Monday, July 28, 2014

Everyday advocates: a layperson's response to HIV stigma


HIV stigma can be found almost anywhere.  Bob Frey is currently an aspiring candidate for the position of Minnesota House of Representatives; read what he said earlier this month and HIV and also about the LGBTQ community: 

??? HIV 101 according to aspiring Minnesota House of Representatives' Bob Frey: "When you have egg and sperm that meet in conception, there’s an enzyme in the front that burns through the egg. The enzyme burns through so the DNA can enter the egg. If the sperm is deposited anally, it's the enzyme that causes the immune system to fail. That’s why the term is AIDS – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome....It’s about sodomy. It’s huge amounts of money. AIDS is a long term illness, causing pain, suffering, death, a long-term illness that’s very expensive to treat.” 

Below is a copy of an email sent in response to Mr. Frey's HIV stigma and homophobia: 

"Mr. Frey, your comments about HIV are both inaccurate and hurtful.  As someone who is running for office, it is your duty to be informed about important issues.  I don't expect you, or anyone, to be an expert on all things; I certainly am not.  But I DO expect you to employ your team of volunteers/interns/staff/friends/Google or whatever to make sure that you are fact-checking.  You are spreading misinformation and perpetuating HIV stigma, which destroys lives.  Regardless of your views, you should treat others with respect. 

Speaking of respect, you displayed blatant disregard for the LGBTQ* community with your words as well.  Again, a little fact-checking goes a long way...as does common human decency toward others.  I am a heterosexual woman, but I was born in Minneapolis; if you think that Minnesotans will support a governor who attacks its queer citizens, then you are sadly mistaken. 

I invite you to take a look at some educational resources that I am linking to at the bottom of this message in hopes that you will take the necessary steps to become more informed and not perpetuate ignorance, stigma, misinformation, hate, and fear.  I also hope that you will be mature enough to issue a public apology and recant your words. 

As the mother in an HIV affected family, I don't need people like you filling my children's heads up with harmful lies about who we are.  Neither do the millions of people LIVING and THRIVING with HIV all over the world, including your state.  There is NOTHING shameful, awful, sinful, or bad about being HIV+; it's a serostatus.  We are still people.  I admonish you, sir, to choose your words more carefully next time and to consider the feelings of others." 

Morenike Onaiwu 


Want to contact Mr. Frey and help him to understand that words hurt? I hope you do (please be assertive, but not rude; let's not stoop to his level)!  

His website is http://www.bobfreymn.com/ (you can leave your name, email, subject, and a lengthy message under the "Get Involved" tab.)

Love and solidarity to you all.