A World Health Organization (WHO) official said society has “come to terms” with HIV, but he missed a glaringly obvious point.
Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO health emergencies programme, said at a conference Wednesday (May 13) that COVID-19 may “never go away” and referred to the HIV epidemic, which took hold in the 1980s.
“[COVID 19] may become just another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away,” Ryan said.
“HIV has not gone away but we’ve come to terms with the virus and we have found the therapies and we have found the prevention methods, and people don’t feel as scared as they did before, and we’re offering life to people with HIV — long, healthy lives to people with HIV.”
Ryan said he was “not comparing the two diseases” but argued that the trajectory of HIV shows that nobody can predict when the coronavirus will disappear.
While Ryan’s point is important — that a vaccine to the coronavirus may never be found — suggesting that society has “come to terms” with the virus ignores a simple fact.
Not everyone has come to terms with the virus.
The queer community still lives with the scars of the AIDS crisis which took the lives of many, and contributed to rampant homophobia and transphobia in society.
Decades after the AIDS crisis began, there is still a stigma around HIV which means that people living with the virus are subjected to stereotyping, moral judgements, social isolation and healthcare discrimination. There is also the continued misconception that it is an LGBT+ person’s virus, when in fact, anybody can acquire HIV (thought it should be noted that in America, there is a worryingly high rate of new transmissions among queer Black men).
The situation is different in different cities and countries, but it has been suggested that in rural areas of Britain, HIV stigma remains the greatest barrier to totally ending new transmissions.
So, while straight, cisgender and white populations may have come to terms with HIV, that is not the case across the board.