Don’t Ever Wipe Tears… or Wear Red Ribbons?

This week I’ve tucked myself up in bed early and watched a drama I’ve only just heard about on Twitter “Don’t Ever Wipe Tears without Gloves” a Swedish three part series set in the 1980s at the beginning of the AIDS crisis. It focuses on two gay men as they first start to experiment with their sexuality and develop a relationship with each other. I’ve found it very emotive and thought provoking, even crying whilst watching it.

It also made me very angry. The images of young men in hospital covered in lesions and sores really make you think about the pain and suffering people living with HIV faced back then, and how lucky people like me are now. I’m not sure if I would be as strong as I feel I am now if I had to contend with that much discomfort and loneliness. And I’m angry because HIV might not be curable, but it is preventable and I can’t understand why 20-30 years after the depictions in the drama there are still people across the globe being diagnosed HIV positive on a daily basis.

I don’t understand how governments and society can be aware of such a terrible thing but have so little passion to do anything about it. There’s not enough education about the virus, not enough done to tackle underlying issues as to why the high risk groups continue to be the demographic that HIV affects the most.

And I still don’t understand the BBCs stance on the red ribbon. Last week I wasn’t happy just submitting a call for them to change their attitude via the National AIDS Trust’s email petition, I also made a complaint via the BBC website.

I wasn’t shocked when I received a far from explanative response from them, and the same response that everyone else got who has also complained to them. In particular I was annoyed about two paragraphs:

We don’t wish to favour any one individual charity over any other so the BBC’s own charitable appeal and partnerships give grants to a wide range of different charities working at home and abroad. The charity appeals which the BBC supports in this way though on-air and off-air events – for example BBC Children in Need, Comic Relief and Sport Relief, the Disasters Emergency Committee – feature and support a wide range of charitable organisations which are chosen by a fair selection process.”

The red ribbon or any other ribbons don’t favour any particular charity, if all ribbons were allowed it would raise the profile and awareness for ALL charities or causes involved.

Many people have mentioned the annual Poppy Appeal, and of course the red poppy is worn as a universally-recognised symbol of national remembrance for those killed or injured serving their country in conflict. In particular, the poppy commemorates those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of their country in two world wars, and the BBC has a long standing convention of allowing its presenters, reporters and pundits to wear poppies on-screen if they wish to in the run up to Remembrance Day.

The red ribbon is also a universally-recognised symbol or remembrance, and of solidarity. A long standing convention still had a beginning, someone in the past made the decision to allow the Poppy, why should people who favour support for the good cause of the Poppy Appeal be allowed to, whereas their colleagues who may wish to support other causes be disciplined?

Today the National AIDS Trust advised that around 2,500 emails have been sent to the BBC but they still seem firm on maintaining their hypocritical position. I believe they will only change their minds now with further pressure from the media and from their own staff calling for a re-think in this out dated policy.

It’s great that BBC Four broadcast an incredible series this year to mark World AIDS Day, but think of how much more the BBC would achieve if they simply let their presenters fight the stigma on camera: all it would take is a small, thin piece of red fabric crossed into a ribbon and allowing their presenters to wear it…

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4 thoughts on “Don’t Ever Wipe Tears… or Wear Red Ribbons?

  1. Steve says:

    I understand your anger absolutely: I’m sure I remember BBC presenters wearing the ribbon in previous years, but perhaps that’s my HIV-addled memory messing up again. Mine was one of the useless emails to the BBC.

    I’ve avoided watching “Don’t Ever Wipe Tears without Gloves” because I know what it will do to me, having lived through those years in London. It’s being released on DVD at the end of next week and I have it on pre-order. At least on DVD I can watch it in small chunks pausing it when it gets too much.

    You illustrate why we can’t afford an HIV closet: it’s scary coming out at first (I remember your count-down!), but in the end it’s just a bloody virus. Infectious, but not contagious, and highly treatable… Sorry: your blog, not my high horse!

  2. Matt says:

    Hi Alex, I have just watched the series on tv, also being hiv it really upset me particularly the way rasmus boyfriend was treated, and of course I cried, fortunately for me I have medication, however it was still very painful to watch…

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