Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Alicia Keys, Your Digital Life Sacrifice on World AIDS Day is a Bad Publicity Stunt


Allison McCarthy is a freelance writer

Alicia Keys sacrificed her digital life to help save millions of real lives affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. That means no more Facebook or Twitter updates from her until $1,000,000 is raised to buy her life back.

Keep a Child Alive (KCA), co-founded by Leslie Blake and Alicia Keys, aims to provide "first class AIDS care through doctors, nutrition, testing, transportation, and treatment for opportunistic infections, which are all necessary for anti-retroviral treatment to be successful. KCA also provides the care and support to keep orphaned and abandoned children safe."  On Monday, the Digital Life Sacrifice campaign, initiated by Alicia Keys and supported by celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and Usher, among others, plans to bring awareness to World Aids Day by having celebrities signing off all Twitter and Facebook feeds until $1 million has been raised for KCA.  This is a seemingly noble and altruistic effort; however, the celebrities plan to feature "'last tweet and testament' videos and will appear in ads showing them lying in coffins to represent what the campaign calls their digital deaths."  
 
 
Appropriation, much?  As all of the actors and musicians are (at least publically) HIV-negative, this is highly belittling to those who have actually died from HIV/AIDS.  This is their struggle.  These are their lives.  How, exactly, is an image of Kim Kardashian in a coffin, unable to Tweet or update Facebook, the equivalent of watching someone struggle with HIV or die from AIDS-related diseases?  Keys feels it "puts the disease in perspective" and that it's "such a direct and instantly emotional way and a little sarcastic, you know, of a way to get people to pay attention."  In fact, it is little more than a publicity stunt that does nothing to bring awareness for the millions in the U.S. and around the world who have died from HIV/AIDS. 
 
Additionally, Keys plans to donate funds to "support families affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India."  This is a curious action to take, as it seems all of the participating celebrities in the campaign are American.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over one million Americans to date are HIV-positive, while one in five (21%) of those people living with HIV is unaware of their infection.  Why is KCA ignoring the very real plight of HIV/AIDS survivors in the United States?  The campaign is merely reinforcing the idea that HIV/AIDS is not an issue in the industrialized Western world, which is an obvious fallacy. 
 
Try as we may, we cannot buy our way out of a global health epidemic.  The patent absurdity of "buying" someone back to "digital life" makes a complete mockery of AIDS-related death.  Watching someone you love struggle to breathe, move, and simply exist as you are helpless to ease their suffering -- who among us would not donate everything we had and then some to take that pain away? 
 
You know what would have been really radical for these celebrities to do?  How about:
  • Take an HIV-test
  • Publically advocate safe-sex practices
  • Volunteer at an AIDS hospice
  • Advocate for the rights of sex workers
  • Participate in a needle-exchange program
  • Speak to Congress to increase federal funding for HIV/AIDS research
But no.  None of that is as glamorous as a photo shoot.  None of that will bring about more followers on Facebook and Twitter.
 
I'm not buying life -- digital or otherwise.  And I really don't give a rat's ass if Kim Kardashian or Alicia Keys ever update their social networking accounts.