Earlier in the week, Eva Young e-mailed the link to Michelangelo Signorile’s post taking issue with Andrew Sullivan’s Advocate column where that blogger formerly known as a conservative seems to extol the virtues of being HIV-positive.
I have to say that I’m not quite sure what to make of the piece, indeed, find myself agreeing (**GASP**) with some of what Signorile has to say, especially when he asks, “what is the purpose of this column“? I read it through a couple of times and also read BoiFromTroy‘s thoughtful post on the topic — as well as some of the comments to Boi’s post and remain perplexed by Andrew’s intentions.
Andrew talks about how long he has survived with HIV, how he feels better, even suggests that he looks better. We all know that thanks to medicines developed in the mid to late 1990s, people with the virus can live normal, healthy lives. Like Andrew, many who follow the regimen don’t get sick. Yet, for some, the drug regimen doesn’t work. Their health continues to decline and many die. As I understand it, doctors have not yet been able to figure out why the regimen works for some, but not for others.
I once watched a fellow gay alumnus of Williams College take over 60 pills (and that was just his morning regimen). Several months later, I read in the college’s gay and lesbian newsletter that he had died. This man, like countless others, has not been as fortunate as Andrew.
Andrew offers these words from AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein as an epigraph to his piece, “People are in such denial about how serious HIV is. Unfortunately, the best prevention is seeing people die.” Beginning with this comment, Andrew’s column becomes a tongue-in-cheek apology for being alive. By remaining healthy and alive, he’s sorry he’s not doing more to promote prevention. Is Andrew, by his piece, thus also belittling Weinstein’s point? Because Weinstein is right about one thing; people, particularly an increasing number of gay men, are in denial about how serious HIV is.
Since, thankfully, pharmaceutical companies have developed medicines to control AIDS, we no longer see the amount of illness we saw a decade ago. And now, more and more gay men are having unsafe sex. That seems to account for “the first observed increase in AIDS cases diagnosed in Los Angeles County since 1992” as reported by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, given that the increase was seen only among men. Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, Director of Public Health for the County noted, “Although this increase is small, it may well signal an end to the yearly decline in new AIDS cases we have been seeing since 1992.”
AIDS remains a problem. And we still need to stress prevention (an issue which Andrew sidesteps in his column.) We should all be grateful for the treatments which have kept Andrew and so many other HIV-positive individuals alive. We should make clear that people with the virus can — and do — live healthy lives to encourage those already infected to take their medications.
But, we cannot make it appear–as does Andrew’s piece–that HIV is just a walk in the park. That could discourage HIV-negative men from taking precautions. To be sure, as Boi notes, Andrew backtracks a bit in a recent post to his blog, writing, “No, it’s not a good thing to have HIV.”
In the end, I remain puzzled about Andrew’s piece. It seems more self-indulgence than anything else. With his book, Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival, Andrew proved that he could write powerfully, movingly even after his diagnosis with HIV. But, lately, he seems increasingly to be writing about himself with little concern for the implications of his words.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
ADDENDUM: In his piece, Signorile calls Andrew a “current right-wing blogger.” I believe it is no longer accurate to call Andrew conservative. And as the response (both in comments and in e-mails to me) to my recent post on Andrew indicates, Andrew has fewer and fewer “Republican conservative fans.” (Signorile claims he has “legions” of “right-wing, Republican conservative fans.”) Gay conservatives, many of whom (including your humble blogger) were once fans of Andrew’s writing and his blog, now distance themselves from that celebrated blogger.