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PrettyQueer.com | February 1, 2015

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So Much To Say About AIDS!

So Much To Say About AIDS!
Ted Kerr

30 years into the epidemic, exasperated by silence and ignorance, we don’t need AIDSphobia articulated anymore. Sadly, 3500 words later, that is all Rich Juzwiak’s article Please Don’t Infect Me, I’m Sorry,  has to offer (how someone can fail to write about PrEP or PEP when investigating their fear of HIV is beyond me). While taking us on a grindr fueled journey of fear and loathing in lost chances, all we learn is sites like Gawker still feel free to trade in fear mongering, lack luster research, and discriminatory points of view. For all of his fear of HIV, he fails to mention evolving prevention technology such as PEP or PrEP, and seems to almost refuse to people living with HIV as anything beyond a positive sign.

Its articles like this that can almost break an online citizen, leave you blurry eyed and wondering what you have to show for yourself hours later beyond a few dozen flaming comments, and online enemies. It’s enough to consider a moratorium on the Internet, or at least on caring.  But it doesn’t last, because the straw that almost breaks the camel’s back is nothing compared to the numerous threads, that when viewed together, weave together something akin to an online community.


For nuanced, interesting and informed takes on the human immunodefiency virus, and the culture it engenders you have to go to the source; people living with HIV and those who take time to think about the virus beyond crisis, and death. Luckily the Internet is filled with such proactive and fascinating voices. The rise of blogging as means of therapy, community building, and anti corporate media has created a wealth of information and insight about HIV is a gateway to understanding health, politics, culture, and each other.

Among my favorite AIDS-centric blogs is HIVSTER. It brings together hipsters (boys I hate to love) and stories about HIV, circa right now. Brad Crelia’s recent post on Grindr” illuminates the intimate possibilities of Grindr. In lucid prose he maps out a constellation of moments both sexual and not, in which he was open to love, penetration, death and connection.

Real Stories from the Frontline of HIV/AIDS” is how POZ markets its blog hub. Similarly The Body uses, “Perspectives from the HIV/AIDS Community”. Both host a PC blend of represented acronyms such as leaders from ASOs, and PWAs. While POZ works to get more international voices, The Body seems to have more grassroots writers. Both sites, like almost all the AIDS related blogs, are a mix of posts that are obviously about HIV, and others that seemingly have nothing to do with the virus. Ria Denise’s August 23rd post is a play list that regardless of your status may give you pause, but maybe specifically poignant when navigating stigma, haters, and mortality.

Criminal HIV Transmission is a good one-stop shop to get you started in thinking about HIV and criminalization. It is a blog with a simple and obvious focus. Similarly Lifelube, with a focus on the holistic health of gay men, and HIVandHepatitis, benefit from knowing what they are and digging deep.

Due to the nature of blogging, the speed in which one can express—and possibly feel heard—many people who feel silenced, gravitate towards starting a blog. There is a lot of abandon blogs in which people newly diagnosed, or working out the earliest days of disclosure have left behind. Among the best are The Naked Truth from charismatic Marvelyn Brown and Still Arriving by James McLarty-Lopes. Left unupdated, a reader, like myself, can be left hoping that the one time blogger’s circumstances are so good IRL, they no longer needed the online community.

Among the single author sites, humor and a blend of the exceptional and the banal reign supreme. Mark S.King’s video blog My Fabulous Disease brings together his drag queen whit with heart-felt essays on his father. Adrienne Seed’s blog HIVINE is a welcome voice that crackles with her British humor. When reading, her wins (like recently getting her doctor to switch her meds) can feel like our win.

For news and stories beyond blogs there are also magazines available online like The Positive Side and Positive Lite (Yah Canada!) and Positive Frontiers. And some magazines have columnists that focus on HIV such as Aaron Stella at Philly Gay News. All of these examples bring together medical, political and cultural news through the filter of HIV, often leading to heated discussion on Facebook and message boards.

While you may not agree, or even enjoy, every word from the above-mentioned sites (to say nothing of the ones I don’t even know I don’t know), together they are part of the evolving discussion around HIV. They explore what it is to be living with HIV, rather than to be plagued by it, and they link the experience of the virus in multiple way into the everyday. And for these reasons they are exactly what we need 30 years into the epidemic.

Comments

  1. ACT UP Philadelphia Members are also building an on line community to link up ACT UP groups and allies on a national and International level on Face Book , please join:
    ACT Up National Alliance :
    http://www.facebook.com/groups/220884431350889/
    &
    ACT UP International:
    http://www.facebook.com/groups/134400559917676/
    ACT UP FIGHT BACK FIGHT AIDS

  2. I don’t read comments any more. For that matter, I don’t read much HIV research any more. I got out. Working in HIV isn’t sustainable for me — there’s too much head-kicking, intergenerational crap, too much unacknowledged trauma encoded in personal and organisational memory.

    When I read something these days it’s probably via a friend on Facebook or Twitter. On the latter there’s a couple of accounts, like @hlth_literacy and @HIV_Insight, that post prolifically and thus occasionally post up some gems. And on Facebook, my friends will usually post something if it really matters.
    The stuff I most love to read is historical material, not the new research pursuing whatever dumb agenda the researchers have convinced themselves will turn the epidemic around and/or win the hearts and minds of politicians and funders.

    I think we do have a problem with sites like HuffPo posting articles about HIV by men whose only qualification is that they like to suck dick. But those articles aren’t in any real sense *about* HIV. They’re about voyeurism and clicks through — thinking that straight audiences will come if we can package up the salacious details of other gay men’s lives for their consumption. And gay audiences will come and fire up in the comments section in ways that don’t help our cause and only tangentially relate to the article, like so many wind-up toys. I’m not playing that game any longer.

  3. JaneDough1983

    I don’t sympathize with your POV. Rich is an established voice on that site, writing about an aspect of his dating life, with sensitivities to Poz people.

    If you think it’s wrong to not have sex with a Poz person because they are Poz, you’re like not living on planet earth- that’s operating from some Un-real idealistic world.

    • Cyd

      Why? Why is it ok to not have sex with someone because they are HIV+ – please tell me how that makes sense.

      I may be coming from an ‘un-real’ idealistic world but considering that condoms are 98% effective in stopping the transmission of HIV, poz people with an undetectable viral load are as unlikely to transmit the virus as someone wearing a condom, and while HIV is a serious and stigmatizing disease, it is also one with a lot of information known about it and options for disease management which keep most people healthy and living comparable lifespans to negative people in the United States…can you tell me which planet earth you are living on in which you think we still need to have segregated water fountains or some shit?

      • JaneDough

        Well, your assuming people want to use condoms to have sex. Condoms are not really very fun for sexytimes.

        No matter the options for treating the virus, to say someone is being un-righteous for not willfully exposing themselves to a virus is just really baffling, and something that very few outside the fringes of aids activism would even think of as a legitimate point of view.

        • JaneDough

          I should add, I say this coming from a very much anti-AIDSPHBOIA ( as you call it) perspective.

          I’m a trans woman (with a few years in my teens in the gay scene) who has had a lot of anal sex. I know that my risk of contracting AIDS with boys that are straight is like approaching nil. So, I’ve had lots of un protected sex with nothing to show for it.

          I worked briefly as a peer educator at my school in 2003 and was told I couldn’t tell people that “Hey using a condom for oral sex is a bit overboard, but please use condoms for anal sex”.

          So I understand the overblown fear of AIDS that exists. I just know that if someone told me they were Poz I wouldn’t have sex with them.

        • Cyd

          Having unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive who knows their viral load and their status, I would posit is still safer than having unprotected sex with men whose sexual backgrounds you don’t really know. In the former situation you know what is up and can make choices to reduce risk.

          Unfortunately most of the trans women I know who are HIV+ got the virus from straight men who sometimes had sex with dudes, but didn’t feel the need to share that information.

  4. This is one awesome article. Awesome.

  5. Appreciate you sharing, great article post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

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