Long Beach, CA has the third or second highest HIV infection rate in the state of California.
These were the stats I was given when I began going to agencies looking to offer my help in the fight against AIDS.
Coming from NYC, I was very aware that this disease had not only stuck around but had reinvented itself and allegedly was still baffling doctors and the medical community.
What was shocking to me was the refusal of so many men to adjust their sexual behavior and act as if the possibility of becoming infected was always one trick away.
Why do we refuse to alter the message to accommodate a new audience who is either not listening to warnings or is bored and tuned out to suggestions.
My passion is prevention.
In order to focus on prevention, there needs to be some serious, honest discussions on why certain things are going on.
Many of us don’t find prevention sexy or appealing.
We often find prevention troubling, not worth the effort and just plain embarrassing. The assumption is often based in not wanting to upset anyone or god forbid have them think you don’t trust them.
Passivity is no way to handle business when we are talking about something that will fundamentally disrupt your life forever.
The message repeatedly trotted out is: If you fuck up (become infected), we (the government or some great liberal institution) will take care of you. My problem with this philosophy is that it keeps people reactive and in victim mode. Watching funding decrease or increase gives a clear message that much of your decision making will be dictated by folks you will never see and don’t know.
It also leaves people at the mercy of what others think and do.
The individuals deciding who gets what are people who have supreme access to financial resources.
There is a ton of money being poured into managing life choices once infection occurs. I know of no one who enjoys the process. I have no colleagues who enthusiastically enjoy the trips to clinicians which involve blood work, missed days of work, loss of money and a great deal of emotional upset that is a reminder that you have “fucked up”.
We all at one point or another have engaged in unprotected sex.
Some of us for money.
Some for love or what they believed and decided must be love.
If we allow ourselves to place attention on why and when people are willing to negotiate this most life changing of negotiations, some very basic and simple answers are revealed. The medical establishment, which takes its cues from capitalism, is steeped in victim hood.
Victimhood is the way many of those in our community are managed.
The underlying belief that says since you’ve made an error you have forfeited all of your rights. If there is ever any doubt spend time at a clinic with a friend wherein some of the most heinous of behaviors (calling out patients by their full names, losing appointment times and forcing individuals to wait in a room that is anything but private) occur daily.
Individuals who are thinking and making preventative choices are not mired in victim hood.
Since so much about sex and gay sex is considered pathological, secretive and wrong, is it any wonder that people are reluctant to discuss their sexual practices honestly ? If we can’t address that sex is both ok and that we all are very confused about it, how can fresh strategies be introduced to the community ?
We now are required to usher in radical sex strategies by those on the edge (non-assimilationists) who are in no hurry to support any and all persons and corporations that gain immense amounts of money from our fear of each other or our confusion about the power of sex.
During the heyday of ACT UP, it was stated: we are having sex and dying and this is not ok.
If no one is coming to help, we (the queer community) will save ourselves.
The brave individuals who took on the government and the beast that is unadulterated capitalism created ways to prevent infection while continuing to enjoy sexual intimacy (Safe Sex). The brave individuals knew that trusting our health and well being to those that hated us was not a wise decision.
Remaining HIV Negative and then being treated with appropriate meds if one become infected was a two pronged effect that had incredible results. We demanded medicinal involvement and once the medical establishment understood that the real money was in treatment not prevention and certainly not in a cure, things changed.
We are now at this point again.
What is the wisest choice ? Putting all or most of the money into prevention efforts ? Allowing the drug companies to convince us that they “know best” and that if there is a case of poor judgement they will swoop in with solutions (affordable ones) or a combination of the two?