January 13th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Margaret Cho: HIV/AIDS still carries stigma

Katie McLaughlin

(CNN) - For Margaret Cho, HIV/AIDS isn’t something to think about once a year around the start of December – it’s a personal cause.

The comedian recently spoke with CNN about what inspired her to get involved with HIV/AIDS activism as "Anderson Cooper 360°" gears up to mark the 30th anniversary of the first AIDS diagnosis with a special presentation, "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS." The hour-long special, which airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN, will also feature guests Sir Elton John, Sharon Stone, Mo'Nique and Cho, among others.

We caught up with Cho to talk about where the issue of HIV/AIDS stands today as well as if she’s spoken to one Bristol Palin lately.

CNN: Why is this issue so important to you, personally?

Cho: It's an issue that I, unfortunately, grew up around. HIV/AIDS was a really big problem right when I was a kid growing up in the ‘80s in San Francisco. There were so many people who were dying of AIDS and it was such a huge, huge, terrible issue in our community and then, of course, it was a global issue as well.

It made me realize that issues of health can be very political, and so that’s really where I began my political journey as a young AIDS activist trying to raise money and trying to find a way out of the problem.

CNN: What are some of the stigmas surrounding HIV/AIDS that bother you the most?

Cho: I think that because the disease affected mostly gay people, there was a stigma attached that there was something wrong with people who had it – that the homophobia that surrounded the disease made people more hesitant to want to find a cure.

Or, that there was something wrong with having [HIV/AIDS], and that people who had it often were dying needlessly because they were either not aware of it, they didn't want to be aware of it, they didn't want to be associated with it and that’s why they didn’t seek treatment, or they weren’t getting help from their families because they somehow felt that they deserved the illness. There was so much made about the way that people contracted the disease and judgment being placed on that which was really terrible.

Full story on the Marquee blog

Editor's note:
Greater Than AIDS – a new national movement to respond to AIDS in America– is asking Americans to share their “Deciding Moments," personal experiences that changed how they think about the disease and inspired them to get involved. For many it is someone close to them who was infected. For some it was their own diagnosis. For others it was a realization that we all have a role to play. Tell us about your “Deciding Moment” by visiting: www.greaterthan.org/moment.

Related: Visit Greater Than AIDS for answers to frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS, as well as information about local testing centers.

Filed under: 360° Radar • AIDS • Katie McLaughlin
soundoff (One Response)
  1. antonio sabella

    AIDS is still a deadly disease and I think that many older gay people think that they will not get it. I believe that the younger people are more protected.

    January 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm |