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Brainstorm: I am HIV-POSITIVE campaign.

November 17, 2009

Last week, I wrote about the WHO study that HIV and AIDS is now the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age and unsafe sex is the leading risk factor for death for women and how the U.S. is very much involved.

I ended the post saying that we need to do something, but offered no solutions. There are in fact, many groups working on this issue, and Changemaker, the organization I intern with in Norway is one of them. Searching through their past campaigns, I found one that really inspired me: Be HIV-POSITIVE. The campaign sought to decrease stigmatization against people with HIV and AIDS by declaring oneself in solidarity with those infected. They even got a Norwegian bishop to declare that he was HIV-Positive.

Stigmatization is an important issue that affects not only the lives of people infected, but also the policies toward treatment and prevention because of the moralizing that surrounds the disease. In a campaign on campus, I want to include this aspect of fighting stigmatization, but add a component of urgency around the issue. I thought people could declare themselves HIV-Positive with statements such as: (more ideas welcome)

I am POSITIVE that AIDS is the number one killer of the world’s women.
I am POSITIVE that we need better sexual education globally
I am POSITIVE that HIV/AIDS is a source of injustice in the world
I am POSITIVE that there must be greater access to medicine in the global south
I am POSITIVE that the U.S. must do more to stop the epidemic
I am POSITIVE that we are failing the world’s women

I think that a good visible sign of these statements could be a simple + or HIV+ sign on the cheek. Lipstick would be cool to use – because it’s the right color, but also gives an indication of how HIV/AIDS is a feminist issue. To get mass amounts of people involved on campus, we could stand outside with lipstick and ask people if they want to declare themselves HIV+.

I think if we focused on ONE DAY, where we ask people to have + on their faces and teachers to discuss the epidemic in their classrooms (hopefully with the support of Oden) it could really make a stark impact. I do think, perhaps, that it would be good to designate a full week or so within which students and teachers could look at their syllabi and see when a discussion of gender/health/development aid/access to medicine could fit in.

Of course, information spreading is important, and holding a panel (open to the town) and writing op-eds in as big of newspapers as we can will be really important. It would be great also to somehow get media attention for the action in and of itself – but I’m trying to think of something that would be big and attention grabbing. Perhaps declaring Carleton itself HIV-POSITIVE? Or Oden? Or going for the gold and getting Klobuchar?

Anyone interested??? I’m finally excited to get back to campus, just so I can start.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 6, 2010 12:24 PM

    Hey Becky,

    Just read this. I really, really like the idea of taking an active stance against stigmatization, something that silences so many people (young women, as you mentioned, as well as (queer) men, esp. men of color).

    My only concern is that I’d want to be very careful about how we frame this. I think there might be a way to say we’re “positive” about HIV awareness without saying that those of us who are HIV- are ourselves HIV+. I wouldn’t want to claim I can speak for or represent those people who are HIV+ or those who live with AIDS — only that I want very much to support them.

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