Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Friday, February 27th, 2009
As seen in other posts, it will come to no surprise that this is my last post on the stigma campaign.
It truly has been a privilege to have been able to be part of a campaign that is has been, in my view, ground breaking.
The one thing that shocked me was that we really did not get a lot of rude, mean-spirited comments that are typically seen online at Xtra, Gay Guide Toronto message board, gay.com where in the guise of anonymity let their mouths fly.
I believe that was due to the tremendous effort of using multi-media, including video, to personalize our experiences as gay men live with, and without HIV. My hunch is the more you see of a real person, the less inclined one is to be a complete hag online. I may be wrong, but the difference was significant.
One of the little tad-bits that I hadn’t thought of was the repetition of poz guys mentioning people gossiping and not wanting to disclose as a result. Myself I don’t like being someone counselor over the matter as well, and being responsible to make sure guys aren’t putting themselves at risk by offering up their asses bare without question, thus putting me in the role of the villain if I weren’t going to say anything.
Obviously as well, we need to find a way to engage negative guys in these discussions. We’ll have no idea of what the sero-status of visitors to the site then out of the negatives, how many of them are already sensitive to the issues. Other gay men have felt by putting sero with stigma or HIV with stigma is creating a semantic link thus producing more stigma.
Personally, I can see that the double associated can do that; it needs to be put out there. I’m a bit more of an your face guy and make the audience to feel a little uncomfortable for those who need to be.
The campaign has been a great way to pull out some of these themes and will prove to be very beneficial when looking at future endeavors.
There are a few agencies I’d like to shout out as to making this a great campaign. The Ontario AIDS Network for housing the employee overseeing the project. The Gay Men’s Sexual Alliance for their co-operation and long hard work in pulling all of this together.
Top Drawer Creative headed up the website and did a great job not only with design, but also the all video and editing for your profiles, the games and other interactive features of the site.
Most of all, I have to say a big thank you to those who came back repeatedly and contributed to the issues on hand. Their contributions were essential in making this a success. And on yet again a personal note, kept my moral up to write something more on a subject that can be intense with submersed in it.
My hope is that those who came by have found ways to articulate their experiences, and perhaps learning something along the way. My one true hope always is that at least one people will walk away seeing others who have been successfully open in their lives to open up just a little bit more, even if that is a friend or two.
As those who have followed me, I’ve always been a more in your face kind of guy. Something a bit strange for a really shy guy.
On my blog, Acid Reflux Reality Show, we can continue from here you anyone wants to join me. I’ve taken a page from here and I’ve added multi-media to my site. I completely redid it and bought a video camera so I could post clips to go along with writing posts.
If you don’t make it there, and get FAB magazine in Toronto, check me out there. I’m not in every issue, but pretty close.
Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
It’s been a hectic last couple of weeks. I was overly preoccupied by a week where things going wrong, and costing me a lot of money overtook my attention. In addition, I headed out to New York last weekend on a pilgrimage to see my comedic hero, Kathy Griffin.
It will come to no surprise for anyone who’s been following me in this campaign, but when it’s all said and done, laughter is my best friend. I love to laugh. I love to find the humour, especially at comedy that pushes boundaries. If someone can make me laugh, I’m in love.
And for two and half hours with front row seats, I was indeed in love. We live with so much heaviness in our lives. There is no doubt this is what got me through the days when there were no effective treatments.
Our friends and lovers were dying as if we were in the midst of a war. It was the one thing that bonded me to my grandmother, her having survived the WWII, and me, in the losing people around me.
I was an ill equipped twenty-two year old who barely knew what it was like to be an adult let alone face what felt like all encompassing death. Even my doctor killed herself while on duty at the St. Boniface Hospital a few months after my test.
So here we are today, it makes me wonder what it will be like in another twenty years.
Will the gay community have come together, or completely split apart? What will have happened to this criminalization trend? Will HIV negative guys ever figure out they play a role in this apart from sero-sorting, and that their behaviour also contributes to raising infection rates? What will the treatments look like? Maybe it will be simply getting a shot once a year, a vaccine?
What do you think?
Saturday, February 7th, 2009
Just for fun, why don’t we engage in a little exercise.
Let’s make a top-ten list of all the stupid things that have happened to us as a result of HIV, if could be telling someone you’re positive and he suddenly gets the urge to head out and buy a pack of smokes never to return again, to whatever.
Hmmm, what can I say on this subject?
Monday, February 2nd, 2009
It always pains me to look at comments left on Xtra, or any other gay venue when it comes to issues regarding HIV and disclosure.
Sky Gilbert ran a piece regarding a case where a positive fellow infected 13 women here in Ontario. Always, when I am on this subject, I have to run the disclaimer that I would never support this behaviour. This is wilful and intentional harm to the women he exposed.
The article spoke to some of the implications of this court case and the grey area of sex, disclose, and what is and isn’t illegal.
Really, to only reason why I went through the comments was to find something for a post here. Otherwise I dare not go near.
To my surprise the majority of comments were ones that seemed more or less enlightened. On fellow who was closeted about his status wrote, and I was glad he did.
Once again, I got on my soapbox and started writing away to leave a comment. Near the end, I said to myself, “Ah screw it.”
However, I did copy this comment to leave here, and I’d like to get other people’s thoughts on it. I thought this fellow responded very well.
“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!” — I am so sick of hearing this idea that I *have* to say something. 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. Calling BS, Toronto ON
Monday, January 26th, 2009
I’ve known this for awhile now, given my discussions with my doctor. In fact it came up that I had an STD that didn’t need to be confirmed through a test, I’d be in contact with him and we’d just treat it.
To my surprise I had a positive syphilis result. There is stigma around this as well, even though it’s easy to get, often unknown, and easily treated if found quick enough.
Even though syphilis can be transmitted by mere skin to skin contact, it can happen simply laying together naked etc.
But no, to public heath this doesn’t matter. IF you are an evil slut getting something, then you are evil and are to be monitored.
I can’t say too much on this site, what I can say is that I do my best to stay out of their system, and I won’t even go to places who say it’s anonymous.
This is why years ago when I was trying to access a service at an organization (I won’t get into where and what as it is not relevant) and I was being asked to sign a paper stating that I’d allow my status to be reported to public health. Of course I said no, and never went any further with it. My health wasn’t great and I was not in the mood to take on a battle around something I felt was completely inappropriate.
Nonetheless, this is a long lead up to and extract from an article I’ve cut and paste from Xtra:
Lang said that change is also needed to include the province’s public health system, pointing to the ability of public health agencies to issue Section 22 orders, which can be used to control a person’s sexual activities.
“A Section 22 order will say things like, ‘You must disclose your status before you do anything penetrative,’” says Lang. “Public health wants you to wear a condom and disclose for oral and anal and vaginal. It’s stricter than the Criminal Code, which generally says if you wear a condom, the issue of disclosure isn’t relevant.
“In Toronto Section 22 orders are usually issued when a person is diagnosed with an STD for the third time.”
Many people don’t know this. It pays to be educated on what the Sex Police are doing who feel that the legal standards are not good enough for them.
Some people remain in a 80s bubble. It’s best you know.
If you got something dripping and are positive go to your doc, forget clinics and walk-ins.
Thats my advice.
Saturday, January 24th, 2009
Why should we care about HIV stigma and discrimination in the gay community?
HIV stigma is affecting the health of all gay men and is affecting our ability to prevent the transmission of HIV …
HIV stigma is affecting the health of all gay men and is affecting our ability to prevent the transmission of HIV. Throughout this website there are different examples of how HIV stigma is affecting the gay community.
Ask yourself what kind of community you want to live and play in?
Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
I’m suffering from stigma fatigue. This battle that seems endless. There is this feeling of a wall of perpetual ignorance about the subject of stigma. It always gets boiled down to a sound byte of intellect saying, “I’m not rejected therefore there is not stigma.”
Now let me say, I don’t live my life thinking about stigma. If I did I certainly wouldn’t be putting my face and personal story everywhere. So it’s hard to have to wrap my head around this day after day while seeing witnessing the constant dismissal of lived experiences shared by many.
Since we are all in Obama mania mode style, let me say this. It’s like saying that since Obama is president, as monumental of an occasion as it was, that racism no long exists.
There is a fine line between naming something and discussing it, and being a victim. I chose to stay off the victim side of the fence. I think most leaving comments as well are not victims.
I’m not sure what it’s going to take to communicate essential viewpoints and thoughts to the negative population, and at times positive. The negative guys think it’s not their problem and as long as they put Clean UB2 and D&D Free they are fine and why bother with this stuff. Stigma and the effects of it are topics for those who are positive not me.
Yet, at the very same time their very behaviour and attitudes contribute to a cycle that simply increases risk of transmission and they have to be a part of the dialogue.
Now, I admit, as I’m writing this I’m thinking of a select population that do not represent all negative gay men as there could not be one kind of negative guy just as there are not one kind of positive guy.
Maybe we need any guy who wants to be gay to go through a mandatory course to get his gay card. Part of that curriculum would be how to deal with issues of sexual health is an open and honest way.
At the end of the day, I don’t care if you don’t want to ________ me. But how you deal with it, how you treat me, and present your choices, not only directly affects me, but the entire community.
Now we will never know if there has been a negative audience coming to this site. People assume that once again this would only be of concern for us positive folks. I really do hope that some have taken the initiative to come here.
Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
Gay.com an a small article on their site I found during a recent search. And what do I see as the first comment.
Stigma what Stigma? You don’t mean the, “I don’t want to have sex with you because you have AIDS!” thing. That’s called rejection, I get it too, for a different reason, I don’t call it a Stigma. You have one more reason to be rejected now, but I’m sure the man rejecting you could have found SOMETHING with out your HIV+ status.
This always gets me going. However it makes the point that everyone firsts of all wants to boil stigma down to a nice little axiom such as Silence = Death, but in this case it’s “Stigma = Rejection”
Now of course this campaign has framed a lot of stigma around disclosure are sex. I will deal with that one as well.
Let’s take another reason for rejection race. If you are of a different race and face constant rejection from another population that is not interested in your race, who does one think that would effect someone emotionally?. Over time do you not think that this will effect this persons self-esteem to the point where he may make choices and take sexual risks that may harm him.
I’m constantly flabbergasted about gay men who are so in their bubble that they are completely clueless in terms of how their behaviour effects others.
Obviously this guy has had bad experiences and projects a certain bitterness on to it all.
Nonetheless, time and time again I have said stigma does not equal refusal for sex. That can be a facet of it, but that is only a minor reflection of the totality of the experience. However, it is often those other facets trickle down to the point where just in the race example it can effect our sexual choices.
If the ultimate concern is infection rates and how to get them down, we have to look at all of this.
I challenge anyone who truly believes this to leave comments with their real name and identify their status. Then we will start talking.
Here is another little ditty that shows we have a long way to go. I suppose I’m not feeling charitable after reading some of these comments.
My HIV+ ex worried me when he cut his finger in the kitchen. There were so many times he would wound himself. I never thought how many times that would occur.
Our therapist told us it was good to worry about it… that fear is healthy to a certain degree.
That is something that is different being with poz guy.
Personally, I’d be so out of that relationship that the simple act of accidentally cutting myself would bring enough worry to have to bring it to a therapy session. When in a relationship I want a partner who won’t look at me as a bio-hazard who will need to run down to an Aids Committee of Toronto counsellor if I happened to hurt myself.
Let the guy deal with this cut finger, or keep some gloves on hand and then help him if this is worrisome.
I know, I should be patient, people need to learn. But my teaching days are to the most extent very much over. I could never be with a negative guy who carried that much transmission anxiety.
So my ultimate advice for this guy, if he is in a relationship with a positive guy, then at least pick one that is not a complete klutz.
Monday, January 19th, 2009
I’ve been a bit remiss about keeping up to date with my posts. Truth be told, even with all the suggestion that we’ve had, I feel a bit of a writer’s block.
But let’s give it a collegial try as I’m going to put this post on Twitter. Originally when I heard about Twitter, I hated the idea. However, once nudged to try it, it has been a great way to disseminate bits and pieces of information to a wide audience. It, I learned, is called microblogging.
Since I’m inviting a new audience, perhaps I’ll use this venue to explain what I’m doing as it relates to stigma.
It seems in this day and age, within the gay community, as HIV positive gay man - I do not profess to speak for everyone, for more points of view go through the site - feel marginalized and hidden.
For example, the Executive Director of one of the Gay and Lesbian human rights organizations told me that she was tired of HIV dominating the scene and getting “all the money, and that it affects everyone now.” So we are being mainstreamed out of the picture now.
We are made to be invisible, and if we are not such as myself, then the attributed “AIDS” label is enlisted, and then shelved in the appropriate box. Why is it that my blog is never looked at for “Queer blog awards” It’s a personal pet peeve to always be put in the “other” box. I could care less about the award, it’s the otherness that bothers me.
Many complain about complacency and how HIV is no longer given the attention it merits given the amount of barebacking, rising infection rates, sero-sorting resulting in risky behaviour and so on.
Once I read a comment saying, “gay guys with HIV got are easy.” Well, I’ve been to Africa to work, and yes it is shocking over there, but by that logic and standard then anyone who has running water pretty much has it easy.
HIV negative guys were shocked in focus groups leading up to this campaign to hear that we, the positive, feel stigma. The fact that we have to hide our status, always assess situations, deal with rejection, hide in our work places, fight for access to appropriate treatment and then suffer the side effects, unable to work, loss of direction and depression, poverty, and on and on it goes.
There are ASOs right?
I’ve been a long time activist who has turned to his, what has often been described as “sick”, sense of humour to make my presence known.
I will not succumb to stigma and discrimination (and this is by no means a criticism who are not out about their status). As I write in my blog, I will not allow others to define me as dirty, unhealthy, diseased, or anything else UB2.
Many HIV negative individuals believe they can be judgmental, discriminate, or whatever else they may fancy without anybody challenging them because we are supposed to be too afraid to be identified. Now, granted there are many who put out their status on profiles etc.
But I’m not so sure many are used to someone using the Diseased Pariah News inspired sense of humour. There’s a little history lesson of our pioneers back in the day.
I’m on Twitter as a D-List AIDS Celebrity (a statement about the stratification of the HIV community) with my own make a wish to meet Kathy Griffin. After meeting a young guy who lost one of his balls to testicular cancer in Australia, and was sent on this trip by the Make A Wish Foundation, I figured that was ageism, and when do I get to make my wish?
My “When Karen Calls: HIV Holiday Tips” gave all my tips I’ve amassed while enduring horrible anti-retrovirals while attending dinner parties.
OK, enough of being self-indulgent. The point is that you got to friggin shock people these days, and if I have to be the John Waters of AIDS to do it, so be it.
I also have to admit I live in a bit of a bubble as a result of creating this world where I’m completely out.
People are still being disowned by their families, discriminated in the workplace, prosecuted, rejected by their communities, and dealing with homophobia by proxy.
I welcome those who do not live in a bubble to share their experiences and unwrap stigma here.
I’ve heard that many do not disclose, and I honour that choice. But what I’d like to know does it feel to have this running in the background where no one can see it? How do you feel when you meet someone new? How do you feel with family? What is it like at work? How do you feel with you see clean UB2.
Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
I figure since we’ve been in this campaign to me, that I’d revisit a few themes.
1) What does stigma mean to you?
2) How does stigma affect you? How does behaviour on the part of others effects you? By this I mean anything from someone patting you on the stomach, the way one is rejected for sex, or dealing with a workplace environment.
3) Additionally, how does specifically affect your sexual choices.
4) How do we get HIV negative guys to be partners in this? How can they contribute?
I’m not going to give my answers as I’m interested in hear other voices on these thoughts. I could ramble on, but I won’t