Funny or Die

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During my last semester of college, I took a class in Performance and Digital Technology, taught by a very attractive gay choreographer. Naturally, I set myself a goal to become teacher's pet. It wasn''t difficult really. All it took was a few artsy fartsy conversations and a flash of my baby blues. I always sat at the front of the classroom, and he always found some way to randomly drop my name into the topic at hand. I know, it sounds juvenile, but I can't be 100% mature ALL the time.

One day in class, someone made a joke about AIDS, and everyone giggled. My teacher, trying not to look too perturbed, whispered to me "Is AIDS a
punchline now?"

"Don't ask me. I didn't laugh."

"I don't want to sound like an old man, but, in my day, that was never something anyone laughed about."

I wasn't about to argue with him. Being closer to his age, mentally, I was just as uncomfortable with the comment. I knew too many people who had experienced the beginning of the AIDS scare, and I wasn't about to disrespect that.

One year and some change later, I find myself working at a comedy club in Manhattan. It's a lovely place. While it is still nothing more than a job to
pay the bills, at least I get a few laughs and some celebrity sightings to ease my pain.

While I have been extremely sensitive since my birth, I wouldn't say I'm someone who is easily offended...if that makes any sense. What I mean is, I
do take a lot of things personally, but I also have a taste for politically incorrect humor. Usually the only thing that upsets me is hyper-masculine men claiming to be gay-friendly and then portraying us as lispy queens who stand around all day and judge what other people are wearing.

However, one night, the topic of AIDS came up twice in a single show. Donald Glover from "Community" was the headliner. At one point in the evening, he
approached the topic of condom use. He emphasized that his primary reason for using a condom is not for protection against STDs, but because he dreads having a kid. He stated that he would rather have AIDS than be a dad, and backed this up with the fact that his cousin is HIV+ and living a very healthy life, while his dad (or someone like that) raised six kids and looks like he's been living with AIDS his whole life.

There is not nearly enough space in my head to roll my eyes as widely as I'd like to. What really confounds me is that so few people realize the difference between HIV and AIDS (HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, AIDS is when your immune system actually starts to fail). Of course, Donald's cousin appears healthy; she's taking care of herself and taking her meds to keep her immune system alive. When AIDS actually hits, it's not gonna be so easy to keep it up.

After the 8:00 pm performance, the MC decided he wanted to jump on the bandwagon and make an AIDS joke himself. However, it was even more offensive when he blatantly asked: "Anyone in the audience HIV positive?"

I was already tired, hungry and overwhelmed by the crowd, and this nearly pushed me over the edge and brought me to tears. I maintained my composure, but all I could do was stand with a grimace fixated toward the stage.

I have come face to face with HIV in the past. I was not infected, but I experienced weeks of pure hell while waiting for my results. I cannot even begin to imagine the more severe hell that comes to those who test positive.

You can laugh about gonorrhea all you want. Syphilis is funny too. Lots of STD jokes are funny, because these diseases are CURABLE. We don't have an annual Clap Walk through Central Park. These diseases are laughable, because they don't take millions of lives each year. Maybe some day we will have a cure, but, in the meantime, HIV and AIDS will never be funny to me.

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