Sunday, May 17, 2015

204.2 - Hero Award: The Vangardist magazine

Hero Award: The Vangardist magazine

Next up we have a Hero Award, something we give out here as the occasion arises to someone who just does the right thing on a matter big or small.

Despite advances made toward acceptance of LGBT people and LGBT rights, there is still a taboo, one that, while not as bad as it once was, is still a source of unwarranted fears that can have devastating consequences: the taboo around HIV and the disease associated with it, AIDS.

Now, a German men's magazine called "Vangardist" has taken a dramatic step in an attempt to break that taboo: It has printed 3000 copies of its May issue using ink infused with HIV-positive blood from three volunteers.

Contrary to some initial reports, it was not just the cover that was printed with that ink, but the entire magazine, which contained statements from the publishers as to why they took this dramatic action and stories about what the magazine called "HIV heroes."

The text of the magazine says handling a copy of the edition carries no risk of infection, as it was produced according "to the most stringent controls" - but I would add that the very fact that it was felt necessary to say that when it has been known for years that HIV - the human immunodeficiency virus - survives outside the body for only a short time shows the fears and, again, taboos still surrounding the disease.

The publishers noted that despite 30 years of campaigning, activism, and research, HIV remains the sixth biggest cause of death in the world, with number of confirmed cases in 2013 some 80% higher than in 2003 - and half of HIV cases are detected late because of a lack of testing caused by the social stigma associated with the virus.

Health experts say that ending that stigma is vital to efforts at eradicating the virus because the culture of prejudice and shame that still attaches to HIV/AIDS deters both people from getting tested and carriers from disclosing their HIV status to sexual partners while making it difficult for prevention programs to operate in the broader community.

The "Vangardist" has found a dramatic way to confront that stigma and ask people to recognize their own fears. And for that the publishers of "Vangardist" magazine are Heroes.

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