This Sunday, Emmy Award-winning legend Jackée Harry praised Pose, the new series from Ryan Murphy about 1980s ball culture in New York City. She praised the show for its accuracy, particularly in dealing with the HIV diagnosis of lead character Blanca, portrayed by MJ Rodriguez. Jackée Harry also shared a touching story of her own concerning the 1980s AIDS Crisis.
One of the MANY reasons I decided to watch Pose is how they handle Blanca’s HIV diagnosis. The ’80s were a wonderfully fabulous, outrageously fun and utterly terrifying time. It’s important that we reflect on what the era taught us and better ourselves from those lessons.
I had gay friends die of AIDS but, honestly, I didn’t think it could effect me until a straight couple I knew both passed. I‘d have men drop in for the evening, a ménage à trois here and there, yet my heterosexuality made me feel invincible. My ignorance was commonplace then.
Eventually, the HIV and AIDS epidemic propelled me into a year of celibacy. The fun of the ’80s was over, honey. I felt like I had to take such a drastic measure to keep myself safe, but the good news is that today you don’t have to. Women of color (cis and trans) have disproportionately higher rates of HIV.
We also have access to PrEP — a daily medicine that lowers our chances of getting infected. But for some reason, not many of us are taking it. Don’t make the same mistakes I made in the 80’s. Even if you’re straight, even if you’re vanilla in the bedroom and especially if you don’t want to go celibate: ask your doctor about PrEP & GET ON IT!
Jackée Harry’s story is a scary reminder of how brutal the ’80s AIDS scare was on our community (and that of our allies) as well as the misinformation that was (and often still is) rampant.
For many years HIV and AIDS was considered only a “gay” disease, its original name — GRID, Gay-Related Immune Deficiency — evidence of a more ignorant time.
We love that Jackée Harry decided to share her story with the world. And we love that she explicitly called for more PrEP use, especially among people of color. According to the Los Angeles LGBT Center, queer people of color are the least likely to know about PrEP.