To those who cast doubt on Harry’s future:
Harry was born with a voice others have to spend decades to earn. Despite his previous dalliances with celebrities, he’s not a part of that culture; this means his platform comes with a level of respect. It’s a tremendous blessing, and he has already begun practicing this God-given gift to change lives. To those who doubt his abilities, I want to illustrate just two ways he can improve his pre-existing campaigns.
#1. AIDS campaign: I know some will disagree with my assessment of his AIDS campaign; but personally speaking, I think there are some rooms for improvement. While lending his voice to the matter gives much-needed publicity to the AIDS charities, he has the ability to do something more. For instance, it seems like the catchphrase these days is that “AIDS is just like diabetes.” This analogy bothered me quite a lot. While I fully understand the good intentions behind it, such words can be dangerous for following reasons:
A. Diabetes is a chronic disease, full of dangerous complications; just because diabetes has become common with the rise in obesity in our society, it does not mean it has become any less dangerous. Diabetes is a risk factor for all sorts of life-threatening diseases. In fact, many diabetics will see their visions decline and their kidneys fail as a natural progression of their disease. The newer pills out there can’t replace insulin as the last resort. I’ve seen diabetic patients plea endlessly to avoid insulin injections; no one likes getting shots, after all; but insulin is just one of many pains diabetics go through in their lives. They can’t eat whatever they want, which is more restrictive and more frustrating than some realize. They have to check their blood sugars and record them, which means they have to poke themselves with sharp needles everyday. If they’re unfortunate enough to give themselves insulin shots, their bellies may have lumps from the many injections they get. I know some will be saying that I’m preaching to the choir by reiterating common knowledge; but I’m trying to highlight the fact that using an analogy that “AIDS is like diabetes” comes with the risk of coming across as someone ignorant of the dangerous of diabetes and as someone apathetic to diabetics’ plight.
B. AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease (mostly); diabetes isn’t. Yes, I know vertical transmissions (from mother to child) is possible. I’m well aware that IV drug users who share needles are also vulnerable to AIDS; but at its core, AIDS is an STD. It’s an infectious disease that raises a serious concern, because it’s a disease with serious consequences that can be spread unknowingly. You can’t catch diabetes by kissing a diabetic; but you ARE exposing yourself to likelihood of getting an HIV infection if you have unprotected sex with someone infected. This means sexual partners have to be open about their infected status; and these patients have to be open when they visit the hospitals. While destigmatizing HIV/AIDS will allow them to come forward, I feel like the motivation for their honesty is misplaced; it shouldn’t stem from the fact that this is somehow a “light” disease they shouldn’t be ashamed of; it should come from the recognition that it IS a serious disease with dangerous complications; this is very crucial, not just for the general public, but also for the HIV patients themselves. Some HIV/AIDS patients have very poor compliance when it comes to their antiviral medications. While denial and medication costs (depending on where they live) may contribute, this behavior stems from the fact that leukopenia (decreased white blood cells that fight infections) is asymptomatic (without symptoms) until you get sick. It’s not uncommon to see HIV patients come in because they feel like they have a cold only to see that their white blood cell count is ridiculously low. It’s a proof that they haven’t been taking their medications properly; and that’s because they haven’t understood the dangers of their disease completely; unfortunately, by this time, their illness have progressed too far; and it’s the patients who end up suffering from this misunderstanding.
Destigmatizing AIDS and trivializing it are two different matter. I’m not sure if Harry ever used that aforementioned analogy consciously, but in my opinion, it may send a wrong message to all parties involved: diabetics may feel like their sufferings are being taken lightly and HIV patients may feel like their disease is not something to be taken seriously. While HIV/AIDS is a disease public is familiar with, not many fully understand its psychological impact. For one, you can’t ever have unprotected sex with your partner if you’re infected with HIV. If you’re single, you have to risk losing the person you love by disclosing your status. Assuming you’re married, conceptions will become an issue. If you’re a male patient, you will have to go through IVF to have children; if you’re a female patient, you will always have that nagging thought throughout pregnancy regardless of the antivirals available. Just because there are drugs that can manage it now these days doesn’t change its nature; and its nature is what causes such restrictions that will impact them psychologically. I think addressing the issue from this angle will come with several benefits: public won’t feel forced to change their previous opinions on AIDS, and therefore will be more willing to understand; the HIV/AIDS patients will understand that it’s OK to feel frustrated with their disease; younger (and not-so-younger) generations will be more cautious in their sexual practices once they understand the lasting impact of AIDS.
If you’re unconvinced, allow me to give you an example of a successful anti-smoking campaign. Anti-smoking lobbyists have tried for many years to try to educate the public on the dangers of smoking. They’ve made posters with tarred lungs from autopsies, oral cancers, you name it; ironically, the most successful campaign poster they’ve made was one with a wrinkled woman; they used the picture to highlight the fact that smoking hastens the aging process. A simple idea, for sure; but funnily enough, that picture put quite a lot of female teenagers off smoking. I think the reason this poster was so much successful than the other ones was that it played on imminence rather than chance. When we think of cancer, we know it’s a matter of chance; many of us had heard the line “my grandmother smoked for 70 years, but she lived to be 90!” at least once. When you’re a smoker, it’s easier to overlook the percentage of people who DO get cancer from smoking than it is to look at the people who DON’T. But with age, it’s a different matter. We can’t stop ourselves from getting older; and this unavoidable fate is what put many female teenagers off. The success of this campaign is what makes me think that approaching HIV/AIDS campaign in a similar manner will be successful; in fact, it will broaden its scope from destigmatization of AIDS to promotion of safe sex. Like cancer, people know getting STDs of any kind is a CHANCE. But many of those same people want to get married and have children someday. If they fully understood that lasting impact of this disease, they’ll be more likely to practice safe sex; safe sex will decrease the chances of STD infections; STD prevalence will decline, and AIDS will be one of them.
#2. Veterans campaign: Brave men and women in uniform are an inspiration to us all; but if there’s one thing that they have in common, it’s that they have very high tolerance to pain. They’ve been conditioned to overlook bruises and aches. While such tolerance makes great warriors, the problems surface once they retire from the army. Even if they were fortunate to avoid the lasting physical injuries of army life, they’re so used to ignoring pains that they’re in danger of overlooking danger signs of heart attacks and strokes. While many countries have spent bottomless funds to educate the public on the danger signs of heart attacks and strokes, these two diseases are still the number one killers in our society these days. By now, all of us know that if you have a chest pain that radiates down to your arm, you may be suffering from a heart attack; if your speech is getting slurred and you feel weakness on one side of the body, you’re experiencing stroke. What many people don’t know is that these “typical” symptoms of heart attack and stroke are not as common as they think. In fact, women, elderly, and diabetics are in dangers of suffering “atypical” episodes. This means instead of chest pain, they may experience jaw pain, shoulder pain, or arm pain. Or they may just experience nausea and vomiting! These uncharacteristic symptoms mean that these patients are likely to overlook the likelihood of heart diseases (because they were so well educated on the “typical” symptoms) and think they’re just suffering from a stomach bug. Regarding stroke, slurred speech and hemiparesis are also not as common. I was just talking to a rehabilitation specialist the other day, and he commented on how 1/3 of stroke patients he sees die, 1/3 are disabled, and only 1/3 recover. When I asked him the reason behind such ridiculous figures, he talked about how it’s ALWAYS too late when these sort of patients come to the hospital. While early recognition is the key to treatment of these sort of diseases, the patient group makes the process difficult. The elderly patients are more likely to complain of general weakness and that “something’s off” rather than the familiar signs of stroke. By the time family members decide to bring them to the hospital, the golden time has already passed.
Through his work with the veterans, Harry can discuss these uncommon signs of heart attacks and strokes; and he can highlight the importance of admitting to pain and going to the hospital. Such education can help save these brave heroes’ lives. These veterans may have been trained to be ruthless back in the day, but they’re were never meant to be machines. In addition, if the veterans learn to be comfortable enough to admit to their physical pain, they may find talking about their emotional sufferings easier. Physical health and mental health are closely intertwined; you can’t ignore one while talking about the other.
If someone like me were able to come up with two light suggestions to improve his current campaigns, I know Harry and his team will be able to do a better job. After all, they’re much more experienced in the matter; but what makes Harry special isn’t his PR. Harry’s a good soul. If I didn’t believe so, I wouldn’t feel compelled to be here. Even his current predicament serves to prove his good heart, because he was the one who got betrayed; it is a result of a lapse of judgement and not a reflection of poor character. Harry’s a good soul who’s doing a good job. Harry can and will recover from this. I know that for sure.
Thank you so much, it’s always a pleasure to read your point of view