Stigma Equals Death

Around ASF Blog
Volume 1 / Entry 24
September 13, 2012

Hello friends,

I can’t believe that in 2012 I am writing about this. The fact that people are still so misinformed about the realities of living with HIV/AIDS is unbelievable to me. And now, because of one man’s lack of knowledge and the continued stigma of HIV, a Texas woman is dead.

Larry Dunn, Jr., is accused of murdering Cicely Bolden after she revealed her HIV positive status following a sexual encounter. According to the confession Dunn made to police, he went to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, returned to the bedroom and stabbed her to death. He told police, “She killed me, so I killed her.”

She didn’t kill you, Mr. Dunn. She possibly gave you what is now a chronic and manageable disease. And if you had left the bedroom and gone to a doctor for meds instead of the kitchen for a knife, there’s a good chance that whatever HIV was in your system would never have had time to proliferate and you never would have gotten sick.

It is unfortunate that Bolden had to die because people are still uneducated about HIV and AIDS. But this incident fortunately highlights the amount of work still to be done in the United States when it comes to educating the public about the virus and the disease. We cannot stop the work we are doing locally to reduce the stigma of HIV and make sure that those in high-risk populations get tested. And the U.S. government certainly can’t afford to stop funding this work if citizens are going to kill each other because of misinformation.

Those of us “in the know” realize that people can and are living long, relatively healthy lives with HIV. There are clients of ASF who have been living with the virus for 25 years. Yes, there are times of struggle. But if you take care of yourself, adhere to your medications, and stay in care, HIV is not the death sentence it once was. The first thing our testing coordinator tells someone when they receive a positive diagnosis in our offices is that everything is going to be all right.

We unfortunately see a large percentage of people in Orange County not dealing with their HIV status on any level because of the stigma the virus still holds in some communities. How can you expect to get the help you need if you can’t talk about it? Yes, it’s sexually transmitted. So what? All creatures on Earth engage in sex of some kind. Get over it. Yes, it’s preventable. So what? People make mistakes all the time. Get over it.

Until we reduce the stigma of HIV all over the country, people will continue to die, not only from AIDS, but also, apparently, from murder. I have written a few times before in this blog that “Silence = Stigma.” Now I dare to write that “Stigma = Death.” I guess, by the transitive property of mathematics, we are back where we started with ACT UP, “Silence = Death.” It’s 2012 and some of us are still living in 1987. We need to change that!

Talk about HIV. Get tested. Reduce the stigma. Get over it. Save lives.

Thanks for reading!

Marc Montminy
Director of Communications and Public Relations


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