Don’t Die of Ignorance by Mark Julius

I’m not a religious man. I don’t go to church and I haven’t said my prayers at night since I was a child. Some folk get comfort from their faith, their beliefs and that’s kind of cool. I wouldn’t know how to pray. There are lots who do though and I bet they wish they were as out of touch with praying as me and didn’t feel the need. People pray for all kinds of things, a better job, a happier marriage, world peace, oh, and I almost forgot, the catch-all prayer for “those who are sick and less fortunate than ourselves”. There was a lot of praying going on in 1984. There were a lot of sick and less fortunate people. God had his work cut out. We were in the midst of a so called “plague”, although God must have been a bit confused because this was one plague he never sent. Bring back flies and locusts that’s what I say!

There was a big campaign going on. “Don’t Die of Ignorance” was the mantra. It was everywhere. TV, radio, the press, you couldn’t miss it. It was all about knowing the facts about AIDS to protect yourself from it. Funny word that, ignorance. I mean, it wasn’t ignorant to discriminate and queer-bash. It was clearly enlightened to have the tabloid press outdoing its own seedy standards with homophobic hysteria. It wasn’t ignorant to refuse people mortgages or tenancies. It certainly wasn’t ignorant to say that gay people were “wallowing in a cess pool of their own making”. It wasn’t ignorant for your work mates to ask you not to use the same cups as them in the staff room, and of course let’s not forget how enlightened it was for people to wipe toilet seats with wet wipes before they sat down.

God forbid they could get AIDS off a toilet seat (presumably because the same people had caught Syphillis the self-same way, so they must be right….yes?) Of course everybody knows you can’t get an STD or AIDS from a toilet seat. That’s ridiculous. But prolonged use of a toilet used by homosexuals would eventually turn you gay, and that’s a fact. It was in the paper!

Lots of things were in the papers 30 years ago. I wish I could say they were laughable, but they weren’t. Millions spent educating people about the virus. How much was spent fighting the ignorance. The ironic thing is, that when you look at the fastest growing group affected by HIV in 2014, 30 years on, it’s the heterosexual community, who in the 1980s were ‘safe’ as AIDS was for queers, druggies, and people from the third world.

Well, maybe if they’d spent less time quoting the Bible, inciting mass media hysteria, wiping toilet seats with wet wipes, locking their cups away in the staff canteen, and more time snapping on a condom, things might be a little different. Who’s ignorant now?

©2014 Mark Julius