01 December 2015

Masque of The Red-Ribboned Death

Ribbon Gate, Karen Finley (2015), an installation first seen in 1992 in response to the lack of AIDS memorials
Barbican Centre, London, 1st December, 2015
Today is World Aids Day.

I last wrote about this in 2011, when the then latest figures for Ireland outlined 152 new diagnosis of HIV in the six months through to June 2011. I read in today's Irish Times that for 2015 through to end of November, there have been 427 new cases, an increase of 85 over the same period last year. In the first six months of this year there were 203 new cases, so the jump to 427 in November is classified as a sharp spike. According to the latest HSE report:
- The highest number of cases was reported among men who have sex with men (MSM) accounting for 46.8% of newly diagnosed cases
- Heterosexual contact accounted for 18.7% of new diagnoses
- 12.3% of newly diagnosed cases were among IDUs (Intravenous Drug Users)

- HSE, HIV & AIDS in Ireland, Quarter 1&2 2015 (download link)
So four years on, the situation in Ireland has actually grown significantly worse. To put this in some perspective, Australia with a population of just over 23 million has seen its diagnosis level stabilise at around 1,000 new cases a year. This year Ireland with a population of just over 4.5 million will see almost half the number of new cases as a country five times its size.

How is this possible?

It would seem at a very basic level that for an Irish generation born into a world where life with HIV is no longer perceived as an automatic death sentence, where the media no longer give it the coverage it once had and education programs are not treated with the same urgency they once were, coupled with a return to risky behaviours not seen for twenty years fuelled by a technologically-enabled "dating" lifestyle unimaginable to previous generations, HIV is simply no longer seen as the risk it once was.

Maybe the spectre of HIV belongs to my Long Decade of the Hammock, a relic of the 90's long summer of (safe) love from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Fall of the Twin Towers, with the generations of today and in-between more comfortable with risk, less concerned with their own mortality, more focused on the YOLO here and now in the face of an everlasting War on Terror, years of Austerity and the seemingly unavoidable collapse of the world itself through unstoppable climate change and political intransigence. A delayed fin-de-cycle Masque of The Red-Ribboned Death.

Or maybe they're just a generation of idiots*.

The jury's out on this one.

*prove me wrong kids. Lower the infection rates, it's pretty easy. Take your parachute and go, etc etc.

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