Students Against the Spread of HIV/AIDS, or SASHA, is embarking on a vigorous campaign to spread awareness about the seriousness and prevalence of HIV.
Over the past couple of weeks, SASHA has distributed pamphlets and fliers laden with information on HIV, other STD’s and their prevention. While most of the data was rehashed from the Florida Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control, its delivery to a campus in which HIV affects 13 percent of the student body is to be commended.
It was, however, the manner in which the information on HIV and STD’s was delivered that leaves one to question the competence and the intent of SASHA’s campaign.
Representatives of SASHA, some of them paid, gave presentations in several classrooms last week. Assuming they were all rehearsed, and therefore given in a homogenous fashion, these presentations were poorly prepared.
Before readers divert attention to another page, this is not a futile attack on SASHA’s workers. And due credit is given to those brave enough to present information on such a taboo subject. But the presentations that were given were filled with one lamentable inaccuracy on HIV and AIDS – the one we call the gay factor.
As it pertains to its origins, SASHA workers pointed to gay white men as the first human carriers of HIV. True, a large number of HIV cases were attributed to gay white men in San Francisco’s Castro District, New York’s Village District, and several other gay communities in large cities nationwide.
But this was during a period when details of the disease were still unknown in the medical world.
Toward the late 1980‘s, America was forced to deal with the fact that HIV was not an exclusively homosexual virus. It was then discovered that the first carriers of HIV, as reported by the CDC in 1982, were 355 intravenous drug users; all of whom identified as heterosexual.
This is where the politics of misinformation come into play. The sort of argumentum ad populum, in which SASHA chose to distribute this information is the very reason why so many in heterosexuals in the black community are being overcome by this virus. The notion that HIV is a gay virus leaves many heterosexuals secure in their sexuality, believing they are immune to the disease.
It may well not have been the intent of SASHA to perpetuate the idea that HIV affects gays only.
But, thanks to the SASHA’s shoddy research on the matter, this gross misinterpretation will be ingrained in the minds of an already misinformed student body.