Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Response: Ms. Ninette Murk, Designers Against AIDS

[Note: This is a response to comments Ms. Murk left on my February 13 post, "Shopping has never been more important."]

Ms. Murk,

Thank you for your response to my post. It's good to know that you're listening. I'm sorry my reply is somewhat tardy.

, a clarification. I indicated in my writing that the campaign's decision to focus exclusively on prevention betrayed "some hypocrisy that I can't put my finger on." Here I misspoke. To fault anyone for fighting only one facet of a multifaceted disease would be to place a ridiculous demand on any attempt to do good, and unfair.

My assertion was meant to express my confusion at the ambiguously stated goals of the campaign. I assumed that something as broadly titled as "Fashion Against AIDS
" would address similarly broad aspects of the disease. I was frustrated, first at the difficulty I had in digging up its goals, and second that the campaign only seemed to be feeding itself.

I do find it dishonest that the campaign masquerades as the means to the end of fighting AIDS
, when the campaign itself is a primary end. I'm also very skeptical of the reasoning which equates buying a t-shirt as doing good, since the purchase purportedly (1) spreads awareness and (2) helps sell more awareness-spreading t-shirts. This logic extols self-indulgence as a moral act, and that is misleading and dangerous.

I reiterate: with efforts like these
, everyone involved, from the designers to the consumers, gets a pat on the back,* while no one with the disease gets anything. If this is justified by saying the consumers are being educated, then it should at least be made clear that's all that's going on.

I'm also concerned by your statement that prevention is overlooked in the West
, "Possibly because there are antiretroviral medicines now, so even if you do get infected, you can live to be a hundred years old (give or take a side effect or two)." The belief that a morning cocktail solves all of the problems of AIDS is just not true, and it's a dangerous myth for anyone to believe, let alone someone in your position.

Antiretroviral medications do exist
, but for them to be effective, patients must be one hundred percent compliant to what can be rigorous and complicated regimens. These regimens must be frequently adjusted as the disease adapts, and side effects are not negligible. And this dance cannot continue indefinitely, as the disease and the medications war simultaneously against the body and something must give.**

Misconceptions about the gravity of contracting HIV encourage carelessness with prevention
, and thus cost lives.

It is true that young Westerners don't know what they should about AIDS
, especially with regard to the impact right at home and their own risk. Thank you for working against this problem, and for your response which has spurred me to become better informed myself. I encourage you to be diligent in finding the best way to do pursue your goals, to be transparent in your intentions, and to accept the enhanced scrutiny that falls on those who reap the benefits of being known for doing good.

My best wishes in your endeavors.

*And what a pat
, in some cases! Check out the glamorous lifestyle of Kate Roberts, founder of (Fashion Against AIDS-beneficiary) YouthAIDS, as romanticized by the Washington Post. The perks of sainthood are considerable.
**At least
, that's what I remember learning from Jim Biddle, who has HIV and should know.


Anonymous said...

Dear Nicholas
Thank you for your reply- and now I am the one who's late in replying as we' been very busy with our new projects. My remark about the lck of interest in the media for the plight of HIV infected people since the invention of ARV's was meant to be ironic, I didn't want to sound glib- many of my friends are in this position and their lives are mostly a struggle; which is exactly why I think prevention is so important- nobody in their right minds should think it's easy as long as you take your pills!
We're also learning as we go along, i've been doing AIDS awareness campaigns since seven years now (since my then-assistant died of the disease) and the more I learn, the less I know. It's a huge responsibility and a very complicated matter. Which is why DAA concentrates on prevention: better to do one thin well than several things 'just a little bit'.
Thanks for making me reflect, by the way.
Best regards
PS Re the glamourous lifestyle, this may well be true for Kate Roberts, but since 2001 I lost all my savings and my income dropped by 75%, just because I felt that I had to do this and in the first years we found no financial funding as most companies didn't want to be associated by a 'self inflicted gay disease ' (their words, not mine).
Thank heavens H&M is a bit more open minded than that.

Nicholas said...

Thanks, Ninette!

Anonymous said...

ninette, good work - keep it up!
im sad to say, the naysayers underestimate the need for visibility of the issue. leveraging pop culture and HM can be key to opening the public up to more information about social issues. id like see HM take up this cause as something they stick too so it doesn't become seasonal. any progress on that front? what is DAA upto next?