Well, we aren’t there yet but put it this way, Saatchi & Saatchi aren’t busting a gut thinking about what rhymes with HIV. As it happens we are currently witnessing the first HIV+ babies who have reached adulthood, as the Guardian reported yesterday: “… the first cohort of teenagers born with HIV shows every sign of rude health. In what must be the most under-celebrated triumph of modern medicine, in the last two years, the oldest survivors of childhood HIV have grown into young adults.”
Thanks to all of this my generation learned that you can’t catch HIV from swimming in the same pool, touching a toilet seat (still wash your hands though) or spit. You could avoid contracting HIV by refraining from sharing needles and unprotected sex. Shamefully, we appear to have forgotten even this rather scant information.
According to the National AIDS Trust it seems we’re pretty thick on the subject of HIV and those Grange Hill script writers were wasting their time. Somehow 1 in 5 adults do not think the disease can be passed on though sex without a condom, yet, yet 10% of adults think HIV can be transmitted through kissing and spitting.
That’s embarrassing. That’s beyond embarrassing. That’s shameful. That’s why some of these young adults, these people doctors didn’t expect to live into their teens let alone adulthood, feel they have to live double lives.
One of the young interviewees in this article commented: "I'm angry about the stigma in society that makes me have to lie about my status…It should be like having a heart disease or high blood pressure. What I want people to know is that we're living normal, healthy lives. We're alive: we were not supposed to be."
The shock tactics of the HIV awareness campaigns of the 1980s may not have helped reduce stigma but an acknowledgement that HIV+ status is no longer the death sentence it once was whilst promoting more education on the subject is desperately required.
There’s no good reason for the discussion opened up 30 odd years ago should have collectively ceased. Wearing a red ribbon come December for World AIDS Day is clearly not enough, this is before we acknowledge that AIDS and HIV should not be referred to interchangeably.
What’s so odd is that it struck me that the conversation was changing for the better in the 1990s. I vividly recall a magazine for teenage girls (Sugar, or perhaps the then racier Mizz) devoting an editor’s letter, double page interview and a page of information to a pair of women who were living healthy lives with HIV+.
It was a symptom of the stigma society has placed on HIV and AIDS that one woman in this interview recalled how her boyfriend had denied his status to her even as he lay in his hospital bed having anti-retroviral drugs pumped into him.
Now these magazines are more attuned to the tween market and music is yet to produce anyone to rival Lisa Left Eye Lopes. Can you imagine Cheryl Cole accessorising with Durex? JLS have their own line of condoms but the UK top 10 is no longer awash with social concerns regarding safe sex or why it’s important.
UK charity Positively UK, which mentors young people with HIV states that: “A major area of concern for people living with HIV remains the stigma associated with HIV. This discrimination takes place within the work, health and general social environment, and can lead to inability to manage HIV medications, depression and an increased risk of suicide.”
The revolution, whilst it might be televised (or at the very least Sky+’d) will probably not be hailed in by the content of the top 10. The top 10 will mirror the revolution. Demand to be informed.