AIDS Should Not Be ‘Right of Passage,’ Harvey Fierstein Says in New York Times Opinion Piece
"In our effort to remove the stigma of having AIDS, have we created a culture of disease?" award-winning actor Harvey Fierstein asks in a New York Times opinion piece. According to Fierstein, four people in the United States contract HIV every hour, and even after "all the effort exerted to convince the world that AIDS is not a gay disease, we now have a generation embracing AIDS as its gay birthright." Fierstein says that many young gay men "see [HIV] infection as a right of passage, an inevitable coming of age ... [an] entree into the cool, queer inner circle that being [HIV-]negative denies them." He says that antiretroviral drug advertising is misleading, providing images of people "living life to the fullest thanks to modern science." But the ads could be offering the "tragic" message that if "[y]ou want to be special ... Get AIDS. HIV equals popularity and acceptance." But the "truth is that AIDS is not fun. It's not sexy or manageable. AIDS is a debilitating, deforming, terminal and incurable disease," Fierstein writes, adding that antiretroviral drugs "can bring on heart, kidney and liver disease, as well as a host of daily discomforts." Fierstein says, "We have done a terrific job removing the stigma of having AIDS. But in doing so we've failed to eliminate the disease." He concludes, "I am calling for us to take back our lives and culture and to stop spreading the virus. I am calling for us to resist the normalization of disease and once again embrace health" (Fierstein, New York Times, 7/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.