Friday, February 05, 2016

No Open Pozzie on NYC's HIV & Stigma Panel?

My question was provocative to Sarah Schulman and Steven Thrasher, two participants in the "Shifting the Stigma of HIV/AIDS" panel in March organized by the Center on LGBTQ Studies (CLAGS) at City University of New York.

Via Twitter, I asked, "No openly #HIV #poz folks on panel?" and my friend from our 1980s ACT UP/NYC days together and writer Sarah Schulman, who knows a few things about PWA (person with AIDS) empowerment, negative-splained her view: "Of course there are."

No, Sarah, my pozzie eyes don't see any panelists openly disclosing as living with HIV and its stigma.

Writer Steven Thrasher, who currently reports and opines for The Guardian, took great umbrage at my question and told me panelist Ian Bradley-Perrin was openly poz. Ok, but that disclosure is missing from the CLAGS announcement.

I asked CLAGS to formally respond via email to my concerns as a pozzie and Matt Brimm, an organizer of the panel who discloses his poz status, said:

"People living with HIV, myself included, are responsible for imaging and organizing the HIV Stigma panel, in close concert with writers who have been working on HIV/AIDS for decades. I am not on the panel, but Ian Bradley-Perrin is on the panel and is openly HIV positive. [...] Our intended audience is first and foremost people with HIV/AIDS.

"However, we did not list Ian’s status, and even though a quick google search clearly reveals just how public he has been as HIV positive, we could also have mentioned that in the brief bios. I was responsible for collecting the bios of the panelists and submitting them to CLAGS, and, because I was under some time pressure to get the bios turned in, I didn’t think to ask Ian if I could amend his bio paragraph to include his status. [...] I’m going to check with Ian about changing his bio on the website."

Sarah, Steve and Matt all raise the matter of me googling each panelist to discover if anyone is poz.

Frankly, as a longtime pozzie and advocate, telling me I have to google to learn if any panelist is poz and fill in their blanks feels disempowering to me. Just disclose and be done with it!

For me, empowerment equals questioning academics and reminding everyone of the Denver Principles, a set of recommendation developed in 1983 for persons living with HIV and AIDS and this key element:

 "Be included in all AIDS forums with equal credibility as other participants, to share their own experiences and knowledge."

Memo to CLAGS and other universities: Put openly poz people on your panels, disclose their status in announcements and raise the bar on empowerment of people with AIDS.

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