This week it came out that Pat Robertson, Christian televangelist, and one time presidential candidate, suggested that gay men attempt to transmit HIV intentionally by wearing a ring that will cut people when they shake their hands,

“You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there, they want to get people so if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger,” Robertson said. “Really. It’s that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder.”

The comments were aired on his Christian Broadcasting Network, in a segment where he was responding to a question from a woman wondering if a person in her church, living with HIV, should still be welcome.

When we at Visual AIDS read this, we got a little concerned. Was Pat Robertson misreading one of our Print+ editions? Was he misinterpreting artwork created by an artist member?

Is it possible Robertson saw Chloe Dzubilo's " No Glove No Love" print and started to wonder, why the glove? Or maybe someone sent him John Chaich's 2008 Print+ edition postcard, "Glove to Love You Baby" and he thought it was a secret message to gays to wear gloves to protect themselves from the ring wearing poz folks?

Or is Robertson just a dangerous man, endangering lives by spreading stigma and lies? And is his ability to spread lies an ongoing fall out from the ongoing silence around AIDS that started with Reagan?

While many in the media have reported Robertson's ridiculous, homophobic and dangerous claims, there has been little thought as to where they are coming from and what they mean. In an age of increased HIV criminalization, Robertson's attempt to fuel HIV hysteria may seem silly to those who know better, but what about those who don't? People living with HIV are going to jail for spitting. What is next, prison for dangerous jewelry? In a climate of ignorance and fear, anything is possible.

Last week at the Visual AIDS event " (re)Presenting AIDS”, artist and activist Kia Benbow spoke about how when she speaks to middle schoolers about HIV she is always met with a grateful group of kids afterwards who thank her for coming to speak because they are curious and have no other way of knowing about the virus. So when Robertson makes false claims, it is worse than the silence these kids are experiencing. It distracts from the useful information that could help save people's lives - such as PEP, PrEP, condoms, and sexual negotiation skills. His hate is taking up space for knowledge.

The silence around AIDS is not only a legacy of the Reagan administration that ensured AIDS went from medical condition to ongoing crisis, it is also an ongoing fall out of George W. Bush's ABC approach to HIV prevention: Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condoms. By prioritizing abstinence and "faithfulness" Bush undermined the work of activists and AIDS organizations to be clear about HIV is transmitted, and strategic about how prevention could be rolled out. It was during this time that Visual AIDS launched the Print+ Editions, also known as broadsides. First started in 1992 as a means to share information about HIV through the arts, the project was restarted by Nelson Santos and Amy Sadao in 2005 as way to generate conversation in an otherwise restricted time. Postcards, stickers, balloons and tote bags were charged with doing the work that many outreach workers, teachers and other educators felt they could not do: tell the truth.

Both Chaich's and Dzubilo's work are HIV prevention messages aimed at trans women, trans men, and cis-gender women, populations hard hit by silence.

Now, four+ years after Bush’s presidency we can see a wave of questions and cultural production around HIV/AIDS flourishing. And this is encouraging, but sadly, it is nothing in the face of someone like Robertson whose bully pulpit was given a mega phone for far to long. This year’s Print+ Edition tote bag, created by artist Kay Rosen, reads: AIDS ONGOING GOING ON, a remind that not only is HIV an ongoing crisis, the response – including through the arts, is also ongoing. We at Visual AIDS will sleep well tonight, secure that we did not cause Robertson's stupidity, proud that we are part of the solution to curb it.