Love Really Is The Cure: A Review of Elton John's New Book
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As global citizens, we exist both independently and interdependently, relying on the judgment of others to ensure that laws and policy accommodate our needs. The particularities of policy in cultures and communities the world over is, of course, flavored by schemas and frameworks that are historically specific to a given region. What is taboo in one space may be commonplace in another—but popularity of framework shouldn't be mistaken for the resolution and addressing of stigma. When stigmas inform political agendas that serve to maintain white patriarchal capitalist systems, marginalized populations are often disproportionately impacted by such policy and governance. It is no coincidence then that the stigma of HIV/AIDS has not only perpetuated the rates of transmission, but has oppressed global populations and demographics most affected by the illness.
This is the argument of Love is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS, ( Little, Brown and Company; 2012) Elton John’s latest book that pleads for global action in helping to end the AIDS crisis. Infection rates continue to climb, he writes, because of the twin swords of stigma associated with the HIV/AIDS and the general public's lack of compassion for people living with it.
[Source: Hachette Book Group/ http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/elton-john/love-is-the-cure/9780...
Doctors first identified HIV almost three decades ago. Why did global governments and policy remain unmoved during the searing onset of the AIDS crisis? John writes in his book that such structural inertia resulted from stigma; he writes about the early 1980s, when epidemiologists first identified HIV/AIDS as the “4H disease” due to its prevalence in “homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin users and Haitians.” Known initially as the "gay men's disease" —and to the press as "GRID", or gay-related immune deficiency —the perfect storm of rapid HIV transmission, closely trailed by the fatal onset of seroconversion to AIDS, and stigma against homosexuality translated into global government inaction and death. It took the diagnosis and eventual death of high profile figures like actor Rock Hudson and Ryan White, an HIV-positive boy with hemophilia, for the US government to pay attention.
It wasn’t until 1988 that Congress allocated federal money through the HOPE Act towards AIDS education, prevention and treatment and —one year later —developed the National Commission on AIDS. HIV had been on the CDC’s radar since 1982 but as transmission rates were highest among ostracized populations seen as threatening to values held dear by the historically dominant white heteronormative majority, less attention (and compassion) was lent towards acknowledging the proliferation of a major public health crisis.
Since the 1980s, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) has pursued efforts to combat the stigma and transmission of HIV/AIDS. EJAF runs major operations in the United States and the United Kingdom, and mobilized resources in regions of the world with high infection rates such as Malawi, South Africa, Ukraine and Haiti. The stigma associated with homosexuality and rape, while prominent here at home, disproportionately affects access to health care in these countries and creates barriers to HIV/AIDS education, treatment and prevention.
The end result of those barriers paint a grim picture here in the United States. In rural Louisiana, a recent increase in infection and diagnostic rates in African Americans was reported by the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI). In their report, we learn that African Americans in Louisiana accounted for "76% of newly diagnosed HIV cases and 76% of newly diagnosed AIDS" as of 2009.
Interventions do exist, and change can happen with community-based responses. The Southwest Louisiana AIDS Council (SLAC), a grassroots organization and EJAF grantee, has been working to help HIV/AIDS patients in rural Louisiana for over a quarter century, and is led by Executive Director Terry L. Estes. By using a navigator model, SLAC has been able to successfully provide integrated services to their clinical population, of which 74% are African American.