The recent phenomena in America which saw a baby girl “functionally cured” of HIV prompts the question: Will we ever dispose of the atrocious stigma attached to AIDS?
A two year old girl from Mississippi who was infected with HIV from birth has been cured of the disease after presenting with no signs of the infection following early treatment.
The child was taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Centre just 30 hours post-birth and given a generic concoction of HIV-fighting drugs. She received regular treatment for approximately 18 months; however this treatment was stalled by the mother’s concerns about the treatment. When treatment was resumed, blood tests quickly revealed that the baby girl seemed to have been cured of the potentially deadly infection.
This discovery seems to have been somewhat underplayed by the media, perhaps, in part due to the ambiguous content; one child’s survival of HIV cannot even dream to be representative of the survival of HIV/AIDS sufferers all over the world. Despite this, the exceptional concept that within 30 years of the AIDS epidemic embedding itself as a worldwide excuse to incomprehensible prejudice toward the homosexual community, there is hope and above all medical evidence that sufferers could be cured.
But is there any substance in this? The ideal abstraction that HIV sufferers all over the world have the potential to be cured? Sub-Saharan Africa is populated with two thirds of the total HIV infected population, of these, a large proportion have left orphaned children as a result of the savage consequences of HIV and AIDS. It is surely an unrealistic ideal that the level of care and medical finance required would be pumped into the harrowingly large population of HIV sufferers. This darkens the door of humility, and the ugly question that we ask again, and again: if we can afford it, why do we not?
Is it unforeseeable that the curative treatment of HIV would be even more scarcely funded than other charities that are by far more popular? For a start, main contributors to charity such as the US are devoutly religious. Among some religious sectors, it is still widely believed that AIDS was sent by God to wipe out the homosexual population.
The social stigma attached to HIV and AIDS exists on an international level; whether one child will prove to be a lifeline or not to millions of sufferers is yet to be seen. However the psychological and social damage done to the gay community over past decades will never be undone. The AIDS epidemic signposted a revolution which saw homosexuals accused of offences ranging from deliberate infection of others, to paedophilia- more often than not, these allegations were false. It soon became clear as the disease got undertow that homophobic people who were perhaps both scared of the unknown and inexplicably cruel for the sake of it, thrived in a society in which gay people were tortured in every aspect of their private lives.
The 1993 big-budget film Philadelphia which starred Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas exemplified one of the scariest consequences of the HIV and AIDS stigma; that of a legal nature. The film depicts a successful law associate who also happens to be a gay man with the AIDS virus. The film sees Hanks becoming more unwell throughout; as he faces a legal battle with the most successful law firm in Philadelphia which fires him as the specifics of his illness becomes visible. Hanks argues that his dismissal is due to prejudice surrounding his disease, whereas the law firm argues that he became ineffective in his work. The twenty-six million dollar film concludes with Hanks winning his legal fight, and passing away peacefully with his partner by his side. The film was inspired by the story of Geoffrey Bowers, who experienced similar events in his own life, following dismissal from Baker & McKenzie law firm-reflecting the reality that was widespread across the world.
Following the undeniable atrocities of the 1980s, a more recent case of homophobia studies a gay fourteen year old boy from Tennessee named Phillip Parker was found dead in January 2012. He is said to have committed suicide due to extreme homophobic bullying. His father said only that; “That’s my son. I love him. I miss him. He shouldn’t have had to kill himself to be brought to life”.
This harrowing tragedy occurred little over a year ago. It is perhaps hauntingly true that the line between homophobia due to sexual orientation and homophobia due to AIDS is irrevocably blurred; and that is the strongest and most critical reason to continue the fight against homophobia and prejudice.