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“Boat AIDS” | Trivializing a Horrific Disease

by Jaclyn Brez

Shipfam, you do not have “boat AIDS.” This terminology isn’t found in any journal of medicine because it does not exist.  It is an abhorrent slang term used by the ignorant to describe the flu-like symptoms that result from 3+ days of reckless abandonment of proper sleep, nutrition, and self-care.

There is not a single, reasonable defense for lending mockery to an epidemic responsible for 35.4 million deaths to date, and the 36.9 million currently living with HIV.  To compare something as banal as the flu to the devastation AIDS wreaks on the human body is deplorable. It is extremely disappointing to see this unnecessary choice of words used by individuals who claim to identify with the festival culture ideals of acceptance and inclusivity.

A quick Google search will show entries in Urban Dictionary dating back to 2007. An entry from 2017 ties the boat version to festival cruise charter Holy Ship! specifically, by name.  I cannot personally attest to the usage statistics in Facebook groups for land festivals, but I do know that the perfectly-acceptable phrase “festival flu” is used more there from casual browsing.

What moved me to write this piece was the rampant use of “boat AIDS” in the 3,200 member-boasting group for the recent inaugural sailing of the Friendship.  As if the contrast between the name of the festival and such insensitive language isn’t disturbing enough, many of the attendees on this maiden voyage were former Holy Ship! Shipfam who proclaimed the cause for their dissent was due to “the vibes not being the same” and feeling the need to move on from an event they’ve outgrown.

David Kirby AIDS Victim
AIDS Victim David Kirby On His Deathbed | Photo Credit Therese Frere of LIFE Magazine

While I witnessed many positive recounts from guests and undoubtedly an amazing experience of music and production, things like this stand out to me.   It reflects very poorly on a group that calls themselves a “family” with an average age of 25-35 and extensive, worldwide festival experience under their belts and infamous blue robes.  I’m not attacking or generalizing, I’m calling out a few to DO BETTER.

I’m urging those that see things like this to do similarly and make known what is not tolerated. I had seen a post specifically addressing this problem with a great outpouring of support, but also with ridicule and insistence that it’s “a joke.”  The most poignant comment in the 100+ thread was from a male attendee who bravely disclosed that he is HIV+ status and in no way sees this as a joke or something to take lightly. To downplay his suffering and daily battles is heinous and a poor reflection on a culture that values PLUR.  He reinforced that festivals are a place where we go to unite with others in a utopian celebration of humans and music where one can forget the troubles and challenges of “real life” for a few days and take in an amazing experience.

I attempted to revisit this thread before writing this article and it appears to have been deleted. I am giving this topic the voice that was taken away from it. I am not starting a discussion, I am ending one.  It doesn’t cost a dime to take a second of pause before speaking to consider how hurtful this term before using it. Covering this issue brought back memories of the 2008 “Think Before You Speak” campaign featuring Wanda Sykes and Hillary Duff that make fantastic progress in striking “that is so gay” from the vernacular of many.

LGBTQ Clubs–The Birthplace of EDM

Here I am, 10 years later in 2018, the year that saw the global success of the film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” addressing a very small minority of the electronic music subculture—a culture that was founded in the LBGTQ community who have seen the greatest devastation and impact of a deadly epidemic that is anything but a joke—asking for 2019 to be a year that words are chosen more wisely.

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8 comments

Rainer Kent Buechs December 31, 2018 - 2:30 PM

Well this post gained tons of traction and seems to have gotten the message across. You’ve really
Made a difference . Continue the good work in influencing the masses… all 12
Of them😆😆😆

Dillon St Leger December 30, 2018 - 3:40 PM

Curious, did you partake in any extracurricular activities at a festival? Ever?

Austin Fitzpatrick December 29, 2018 - 12:33 PM

Lmaooo. No.

Nik Jay December 29, 2018 - 7:08 AM
Tim Shea Carroll December 28, 2018 - 10:32 PM

Proud of you Jaclyn Brez!!

Tyler Kraften December 28, 2018 - 9:15 PM
Sebastian Torres December 28, 2018 - 5:16 PM

Get a fucking life

Bryan Antonioni December 28, 2018 - 12:02 PM

Not a chance lol.

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