Beyond “Prevention vs. Treatment”

Aids PSA Topsy from Human Music & Sound Design on Vimeo.

Check out this breathtaking PSA for the Topsy AIDS foundation. The video documents an HIV+ woman named Selinah who agreed to be filmed every day for 90 days. In the video, Selinah is shown laying in bed looking sicker and sicker, but in fact the footage is being showed in reverse, and Selinah’s condition has been actually been drastically improving after receiving ARV treatment from a nurse associated with the Topsy AIDS foundation. The video is meant to demonstrate the effect that a treatment program can have on those battling the advanced effects of HIV/AIDS. The makers of the video go on to point out that “When treated, a person on the verge of death from HIV/AIDS-related illness can return to health in a matter of months.”

I really appreciate this video for its messages- both explicit and implicit- about valuing the lives of women and all people living with HIV and the importance of battling stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS.

But this video also makes me think about the senselessness of the politics of the “prevention vs treatment” of HIV debate, which is unfortunately all too dominant in the public health field these days.

Ultimately, we need both. We need to both treat people for the condition they have, as well as prevent new infections by employing proven prevention methods such as comprehensive sexuality education and increased availability of STI-preventing barrier methods like male and female condoms. I understand that sometimes the job of “fixing HIV/AIDS” can feel like a zero-sum game- the funding is limited, the political will can be hard to muster, and there are so many people’s lives at stake. But to me, these seem like reasons to join forces with as many allies as possible, not splinter off into small focus groups with narrow interests. HIV/AIDS is a complicated epidemic whose roots do not lie in any one problem. It won’t be solved by focusing only on treatment OR prevention. And if we’re going to effectively tackle this thing, we need to do so comprehensively, and come at it from every angle.

So while I wish this video also mentioned the importance of prevention efforts, I applaud its spirit and beauty, and I’m thankful for initiatives such as the Topsy foundation’s that help save so many lives around the world.

For more on Selinah’s story, I recommend checking out this video, which contains more of her personal testimony.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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