But what about the real world . . ?
Ok, so my last post was talking about a decision that I made about disclosing someone else’s HIV status to a friend. After weeding through what was a very uncomfortable situation for me (and it was, a VERY uncomfortable situation) I decided that it wasn’t my place to disclose. There was some discussion about my decision from all of you guys. Most people seemed to think that I did the “right” thing by not disclosing. I noticed that many people who commented didn’t seem to understand why this was such a hard question for me to come to terms with. I thought about this, and here is what I have . . .
Before I started working in the field of HIV/AIDS, the only thing I knew about being gay, or having sex was that you had to use a condom. That was about it. I knew this because everyone I ever “came out” to let me know that my being gay had something to do with HIV. Being a 23 year old gay guy who grew up in Toronto, I belong to a particular cohort of people who have been bombarded with safer-sex and condom use messaging to the point where anything else seems unnatural. It was only after I started working in the ASO realm that I started to understand some of the complexities that are involved in condom use and safer-sex negotiation. I began to see the world of sexual health as more complicated than the black and white “always use condoms – period!!” brand of sexual education.
As my life experiences take me to newer heights and I discover more about myself, those black and white messages become harder and harder to believe. Both in my work and in my personal life, I have seen the impacts of racism, language barriers, drugs and alcohol use, negative body image and other power imbalances on the ability of gay guys to advocate for their own sexual well-being. This campaign has forced me to think about HIV stigma in ways that I have not had to before.
So why am I talking about all of this? Well, let’s go back to my friend and his questions about his partner’s HIV status. I am not taking the stance of any HIV prevention superhero nor do I believe that it is my business to go around forcing anyone to disclose anything. But, given that as a friend I am privy to the weaknesses and lived behaviors of the people around me, as well as their complexities and barriers to advocating for their own protection – how could I be fine with not saying anything?
I agree, in an ideal world I would be able to workshop my friends into becoming proactive, informed and self-aware individuals that I never have to worry about. But the reality isn’t that simple. People have slip-ups that they regret all the time. If I can stop one person from becoming HIV positive, even if only for that one time – why shouldn’t I?