Dear Gloss Readers: AIDS Is Still Real, Still Terrifying

Workers hanging a huge red ribbon on the North Portico of the White House yesterday in DC for World AIDS. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Yesterday, editor in chief Jennifer Wright published a Real Talk in which we asked men and women whether or not they were ever concerned about contracting HIV/AIDS. We asked because today is World AIDS Day and there’s been a lot of conversations around the office about our different experiences with the virus.

Most of us at TheGloss (and our sister sites) grew up in the ’90s when the threat of AIDS seemed to loom a little more than it does today: it was just 1993 when the Real World‘s Pedro Zamora was one of the first HIV positive, openly gay personalities to be portrayed in the media. That was the same year Philadelphia came out and the following year, the first production of RENT debuted.

But as we get closer to 2012, it seems like a lot of young men and women aren’t so afraid of contracting HIV. Although huge advancements have been made in treating patients with HIV/AIDS, it’s still very real and very terrifying. Which is why we were kind of surprised to see the results of our poll yesterday looking like this:

We’re hoping that the 14% of Gloss readers who are “never” concerned about contracting HIV/AIDS are… celibate? And we’re curious, what does it mean to “sometimes” be worried (or “other”)? Granted, we know a lot of neurotic girls (not naming names) like ourselves who take every measure to protect ourselves but still get all clammy and anxious when we go in for our yearly checkup.

1.2 million Americans have AIDS. More frightening? One in five U.S. adults infected with HIV do not know it and of those who do, only half receive ongoing medical care and treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (via Reuters).

So, tell us: why aren’t you afraid of it?

And, even if you aren’t, there’s still a lot of work to be done to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS… especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for two-thirds of all people living with the disease. If you’d like to learn more–or, better yet, find out how you can help in the fight against HIV/AIDS–please visit for more information.

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    • Lauren

      Thank you. Thank you for looking at that poll and doing something about it.

      How are their sexually active people who are not afraid of contracting AIDs? I rather be crazy and neurotic and get tested with every new partner I have than live a shortened and suffering life.

      Get tested. Make your partners get tested. Be aware. Stay healthy.

    • Colleen

      I agree with Lauren. It’s everyone’s responsibility to know your status. My best friend is the office manager of the local AIDS organization here and they offer free testing, no appointment necessary. It’s easy, it’s fast, and the peace of mind you get is priceless.

      Also, don’t forget that HIV can be contracted in other ways BESIDES sexual activity.

    • Avodah

      Um, I am not afraid of AIDS because I am in a relationship, I have been tested for ALL STDs, I don’t do any drugs and I don’t live in abject poverty in Africa.

      NONE of my previous comments are to insinuate that one should not be careful, get tested and use protection. However, given the information I listed above I just don’t live my life in fear of HIV or AIDS. I am, however, deathly afraid of “journalism” and ill-informed writers like those on this website.

      • Natalie

        I am all those things too, but I am “sometimes concerned”. In spite of my extraordinary cautious (and privileged) lifestyle, I have no assurance that I will never receive a tainted blood transfusion or be raped by an infected person.

        It’s nice that you have those guarantees. I suppose it gives you permission to be so arrogant and to overlook your own miseducation about the unforeseen ways that HIV is transmitted.

    • M

      I was a ‘sometimes’ because I am paranoid, but I am also in a committed monogamous relationship with a similarly paranoid person. We use condoms every time because we are even more paranoid about babies which is a more real threat in our lives than HIV, and even though we’ve been together for over two years we still both get tested periodically because why not? So yeah, realistically at this point in my life my answer SHOULD be ‘never’, but.. Paranoia. Hence ‘sometimes’.

    • Gruff

      The actual statistics about incidence are:

      “In 2009 (the most recent year that data are available), there were an estimated 48,100 new HIV infections.[1] Most (61%) of these new infections occurred in gay and bisexual men. Black/African American men and women were also strongly affected and were estimated to have an HIV incidence rate than was 7 times as high as the incidence rate among whites.”

      according to the cdc website…

      Caucasian in a monogamous straight relationship… nope not exactly worried.

      • Gruff

        Actually, the CDC website shows an average of about 5000 per year in my age group.

        5000 per year incidence in the USA
        x 38% (straight probability)
        div by 7 (Caucasian are 7 times less likely)
        = 271.43

        271.41 / 308,745,538 (pop of USA)
        = 0.000000879

        That’s a 0.000088% chance per year.

        Not even taking into consideration a low risk / no drug lifestyle which probably lowers that risk by another factor of 100.

        So, even if I’m off by a few 0′s… Why should I be concerned again?

    • MM

      Thanks for being responsible, TheGloss! A lack of similar responsibility is why I gave up on xoJane. I went there today and they had an article on EATING KLEENEX AS AN APPETITE SUPPRESSANT.

    • Avodah

      @Natalie- —headdesk–I don’t live in constant fear of being raped or getting a bad blood transfusion (which *rarely* happens now). My only point is that getting AIDS is really not at the forefront of “shit I worry about”. I know exactly how AIDS is transmitted- bodily fluids.
      My only point is that I am not a member of a highly at-risk population and I do not engage in activity that puts me at risk.

      For the record, so you people will stop.
      1.) get tested (duh)
      2.) don’t do drugs with filthy needles
      3.) make sure your partner gets tested
      4.) be aware you could, in fact, get AIDS

      • Natalie

        I don’t live in constant fear either, which is why I indicated that I was sometimes concerned. True, contaminated blood transfusions rarely happen these days here, but they do happen. And while I don’t live in abject poverty, I travel often in developing and undeveloped countries, and if I were to fall ill or become badly injured while abroad, I know the medical treatment I would receive may not adhere to the same safety and sterilization procedures that I expect from my local hospital. This is a concern, but I’m not about to hunker down in my first world safety net because shit happens here too.

        Last month a news story broke that a clinic in Ottawa, ON (the city I grew up in) had not properly sterilized endoscopy materials and consequently almost 7,000 patients who received treatment over the course of ten years may have contracted Hep B, Hep C and/or HIV. My father was a patient at this clinic and because we have a history of colon cancer in the family, he trying to be proactive about his health. Fortunately, he’s been screened and did not contract anything, but four others have since been diagnosed with Hep C.

        My point is that you can contract HIV/AIDS without engaging in high-risk activities, and I think you were too quick to remark on this story as shoddy journalism. On the contrary, the information was factual and it encouraged discourse. Finally, keep in mind that a person who is never concerned about getting AIDS may not bother getting tested because he/she feels falsely insulated by their low-risk life or he/she is too ignorant to care about the risks.

    • Daisy

      First up, I do appreciate very much that you guys put aids/hiv in the spotlight.

      Second, I’m one of those “not more than any other STD”. The simple reason for that is that I don’t put myself at risk. My boyfriend and I go double Dutch (birth control pil + condom) and I still get tested at least once a year, because I do have some tattoos and piercings. I donate blood every couple of months as well, so I see it as my responsibility to stay healthy that way. I always respect the waiting time after a new partner or a new piercing or tattoo.

      In fact, the more I think about it, I think I actually worry more about OTHER STD’s, like herpes or warts, that you can contract even when you’re using condoms. So no, aids for me personally isn’t high on my list, but only because I do take precautions and don’t have casual sex.

      • Ashley Cardiff

        Remind yourself, every now and again, that you are doing a service to humanity by being this responsible.