World AIDS Day & Celebrity Narcissism

I have not even watched this video, but I’ve seen enough of the advertising to see that HIV and AIDS-related deaths are trivalized.  Not to mention the fact that the severity of HIV/AIDS is undermined by the comparison between death and logging off of the internet for a day.  Y’all know this whole “movement” got a side-eye from me.  They would be more effective in helping if they allowed the voices of those living with HIV and AIDS to be heard, rather than the deafening sound of their egos inflating.

Now, let’s get down to raising awareness about AIDS. Last year I wrote “Putting the AIDS Discourse in Context:

…I’ll talk some more about the economic and human toll of AIDS in Africa.  There are 22.4 MILLION AIDS cases in sub-Saharan Africa.  Africa has 14 million AIDS orphans.  The rate of transmission from mother to child is alarming.  A study in Ivory Coast revealed that families of AIDS victims spend far more on medicine and medical care than they did on food.   In developing and transitional countries, 9.5 million people are in immediate need of life-saving AIDS drugs; of these, only 4 million (42%) are receiving the drugs.

Disease, mortality and limited access to healthcare are part of a cyclical process whereby economic growth is stunted or declines.  The loss of human capital and fear of the spread of disease has been a factor in the economic under-development of much of the African continent.  This does not prevent the exploitation of devalued bodies in sub-Saharan Africa- of course not.  However, this certainly does inhibit the economic growth and autonomy of the African continent.  Respective nations have been plagued by colonialism, neo-liberal globalization measures, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Structural Adjustment Plans (SAP) and now the new wave of multi-national corporations seeking cheaper materials and a cheaper workforce in light of a global recession (depression?).

In February, I posted this statistic from the New England Journal of Medicine:

“More than 1 in 30 adults in Washington, D.C., are HIV-infected—a prevalence higher than that reported in Ethiopia, Nigeria, or Rwanda. Certain U.S. subpopulations are particularly hard hit. In New York City, 1 in 40 blacks, 1 in 10 men who have sex with men, and 1 in 8 injection-drug users are HIV-infected, as are 1 in 16 black men in Washington, D.C. In several U.S. urban areas, the HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men is as high as 30%—as compared with a general-population prevalence of 7.8% in Kenya and 16.9% in South Africa.”

The capitol city of the United States has a higher prevalance of HIV Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda- and if you break it down by various urban centers in the US, the prevalence is HIGHER than that of South Africa’s.  This should be alarming, considering the fact that our world is increasingly urbanized.  One study projected that 52% of Africa’s population will reside in urban centers.  This means that we face a higher population densities, thus higher density pools of sexual partners.  There are also implications regarding the shifting character of poverty in the Global South.  [Here’s one source re: urbanization in South Asia- I know, it’s the World Bank…]  The implication is that as land and water ownership is increasingly concentrated, higher population densities increase the demand for basic human rights like water.


Between 1981 and 2006, HIV killed 25 MILLION people [“Overview of the global AIDS epidemic”, UN]. On a global scale, 0.6% of the world population is currently infected with HIV.

Every 9.5 minutes, someone in the US is infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.  The most common cause of transmission is heterosexual sexual intercourse- despite the hoopla you’ve heard.

In high-income countries, the risk of female-to-male transmission is 0.04% per act and male-to-female transmission is 0.08% per act. For various reasons, these rates are 4 to 10 times higher in low-income countries.[30] The rate for receptive anal intercourse is much higher, 1.7% per act.  [Boily MC, Baggaley RF, Wang L, Masse B, White RG, Hayes RJ, Alary M (February 2009). “Heterosexual risk of HIV-1 infection per sexual act: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies”. The Lancet Infectious Diseases 9 (2): 118–129]

Another study showed that consistent and effective use of latex condoms lowered the risk of HIV transmission by 85%.

You can also contract HIV via blood transfusions, sharing needles.  And mothers can infect their children in utero, during birth and even while breastfeeding.

UNAIDS estimate that 430,000 children were infected worldwide in 2008 (19% of all new infections), primarily by this route, and that a further 65,000 infections were averted through the provision of antiretroviral prophylaxis to HIV-positive women. [2009 AIDS Epidemic Update, UNAIDS]

I apologize for the brevity of this post.  It feels lacking because I have not even addressed basic access to preventative care among HIV-positive individuals (which is stratified by class, ethnicity/nationality, geographic location (esp. rural v. urban, “west” v. Global South).  Heck, I haven’t even mentioned the racial disparities in prevalence and treatment of HIV.  *sigh*

All I can do is urge you all to go do your own research.  Be aware. If you’re sexually active, use protection consistently and effectively.  If you use needles, don’t share them.  If you’re thinking about becoming a parent (or not!), get tested.  Know your status.  Your children, your partners, your loved ones will all thank you.


Filed under Africa, AIDS/HIV, Capitalism, Economics, Environmental Stewardship, Environmentalism, Ethics, Gender, Human Rights, Race, Social Justice, South Asia, The Continent of Africa, The United States of America

4 responses to “World AIDS Day & Celebrity Narcissism

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention World AIDS Day & Celebrity Narcissism « Defying History: Christian and Womanist Perspectives --

  2. Kendra

    I agree that this is mostly an ego stroke and publicity stunt for the celebrities involved. All the time that they will be “unplugged” a lot of people will be contracting HIV, developing full-blown AIDs, transmitting the virus and so on. I don’t feel that a lot people will be consciously giving money for the cause; they’ll just be giving money b/c their favorite celebrities tell them to do so. I’d rather this stunt were more informative, more “giving” (I mean seriously, not everybody and their mama even uses twitter; me personally, it doesn’t put a dent in my virtual activities).

    • aconerlycoleman

      Ain’t that the truth? I didn’t even know most of those ppl were on the internets. Did you hear about how Kim Kardashian couldn’t even raise $1M? I guess folks really don’t want her back on social media networks LOL.

      I kid.

      These celebrities would help more if they gave money silently and let people living w/ HIV/AIDS have a voice intstead of centering themselves.

  3. I also found this Ad campaign to be incredibly ego driven and narcissistic

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