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AIDS Not Restricted by Race, Class or Sexual Orientation

TO THE EDITORS

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

In reference to Christopher McFadden's opinion piece, "Quilts and the Moral Fabric," Oct. 17: Let's get to the point. AIDS-related sicknesses have taken the lives of more than 25 million people worldwide since its appearance in the early 1980s. Approximately 50 people--straight, gay, lesbian, transgender/sexual, poor, rich, white latina/o, black, Asian, Native American U.S. and foreign-born--will be injected or diagnosed with HIV today. AIDS is not to be belittled or mocked. It is a disease which touches many if not all of our lives; it takes many of our lives.

Ignoring this fact, ignoring the AIDS realities and stigmatizing HIV-positive individuals is a form of genocide. No, this is not genocide like is Bosnia or World War II Germany: That would imply that there is someone to blame. When we ignore the reality and place blame, we are killing ourselves. It is but a question of power. Those in power, primarily on Capitol Hill, have over the past two years made proposals to cut funding for AIDS research and prevention. Yes, there are more medications on the market today, but that does not mean we have found the cure. And, until we do find a cure, our "brethren" and our sisters will be living with HIV and related sicknesses, and yes we, including students at Harvard-Radcliffe, will be at risk. Proposals which make it difficult to talk about AIDS make it impossible to deal with the reality of AIDS.

Many of those who stigmatize HIV-positive persons are quick to judge them and blame their behavior and identities. This attitude goes back to the early days of the AIDS pandemic when it was labeled "gay cancer". Although initially, AIDS was mostly seen in the gay men's community, it is not and never was a "gay cancer": It has affected people from all sectors of society.

We must turn our focus away from blaming those who are HIV-positive; in doing so, we confuse their sickness with their humanity. AIDS has everything to do with sex and blood, and nothing to do with sexuality, race or class. What does it matter how we contract AIDS if we are living with the fear of dying?

I found McFadden's opinion not only stigmatizing of those of us who are HIV-positive here at Harvard and elsewhere, but also racist, classist and clearly homophobic. He suggested that any sexual orientation other than "straight" is immoral and abnormal, when he has not even bothered to question the internal and external battles which bisexuals, lesbians, gays, transgenders and straight activits fought in the mid-1980s, without which we wouldn't be this far in AIDS research. Nobody has a "right" to judge our identities, just as no one has a "right" to refuse further research into AIDS prevention: Being queer, black, poor or foreign-born is not a privilege. If there is one thing McFadden should know about, it is to get it straight: While there is one person stigmatized and/or infected, all of us are at risk. And one more thing: I hope you're heard my silence. --Ana Lara '97

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