Celebs reveal the absurd reason why we haven't beaten AIDS in telling PSA.

Right now — this very moment — we have the tools to stop AIDS in America ... but the S-word is getting in the way.

Nope, not that one. Stigma.

“I felt very lonely," Justin Bell of Jacksonville, Florida, told WJCT of his emotional health after being diagnosed with HIV in 2007.


Because he'd lived a "clean life," he explained, he didn't think it was possible for him to contract the virus. It took a near-death emergency room visit to spur his diagnosis.

"I felt as if no one else could possibly understand what I was going through."

1.2 million Americans are living with HIV.

Unfortunately, Bell's story is not unique. Despite the fact that we've come so far with prevention and the science behind fighting the virus, misconceptions about what kinds of people have HIV make it much more difficult to combat.

"Stigma is the greatest driver behind the epidemic," according to GLAAD. "Stigma is what prevents people from taking preventive measures, getting tested, and getting into and staying in treatment. By stigmatizing people with HIV, we are actually making all of society more vulnerable."

Stigma is also a big reason why GLAAD partnered with the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation to create a new PSA.

And they recruited some star power to help get the message out.

Meredith Vieira, Whoopi Goldberg, Jonathan Groff, Michael Emerson, Tituss Burgess, and Bebe Neuwirth can all be spotted in the 30-second ad released on Oct. 20, 2015, which aims to "inspire, inform, and reignite the passion and action needed to beat the HIV and AIDS epidemic once and for all."



GIFs via GLAAD/YouTube.

According to Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and president of GLAAD, the PSA focuses on the form of stigma that persists throughout "the sensationalized and negative media coverage of the HIV and AIDS crisis."

"All too often, the way the media portrays HIV today stigmatizes those who are living with the virus. Currently, the popular characterization of people with HIV we see, in news media especially, is as potential spreaders of the virus, and in some worst-case scenarios, as predators."
GLAAD

It's a shame, too. Because the facts prove we could be doing so much more in stopping the virus.

HIV is still affecting millions of people, but it's not making headlines like it used to.

About 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV — more than the population of some states. And infection rates of young people — those who didn't witness the AIDS crisis of the 1980s firsthand — are disproportionately high.

According to the CDC, people between 13 and 24 years old accounted for over a quarter of all new HIV infections in the U.S. in 2010. What's more, it's estimated that half of American youth who are infected don't even know it yet.

"Conversation about HIV and AIDS is barely discussed in individual circles and has comparatively fallen out of the news cycle. This is despite the fact that the U.S. has not seen a decrease in new infection rates in nearly two decades."
Joel Goldman, managing director of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation

Here's how you can promote change.

It's OK to start small.

Combating stigma starts with simply learning the facts — like who can contract the virus and how. Then, talk about it — don't be afraid to chat about HIV with loved ones or your partners (it may not be the most romantic discussion topic, but it's an important one). And — this one's big — don't forget to get tested and always use protection. It's crucial.

Learn more about HIV and how you can help prevent it here.

Check out the PSA below:

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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

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Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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America has a complicated history with race. For as long as we've been a country, our culture, politics and commerce have been structured in a way to deny our nation's past crimes, minimize the structural and systemic racism that still exists and make the entire discussion one that most people would rather simply not have.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

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As the once-celebrated Information Age devolves into the hell-hole-ish Misinformation Age, many of us feel a desperate sense of despair. It's one thing to have diverse perspectives on issues; it's entirely another to have millions of people living in an alternate reality where up is down, left is right, and a global pandemic is a global hoax put on by a powerful cabal of Satanic, baby-eating, pedophile elites.

Watching a not-insignificant portion of your country fall prey to false—and sometimes flat out bonkers—narratives is disconcerting. Watching politicians and spokespeople spout those narratives on national television is downright terrifying.

Clearly, the U.S. is not the only country with politicians who pander to conspiracy theorists for their own gain, but not every country lets them get away with it. In a now-viral interview, New Zealand's Tova O'Brien spoke with one her country's fringe political party leaders and showed journalists exactly how to handle a misinformation peddler.

Her guest was Jami-Lee Ross, leader of the Advance New Zealand party, which failed to garner enough votes in the country's general election this weekend to enter parliament. The party, which got less than one percent of the vote, had spread misinformation about the coronavirus on social media, and Ross's co-leader, Billy Te Kahika, is a known conspiracy theorist.

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