An Unfunny Laugh
Last updated: May 2023
We all occasionally find ourselves in a position where a joke is told, and we simply find it distasteful. It does not necessarily mean we are surrounded by the wrong people, but can definitely mean that some of the people around us are uneducated about certain things.
I think now that I know my status, I am more aware of when HIV is mentioned. I believe it is similar to how once you buy a new car, you start to see that car everywhere. I do not see HIV everywhere, but I notice when it is brought up more. In so many situations, it is brought up as a joke or thrown around inappropriately. Where I would have rolled my eyes and walked away before, I feel an honest sting now.
HIV as the punchline on TV shows
My boyfriend wanted to watch this television show called Shameless. The people in the show are set in the southside of Chicago. Throughout most of the show, the characters loosely through around HIV as a punch line almost. Every time they did, it made me want to cringe. It remains a mystery to me that HIV is still a joke and that it's no problem for it to be presented on television as such.
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One positive HIV-related situation
The only HIV-positive situation that came from this series was when one of the characters dated an individual who knew he was HIV positive. The show briefly touched on how this character was on treatment. Undetectable means untransmittable was quickly touched on.
They also had the main character get tested after talking to his partner. So much more could have been touched on in this scene but at least it was something positive and, for once, not a joke.
Misinformation and jokes about HIV in real life
I was born and raised in the south. Until health class in school, there was never any information about HIV. Growing up where we lived, we were not introduced to people who were gay. Many of the uneducated adults singularly correlated HIV with only the gay community.
Prior to being diagnosed, my husband at the time had some joke that was apparently an old one for him. He even used it with and around his sons. In a nasty situation or something, he would comment about not getting "x" (x was his word that combined several STDs together). He did stop using it around me once I was diagnosed.
Why do people get a good laugh out of HIV?
Only a few ‘trusted’ people know that I am HIV positive. I plan to keep it that way, at least for now. It never seems to fail that at our southern get-togethers, when the drunks get talking about sexual stuff, some way HIV gets thrown in their conversation.
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen HIV be used as a punch line, even with different crowds. It leaves me worried about society today that a serious health condition can be a joke or a good laugh for so many people.
How would you react?
I see the fight that people who are open about their diagnosis try to put out there. I am not sure I would ever be ready to be public about my diagnosis.
It leaves me in an awkward feeling situation. How do you correct friends or associates nonchalantly? How can we make television shows not have their characters make getting or having HIV a laughable situation?
What do you notice in the world around you? Comment below.
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