Sunday, April 19, 2009

The High Price of Misjudgement

My mind blocked out many details of the painful day my brother told me he had AIDS but one of his comments comes to mind over and over again. Bret made it clear that he didn’t want us wearing AIDS ribbons and that he would certainly never wear one. When I asked why, he simply stated “people assume you’re gay”.

In my opinion, the most insidious plague on humanity really isn’t HIV or cancer, poverty or global warming. The most destructive of all is stigma. If humans can’t get past what is socially acceptable, politically correct or morally valued, there can never be a cure or comprehensive solution to any problem.
Stigma - an attribute, behavior, or reputation which is socially discrediting in a particular way: it causes an individual to be mentally classified by others in an undesirable, rejected stereotype rather than in an accepted, normal one.
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of viewing the entire clip of Susan Boyle's performance on Britain's Got Talent, I encourage you to do it now. This amazing 7 min. exercise will test your own tolerance for stigma, and if you come up lacking, I hope it rattles you enough to consider things differently in the future.

Since that first red loop of the early 90s, awareness ribbons can now be seen in every color of the rainbow, drawing attention to various health and social issues, political and military causes. In honor of Bret, the ribbon I’ve worn on my wrist for the last 13 years has no color. It forces people to stop and ask. When I can tell them face to face that I wear the ribbon to represent my fight against AIDS it’s that much easier to get past the stigma and on to the more vital message it represents.

No comments: