Broadway actor Kate Shindle–from legally blonde, cabaret, wonderland–who used her year as Miss America for aggressive HIV/AIDS prevention and activism, sent a statement to read on the radio program “Being Positive About Being HIV+”
“It’s incredibly disappointing that in 2013, we have the two worst elements of the HIV/AIDS epidemic–complacency and stigma–rearing their heads in unison. In the early days of AIDS, when no one knew what the disease was or how to prevent it, the stigma was at least understandable. But now, we have mostly effective treatments for the vast majority of people living with HIV/AIDS here in the United States, and since a cure is probably a long way off, the best we can do is to understand the disease and try to eradicate it. If our politicians and educators would step up to the plate, abandon the ineffective and dangerous “abstinence-only” approach to health education, and adopt more reliable and proven age-appropriate methods, we could stop HIV in its tracks. But because the most-affected communities are the poor, the uneducated, and minority communities, most of the rich white men in Washington DC don’t think this is a clear and present danger. It is. Worldwide, AIDS has devastated entire nations, leaving a generation of orphans in sub-Saharan Africa.
As for the stigma, we would all do well to remember the basics: you don’t get HIV from basic physical contact or proximity. We’ve always had to fight the idea that AIDS spreads like the flu; it simply isn’t true. But in addition, people seem to forget that the AIDS movement established a template for organized, passionate activism. It launched an entirely new way of advocating for public health and safety; it was the campaign that launched a thousand colored ribbons, fundraising walks, and statements about ‘the power of one’.
Right now, I’m heading up all of the AIDS content for the Global Action Forum, a conference dedicated to, among other things, putting HIV/AIDS back on the cultural radar. Find me on twitter, and follow the Global Action Forum for more information. We are not done.”