January 13th, 2011
05:58 PM ET
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.
CNN: Do you think the stigmas and discrimination are lessening as the public becomes more educated about the disease?
Cho: Yes, but there's still a great deal of homophobia surrounding it. It hasn't gone away completely. I think there is definitely more sensitivity to it and there's more awareness, but I think that there's still a prevailing attitude that it is something that is somehow contracted because of a kind of non-vigilance on the part of the victim. There's a judgment still surrounding the disease which I think should be eradicated along with the disease itself.
CNN: Let’s switch gears for a minute. Have you spoken to Bristol Palin since all of the blog drama unfolded? [Note: After Palin and Cho wrapped "Dancing With the Stars," Cho, on her personal blog, famously accused Sarah Palin of forcing her daughter to do the show. A war of words ensued.]
Cho: I don't think she's ever really spoken to me. Obviously, she has a speech writer writing for her so I don't have a response for her because she hasn't talked to me.
CNN: What do you think about all the press surrounding Sarah Palin after the tragic shootings in Arizona this past weekend?
Cho: I think it was very irresponsible of her to put these Democrats in gunfights on her web site. I didn't agree with her when she did it and I don't think that was right. The fact that this all has happened just shows how deadly some ideas can be and it's irresponsible of Sarah Palin and obviously she knows that because she took it down and obviously people are very angry. I think that they should know better but obviously they didn't think to. When you glorify the use of guns, this is what happens.
Hear more about Cho’s involvement with HIV/AIDS activism when "Hope Survives: 30 Years of AIDS” airs Friday at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.
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