Notes from the battlefield
The comments on the XTRA website in response to their front page story on criminalization (see my last post) are all over the map, and sometimes heated. But they’re worth reading by all those interested in stigma and how it pans out - or not - in the real world.. You can find them here: http://www.xtra.ca/public/National/HIV_stigma_radiates_from_behind_the_bench-6193.aspx
Brian has commented on this too today; clearly stories like this tend to hit a lot of nerves. So pardon the duplication between our two blogs.
Anyway, here’s a selection of comments from both sides of the XTRA fence:
Male or female, gay or straight, you deserve to be sentenced for deliberately - or through deliberate negligence - giving your partner a lethal disease.
The very idea of “deliberate” infections should be challenged except in the tiniest number of sociopaths, because it doesn’t really capture what happens when two people of different status have sex.
The vast majority of HIV is spread “non-deliberately” by people who don’t know they have it.
There is a difference between criminal intent and just deplorable action. But I find it hard to sympathize with HIV-positive people who complain that being forced to disclose every time cuts down on the pool of potential sex partners. Too bad! This article talks a lot about the responsibilities of HIV-negative people and virtually ignores the responsibilities of HIV-positive people.
I am so sick of hearing this idea that (being forced to disclose every time cuts down on the pool of potential sex partners). This is not the reason people don’t disclose. The reason we don’t disclose is because you can’t control gossip and everyone around you can treat you differently when they know, from the workplace to the bar to family. It changes your life for the worse and that is not fair. A lot of negative folks say “that’s your opportunity to educate,” but that’s easy for them to say. I know many, many guys who regret how open they have been about their status. It doesn’t make stigma vanish. It makes life harder. Please believe me when I say that the risk of disclosure DOES NOT have to do with being greedy for sex.
I am ashamed that this is what the gay rights movement has degenerated to. Defending a rapist! Stop blaming the victims! It’s not their fault when someone lies to them.
HIV criminalization? That has got to be the stupidest thing I have ever heard. I completely understand that yes this man did and does have a legal obligation to inform his partners about his status. However they knowingly participated in unprotected sex, knowing with all the sexual education in the world and all the advertisements regarding sexual health, that they could have contracted the HIV virus. For them to do so was irresponsible . .”
I’m sure many people would turn down a sexual encounter if they know their potential sex partner has HIV. It should be criminalized - it most definitely is murder. I am truly disgusted that the community is willing to fight this charge.
I’m am a closet HIV-poz guy. It’s the stigma and this kind of stuff (criminalization) that keeps me from coming out. The person who infected me (whom I know) didn’t say anything to me about his status. When I found out I was poz, I didn’t go running to the police. I was an adult who made a bad choice and I accept it.
Note that the comments I’ve selected, and the balance between criminalization supporters and naysayers, pretty well reflects the balance of what’s been posted to the XTRA website. It’s about a 50-50 split, I’d say. I don’t know if that split is representative of the views of the gay community as a whole. But it strikes me, as an opponent of criminalization (was there ever any doubt?), that a lot of work needs to be done to win the day and persuade the court of public opinion if our own community is so divided on this one.
What’s your take on this?
As a footnote, I remember when this campaign first began, we talked as a group about whether the issue of criminalization was sufficiently relevant to the topic of HIV stigma to devote much attention to it here. Times change and so does our understanding. It’s become readily apparent, in fact, that there are very close links between the two topics, don’t you think? Certainly many of the XTRA commenters readily make the connection.