Usually in Britain, people associate wearing a red accessory to show support with poppies; however, there is another important red demonstration of support, and for an extremely important cause: the red ribbon for the World AIDS Day.
Far more than an accessory, the red ribbon is a bold and bright symbol of a subject that has travelled through different stages of taboo, and had various forms of stigma and social meanings attached to it.
More than 90,000 people are currently living with HIV in the UK and globally an estimated 33.3 million people have HIV. More than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. (taken from the world AIDS day website)
It is extremely important to remember that although AIDS is associated in the public consciousness with gay men (mostly because of the risks associated with anal sex, and the initial spread of the virus in the gay communities), straight people are not immune.
It is also important to know that what you see on your computer screen is not real life: straight porn rarely uses condoms; gay porn has its ever-growing genre of bareback sex, forcing the gay culture to take a massive leap back, and re-interpret sex, semen, and eventually AIDS. It is alarming to think that a lot of people now comment on pornographic sites against the use of safe-sex scenes, and encourage the use of bareback sex. It is also genuinely buffing to think of the new branches that exist of the pro-AIDS communities.
There are people considering it a gift; arranging sex parties so that they can contract the virus; or even worst, people advocating that AIDS does not exist, is a lie, and that people should go on about having unprotected sex. I am not including any links for these groups, as I do not wish to promote their ideas or websites. I will not judge these people, because it is not my place to do so. I will however urge you to know better, and act better.
When someone tells you that it is not the same with a condom, then tell them ‘tough luck’; if they claim their penis is too big for a condom, tell them to contact the Guinness book of World Records, because the XL condoms that you can get at the convenience store can fit your weekly shopping; and if they say that you can skip it just this time, remember that it can be the time that you might regret for the rest of your life. Also, without wanting to sound like I am preaching, if you are in a relationship, remember that you are not only responsible for your health, but also the health of your partner. I am not judging the morals of cheating, but the practicalities: if you are going to have sex with another person, use a condom.
Having said all this, it is very important to know that AIDS is not the end of the world. If someone is infected, they can lead a rich and happy life, and with the advances of modern medicine live with it as a chronic condition.
You can have friends or a partner that is infected, and have an absolutely lovely relationship with them. HIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensils, and certainly not through the air, hugging, kissing, or sharing the same room. There are a lot of couples that live with one person having AIDS, and having protected sex and a full life together.
There are columnists (like Stefan Kyriazis), magazines (Attitude is an amazing example, with a great feature on the ‘We Were Here’ film in this month’s issue, and an editor that is really passionate about promoting the issue) and organisations (like the Terence Higgins Trust) that offer exposure, support, and vital information on all aspects of AIDS.
If you or a person you know is affected by AIDS, know that there are a lot of people that are standing by you, and are wearing their red ribbon to demonstrate their love. Until there will be a day when it is not needed, let’s make the 1st of December a sea of red support.