Leave the hysteria behind

MarchaŠ Grair

AIDS is not just a gay man’s disease. It can affect thinking, feeling people who differ in color, gender and sexual preference.

Nearly 12 years ago, playwright Jonathan Larson took this message to Broadway with his hit “Rent.” The unexpected musical phenomenon made AIDS victims more than just a statistic and addressed the stigma this society places on those with the disease.

I am a big “Rent” fan and was disappointed to hear it was leaving Broadway this year before I had the chance to see it. Its failing popularity, however, seems understandable.

AIDS is no longer a cutting-edge issue. People no longer need a playwright to destroy the stereotypes that come along with the fatal disease.

It is 2008, and no American should ever have the audacity or ignorance to label a disease as a “gay disease” again.

In light of recent events, it seems I give the American public too much credit.

An innocent press release by a team of doctors and researchers from the University of California at San Francisco became fuel for Americans to start another unjust backlash against the gay community.

The report said gay men are “many times more likely than others” to acquire a new strain of drug-resistant staphylococcus, or staph infection, according to the New York Times.

The news media and anti-gay Web sites interpreted this medical research as blaming gay men for this new strain of staph infection when this was not the case.

An article on the Web site for conservative group Concerned Women of America said: “The medical community has known for decades that homosexual conduct, especially among males, creates a breeding ground for often deadly disease. In recent years we’ve seen a profound resurgence in cases of HIV/AIDS, syphilis, rectal gonorrhea and many other STDs among those who call themselves ‘gay.'”

The medical research team has made many statements to try to clarify its findings. Part of the team has even made reports that the disease is not necessarily sexually transmitted and is simply a matter of skin-to-skin contact. The disease can be found among the heterosexual population, even in children.

While many news outlets and blogs were quick to pick up the story linking the new strain of staph to gay men, few ran the statements the research group made, in an attempt to take the spin off of their research.

The American public has not learned much from the AIDS epidemic. It is unfair to blame an epidemic on one group of people just to alleviate responsibility from the rest of the population. Singling out any disease as a “gay disease” when it can easily affect any member of the population creates a dangerous naivety among heterosexual couples.

AIDS and other diseases that can be transmitted in sexual, as well as non-sexual ways, rely less on the gender or sexual preference of a partner than the behavior those two sexually active people practice.

No disease is a reason to spread hate speech or homophobia. Let’s actually learn from the mistakes this nation made concerning AIDS decades ago.

MarchaŠ Grair is a sophomore electronic media productions major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].