Sunday, June 5, 2011

On this 30th anniversary of the first description of HIV/AIDS

I have spent the day today curled up on the sofa, generally laid flat with back pain. While this was a beautiful day, it was spent on the sofa with the dogs. But I was able to do some reading -- specifically about HIV/AIDS.

I am doing research for a book looking at the rhetoric associated with HIV prevention for gay/bi men. And what I am finding as I read, is that prevention rhetoric has been tied up and twisted around with presumptions, exclusions and insensitivity to the community.

Why is the gay community so important in this evaluation? Because in the U.S. something like 52% of all cases are the result of homosexual activity -- specifically anal sex, and being even more specific, receptive anal sex (bottoming). The rhetoric is stunning when we look at it.

Take for example the very category in which gay/bi men are pigeon holed when they test positive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC) identify such transmission as men who have sex with men. Share needles to shoot up meth? That is intravenous drug use. Are you a woman with HIV? You are categorized likely has high risk heterosexual. Are you a lesbian with HIV? You are likely identified as women who sleep with women.

Look at those categories again. Only gay or bisexual men are identified specifically by the sexual behavior they engage in. Heterosexuals engage in the same behaviors as gay men (yes straight folks have anal sex). IVDUs are completely de-sexualized (unless they are men who have sex with men. Then they get their own category). Women who sleep with women -- well now, isn't that lovely! They can have nap time but they don't fuck, do they?

Men who have sex with men was a moniker created by the CDC to describe men who engaged in anal sex with other men but did not identify as gay or bisexual. Personally, I believe if you are fucking another man, or getting fucked by one, you are at least bisexual -- whether YOU decide to use that label or not. But I digress. So in an attempt to avoid identifying men with homosexuality -- as if it was worse than being HIV positive or having AIDS -- we have authorized a complete eradication by the government of the reality of our intimate and emotional lives. The government is telling us that as same-sex attracted men (a lovely 12-step identity created by the rightwing anti-gay pray the gay away Christian movement), we just fuck. We don't "sleep" with each other. We don't have relationships -- hell we don't even bother to identify the intimacy involved, only the fucking. Even heterosexuality is identified in a way to promote a relationship and an identity. Those in that category are high risk heterosexuals (HRH). Why aren't we identified as high risk homos or high risk queers or high risk faggots...

In the same way, prevention messages continue to focus on those with HIV, but not on those without the infection. The uninfected are not identified as a target. They are not encouraged to stay negative. Instead they are presented with information that implies they will end up positive. No wonder there is a bizarre sense of inevitability of HIV infection.

I also have to say I have been stunned at the silence by friends about this anniversary.

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