I haven’t been around much the past few months. RL and my paying work went insane on me, and well…yeah. I’m trying to get back in the groove but it’ll be a slow process. Sadly, if you follow my poly blog, you’re used to these long disappearances.
Today, a friend on Twitter shared this story with me: World Aids Day: Stigma of living with HIV strong inside gay community
I can sum up the story in two sentences. 1) A gay man with HIV found acceptance and love from the Mormon father he was terrified to come out to, but rejection from the Gay community he trusted to support him. 2) Stigmatizing and hurting people with HIV/AIDS makes it harder to fight the epidemic.
I’d like to add a third part: What the fuck is wrong with us. Whether we identify as LGBT, sex positive, kinky, poly, feminist, POC or any other fucking label…How can we do this to our own? And it’s not just in LGBT communities. We, as marginalized groups, and those who are fighting for our own rights and protections, have turned, over and over and over again, on some of the most vulnerable among us. We have stigmatized them, penalized them. Driven them from us and far to often left them to die alone.
For over a year, I researched and wrote for a medical blog on HIV/AIDS. I wish I could link to it, but it’s down now. The things I learned in that year would blow your mind. Things like, sexual transmission is actually extremely difficult if the virus is under control, so difficult that many doctors believe it is perfectly safe for a person with HIV to have sex if their T-cell count it high enough. (I don’t remember the specific number, but I invite you to do your own research.) Like using condoms reduces the risk of transmission even further–depending on the study you read up to 95% when used consistently and correctly.
Now, percentages seem to hurt people’s brains, so let me spell this out for you. Go back to that ‘extremely difficult’ link. On the chart it is says that highest risk sexual activity is receptive anal intercourse. 50 out of 10,000. If 10,000 people have receptive anal intercourse with an HIV+ partner, 50 of them will get infection. That is half a percent, people. Now add in condoms. Figure condoms are 60% effective, that’s the low-end, but let’s be safe. Condoms cut risk of infection by 60% does NOT mean that your risk of getting infected if 40%. It means that half a percent risk (0.5%) drops even further to 0.2%. That’s 1 in 500. Hey, how about this? If the person with HIV/AIDS is on bottom, the risk of the penetrative partner in anal intercourse using a condom is something like 0.03%. In English, that’s 3 in 10,000.
So why the fuck did I spend a year reading news reports of people afraid to shake hands with a person who has HIV/AIDS. Of people with HIV/AIDS going to jail for35 years for spitting on someone.
Look, I admit it. The idea of getting AIDS is scary. Especially for someone like me without insurance and decent medical care. Knowing that HIV is a manageable disease (did you know that? someone infected with HIV today is just as likely to die of a heart attack or cancer. Science, she does progress) doesn’t do me any good when I can’t get the care to manage it. So yeah, if I was dating someone and found out they had HIV, I’d be uncomfortable with the idea of penetrative intercourse. Why? Because I’m human, and AIDS has been the Big Bad Boogeyman since I was in grade school. It’s hard to think rationally about it. But that wouldn’t stop me from being a relationship with someone who has HIV or AIDS.
News-fucking-flash: There is a lot more to dating a person than sticking tab A in slot B. There’s even more to sex than sticking tab A in slot B. Unless you learned your sex from porn, in which case, please educate yourself.
The stigma against people with HIV/AIDS is a particularly pervasive form of ableism. It’s one that doesn’t belong in our communities, in our homes, in our relationships.
It’s time to person-up, get over the stupid “Ew! They have cooties!” and start treating the people around us with HIV/AIDS as the individuals, friends, and comrades they are.
- December 1 is World AIDS Day (voanews.com)