Wednesday, March 07, 2007

These tedious dances. Perhaps it shouldn't, but this really made me see red. Our darling first daughter Jenna Bush is writing an inspirational tale about a 17-year-old HIV-positive South American single mother? Seriously? This sounds like another Seventh Heaven-esque Christian retelling of terrible circumstances spun to make money. No matter how much volunteer work Jenna Bush has done with UNICEF, what could she possibly understand about living with HIV in poverty or raising a child alone?

I also think it's irresponsible to portray a young woman infected with HIV as inspiring. Yes, you can live a full life for many years with the disease, and I don't think you should demonize those who are infected. However, poor people in general do not receive the kinds of cutting-edge drugs or specialized attention that preserve health. Portraying HIV infection as positive absolutely goes against the basic idea behind prevention. The only way HIV will end is if new infections cease; you can't count on a vaccine. When I volunteered at an AIDS services organization and talked to those patients who had been living with the disease for decades, they were appalled by how young the clients were--some of the new clients hadn't finished high school. The elder clients knew that the very drugs that prolonged and improved their lives had damaged the fight against HIV: young people aren't afraid of a disease when there are so many medical advances to preserve health. Jenna Bush's story of "inspiration and hope" is just another piece of the problem.

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