he secretly sat in the closet, but because he practiced the age-old sports tradition of sleeping with hoards of straight women.

But Johnson is an exception to the AIDS equation. As a multi-millionaire with a famous face, this former MVP can afford the best treatment to combat his disease. Unlike the rest of America and most of Sub-Saharan Africa, Johnson doesn’t have to worry about the cost of effective medication.

For a society that prides itself on being open and diverse, we sure put a lot of emphasis on punishing AIDS victims. Regardless of their situation, it’s not our place to say they should have known better. False education and gossip foster destructive AIDS stereotypes.

Just like any other epidemic and disease, we need to push for proper AIDS education, not shy away from it. By associating AIDS with the gay community, we neglect an entire population of AIDS victims. The stigma associated with AIDS forces activists to feel ashamed of their cause. Placing unnecessary blame on gay men may be the convenient and easy route, but it’s certainly not the right one.

Newsflash, America: it’s more than cock. It’s all of us.

Illustration by Tate Chow

Read other Bitch articles here.