‘Identity theft’ in the AIDS-free generation

Posted on 28 Nov 2014 at 7:30am

Don’t let the importance of education and prevention efforts get buried amid science and technology

Kirk MyersThe theme for World AIDS Day 2014 — “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation” — is much more than rhetoric. Since the inception of World AIDS Day in 1987, Dec. 1 has offered all people a simple promise: We not only will survive the global onslaught of HIV and AIDS, but together we will stop it!

Focusing on leveraging available resources and then collaborating with the most unlikely of partners, realistically we are poised to achieve our quintessential hope: an AIDS-free generation.

But even as this dream becomes reality, I harbor a faint amount of cynicism. Let me explain.

History teaches us that those who would conspire to destroy humanity’s potential often do so through means that can have unimaginable consequences. Think of the trans-Atlantic slave trade or Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The word we most often hear in reference to these periods of history is “genocide.”

But, the descendants of enslaved Africans and the survivors of the Holocaust have refused to fade into obscurity. Their resilience and determination are seen around the world, as their response to genocide has been harnessing a shared power to prevent any reoccurrences. In doing so they not only honor their ancestors but also ensure that the ultimate defeat of genocide must be — has to be — will always be the human effort to prevent it.

My faint cynicism comes in when I contemplate how the “AIDS-free generation” will record the story of how the HIV/AIDS pandemic was eventually defeated. My faint cynicism exists because I intentionally fight on the side of HIV prevention. But, in this fight, HIV prevention has not been the most sensational weapon, the most well-funded weapon or the most star-studded weapon.

Truth be told, we who have insisted on HIV prevention as the first and best weapon against HIV/AIDS could become victims of what I see as “identity theft.”

Abounding Prosperity Inc. since 2005 has been on the front lines of the fight in Dallas. And as the founding CEO, I would be disingenuous if I did not question how our message of HIV prevention will be recorded in history. Once we have “an AIDS-free generation,” who will speak on behalf of HIV prevention? Will anyone remember the HIV prevention message? Who will remind the children born in AIDS-free Africa, AIDS-free China, or AIDS-free Texas of their benefactor?

And who will be responsible for teaching the AIDS-free generation about not only their benefactors, but just as important, their bonds to the more than 36 million people worldwide that AIDS has killed, and the estimated 35.3 million people around the globe (including myself) who have resolved to live — abounding and prospering — even with HIV?

As a person who has been living with HIV for the past two decades, the cynical tempering of my own belief in an AIDS-free generation is warranted. From the ever-developing fields of science, technology and medicine, we are experiencing such breakthroughs that it is finally possible to envision our world completely free of HIV/AIDS.

But please do not misunderstand my reticent cynicism as professional aggrandizement in regards to those of us toiling in HIV prevention.

Rather, as I sit here writing, I look out the windows of my agency and see our target population: young, black gay men so hungry for not just love, but also connection and belonging. Abounding Prosperity Inc. was founded to sustain them, sustain us — black gay men who, just like myself, are neither invisible nor insignificant as our agency’s focus on HIV prevention especially targets  our extremely vulnerable and overrepresented demographic in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

By God’s grace, Abounding Prosperity Inc. remains a shining thread of hope that daily decries the genocide of HIV/AIDS on behalf of all humanity, but especially those who identify as black gay men. AP Inc., has never (and will never) re-brand our message or re-think our focus. Even if no one else delivers the HIV prevention message to black gay men, AP Inc. definitely will continue to do so, making sure HIV prevention gets her just due. Because HIV prevention is our agency’s business and the precise reason why so many young, black gay men in Dallas can now live out in the open, accepted, affirmed and AIDS-free.

This December, let us all proudly proclaim the HIV prevention message to ensure that neither the message nor its messengers fall victim to identity theft when the annals of HIV/AIDS history are written.

Kirk D. Myers is the founding and current CEO of Abounding Prosperit, Inc. where he and his staff serve African-American gay men, bi-sexual men and transgender male-to-female individuals as well as all their families. If you would like to support this mission and join in the work of­­ AP, Inc., please call 214-421-4800, visit the agency’s website at AboundingProsperity.org or email kmyers@aboundingprosperity.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 28, 2014.

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