“Knowledge is power. It destroys unfamiliarity and allows understanding… knowing I was willing to educate myself enough to stop the spread of poison that roots itself in ignorance made getting up, made being an example of, worth it.”
How often are topics shrugged off because they are uncomfortable?
How far are we willing to go to preserve the “ignorance is bliss” mentality?
Back in 1984, Ryan White was expelled and ostracized for receiving AIDS through a blood transfusion. He was shunned for a condition that was not well known at the time. We have come a long way since the pitchfork and fire mentality we once had towards AIDS and those who are diagnosed with the condition.
Or so I thought…
At YVCC, a booth was set up to provide information about AIDS on World AIDS Day. Behind the booth were eager students, willing to explain to others any questions they might pose. The booth-holders pleaded for understanding, for students to become actively involved and aware. The desk was covered with informational packets just ready to be shared. Yet, hardly a single person approached the booth. In fact, people started to beeline around the booth. Their eyes cast down, avoiding the eager volunteers.
While I was sitting with my friends, I began to hear some very disturbing (whispered) conversations:
“Seriously, I heard you don’t share cups with people with AIDS That’s how it gets transferred. I’m surprised we all don’t have it. Gross.”
“Yeah, that’s why you don’t hug or kiss someone with AIDS That’s how it spreads.”
The whole table then nodded their heads and moved on to a more “pleasant topic”.
The ignorance was staggering. Where was this information coming from? Haven’t we learned anything since 1984? As it turns out, the negative stigma causing the villagers to gather pitchforks and torches hasn’t entirely disappeared.
It destroys unfamiliarity and allows understanding.With that conversation in the back of my mind, I roped my friends together and walked over to the booth to take a look.
We got strange looks and many hushed conversations pointed in our my direction, but knowing I was willing to educate myself enough to stop the spread of poison that roots itself in ignorance made getting up, made being an example of, worth it.
As an advocate for youth health, nothing less of enlightenment is acceptable when it comes to the concerns for health in the valley. Knowledge is power. With that power we are capable of overcoming ignorance that seems insurmountable. Who will stand up with me to defend those with conditions next time judgment is passed without knowledge?