There are many reasons gay men are so strongly associated with stigma of HIV. Some have to do with tired stereotypes, making it so easy to hide one’s status. Despite the focus on stigmatizing the image of HIV, can the stigma of HIV be used to create a safe space to express our sexuality as well? For far too long the impulse has persisted that HIV is a punishment for how we have sex and it doesn’t make sense. When are we going to admit that HIV is not the inevitably linked to sex and sexuality?
When this energy visibly attacked the body and blindly targeted gay men, it seems to also visibly attacked and blindly targeted our compassion as well. But because the body cannot hide it forever, it became the vessel for a kind of physical truth. Those who live with AIDS mentally wear the effects of the disease like animals at the zoo. Showcasing how we are as a community that continues to face impending death with an insistence on demonstrating separation.
Although death hovers over us, what can we offer as a soothing antidote? I dare say that it doesn’t have to be pretty. Anger, desperation, and the despair are the foundations we stand on. Aren’t you tired of stigmatizing persons because of this disease? Aren’t you tired of this energy being the social and moral statement of our community? In recent years, I feel more optimistic about community, but the stigma of HIV still lingers. The act sex, which has long been a refuge for the gay community, as well as a constant reminder of our communal trauma, forces us to see how we sold each other out. This theater production continues to sell out, with the audience populated by ghost of stigma’s past. Isn’t it time to close the curtain on stigma, HIV and the gay community?