Over on gay.com, there’s a nice little write-up about our campaign. That feature, though, has produced a storm of debate amongst gay.com readers; you can follow it here: http://lifestyle.gay.com/2008/12/world-aids-day.html Be warned though, there is some real vitriol here, amongst the pleasantries and pats on the back.
One thing that the gay.com discussion reinforces is that while most guys seem to get the point of the HIVStigma.com campaign, our message is sometimes interpreted in unintended ways. One gay.com reader, for instance, says he’s looked at our web site and it’s “largely about HIV+ guys complaining that potential sex partners reject their sexual advances.” Another says “Yes, the campaign here in Toronto seems to focus on HIV+ men complaining that HIV- men won’t have sex with them”
Yikes! I hope not! There’s precious little evidence - not from the facilitators here or from those poz guys who’ve dropped by and left comments - that anybody is saying anything like this at all. Those so-called complaints just haven’t come up! And if they’re talking about our slogan “If you were rejected every time you disclosed would you?” I’d strongly dispute that’s at all what it’s about.
There have been also a few suggestions that our slogan implies we’re condoning the practice of not disclosing, condoning unsafe sex. I suppose people read what they want to read. And I suppose I should be ignoring these negative spins rather that commenting on them, but I am what I am.
I don’t want to ignore the fact that A LOT of the response to this campaign has been really, really good. That’s what I’m hearing. But the possibility sometimes crosses my mind that our campaign message is too obtuse for some, too subtle, too open to interpretation. So perhaps we need to restate from time to time that we’re talking about stigma here. It’s about stigma’s impact on HIV prevention, and it features and tries to engage both poz and neg guys in that discussion. It’s about the role that stigma has in transmitting the virus - including making it difficult for poz guys to disclose, including deterring others from getting tested, including preventing talking to each other about HIV.
The simpler version is that talking about stigma helps reduce it.
But going back to the gay.com discussion about our site, clearly that discussions highlights divisions within our community, which transcend poz/neg lines. It’s pretty clear from the gay.com discussion there is a fair bit of poz-phobia out there too, which also transcends poz/neg lines, And the disclosure issue in particular seems to be really, really divisive. (Which suggests to me we should be talking about it more, not less.) But is this just activists arguing heatedly, as activist often do, and that banter isn’t really representative of how Joe the plumber gay guy feels about things? Joe the plumber gay guy may not care much about HIV at all, in fact. I don’t know.
Anyway, read the gay.com discussion and see what you think. And come back here and talk about it.