Bay Guardian Insults People With AIDS
as 'AIDS Victims'
(The late Bobbi Campbell, a founder of the PWA empowerment movement. Note that his shirt does not say victim. This uncredited pic appears in the current Bay Guardian.)
The pretentious on-staff gay writer Marke B at the progressive weekly Bay Guardian wrote a rave review on Wednesday of the new AIDS documentary "We Were Here," about the dark years of the epidemic here. However, he made a bad choice of words that are a bracing and stigmatizing insult to those who've died of AIDS and the many HIV poz folks from the 1980s still alive today:
Other participants tell the stories of SF General Hospital's groundbreaking AIDS Ward 5B/5A, the Shanti Project, Visual AIDS, and the "San Francisco model" of multifaceted, compassionate care for AIDS victims before contemporary treatments became available. ...
After extolling many of the incredible advances in fighting the crisis and lending dignity to people with AIDS, Marke B cavalierly tosses out the "AIDS victim" phrase, which upset me and I sent a note to the Bay Guardian's editor Tim Redmond asking for an explanation. Tim wrote:
Okay, Michael, here's my understanding (and the understanding of Marke, who is more of an expert on LGBT PC than I am):
People with AIDS replaced AIDS victims as a term for those living with the disease. That was an important and appropriate distinction because AIDS victim was disempowering etc.
But I believe it was, and is, still okay (is it not?) to refer to someone who died as being a victim of a AIDS, as you would with any deadly disease or tragedy. (Cancer victim, victim of war, murder victim etc.) In this context, Marke was referring to people who had died (or were dying). If that wasn't completely clear, we apologize.
So the Bay Guardian is not apologizing for use of the term, and the editor and writer think the problem is this reader didn't understand the context in which the term was used. Pretty lame excuse, if you ask me, especially from a progressive publication in San Francisco, of all cities.
The paper used a photo of the brave PWA Bobbi Campbell, who did an amazing amount of work to reject the stigma of being called a victim, including being present at the meeting that produced the groundbreaking Denver Principles, which opened with this declaration:
We condemn attempts to label us as 'victims,' a term which implies defeat, and we are only occasionally 'patients,' a term which implies passivity, helplessness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are 'People With AIDS.' ...
Sadly, I believe the work of the PWAs who developed these principles and the values inherent in the principles have been diminished by Marke B and the Bay Guardian.