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Author Topic: How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??  (Read 4518 times)

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Offline likinglife

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  • A Nice Lady w/ AIDS
How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??
« on: July 07, 2011, 02:30:51 PM »
I’m burning again this week… to align myself somehow with the effort to eliminate stigma here in the US and to promote testing not just in “high-risk” communities but in the big bad-ass mainstream public where there are so many individuals who think that just because they aren’t poor or black or IV drug users or don’t identify themselves as MSM (men who have sex with men) that they are then somehow safe from the virus.

I shudder when I think of the thousands of respectable women of all ages, races and economic circumstances who may be walking around (like I did for fifteen years) with the nasty little virus munching away at their immune systems. All because their trusted spouse stepped out once or twice to sample the other side of the buffet and unwittingly came home and infected their wives or girlfriends. I’m afraid that this is going to be our next largest loss from the disease… heterosexual women.

A shocking number of women that I have talked to in the last year (friends, family, and colleagues) are somehow under the impression that they are absolutely safe from HIV because they are in a committed relationship, see their GYN regularly and don’t use IV drugs. When I ask them if they have ever been tested, many of them reply, offhandedly “Oh sure… I see my GYN every X months… I’m sure he checks me for everything” but then are pretty concerned when I let them know that they need to specifically ASK to be tested. Testing isn’t just done… like it should be… as a part of routine health screenings. Why do women put their legs in the stirrups for PAP smears and squash their breasts regularly for mammograms to avoid dying of cancer but never think to get tested for the most deadly thing of all. Why aren’t there posters and pamphlets and counter cards at every OB/GYN office in every city in the US urging women to get tested regularly??

Occasionally I have surfed the web (read: Craigslist) and been sickened to see so many married or otherwise committed men surfing for casual encounters with other men because they are curious. They all say “please be HIV and STD free” as if just saying it will make it so. I wonder how many of these men will take the virus home to their wives.

My questions are: how do we generate interest in HIV prevention within the mainstream heterosexual community? How do we impress upon people who are outside of  the so-called “high-risk” demographic, that they are just as susceptible to this deadly epidemic and should seek testing regularly if they engage in sexual activity without using condoms?

I am a walking testimonial for this emerging group of people who I feel will soon be finding out the ugly truth that they not only have been infected with HIV but have been unknowingly infecting others while taking it for granted that they are HIV negative. After all… up until last July when I was snatched from the jaws of PCP… I would have easily answered “NO” on any questionnaire asking if I was HIV positive. It just wasn’t possible for me to be infected.

We have a huge chunk of our population out there who are woefully uninformed about their own health and ignorant of the facts concerning HIV and it’s transmission. How can we hope to end stigma and ignorance when there is absolutely no information being filtered to this very large population of people (specifically those who identify as heterosexuals) and feel somehow safe from infection?
PCP 7/15/10
CD4 26 at diagnosis 7/18/10
Started Kaletra & Combivir
CD4 28 9/29/10
CD4 76 12/8/10 vl=UD
Swap Combivir for Isentress
CD4 126 3/3/11 vl=UD
CD4 99 5/4/2011 vl=UD
CD4...still at 99 as of 8/18/2011 vl=UD

Offline mecch

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Re: How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2011, 02:50:48 PM »
I shudder when I think of the thousands of respectable women of all ages, races and economic circumstances who may be walking around (like I did for fifteen years) with the nasty little virus munching away at their immune systems. All because their trusted spouse stepped out once or twice to sample the other side of the buffet and unwittingly came home and infected their wives or girlfriends. I’m afraid that this is going to be our next largest loss from the disease… heterosexual women.

I love everything about your passion and your post and hope you find a conduit for your willingness to get involved in HIV/AIDS education.

I just want to point out two little things that, maybe, rubbed me a bit the wrong way.

First of all, what do you mean by "sample the other side of the buffet" - do you mean the married male spouse goes out on the downlow and has gay sex and brings home HIV?

Because if you do mean this, its a bit of a insult to gays because we aren't the great reservoir of HIV menacing heterosexual women..  In that downlow scenario, that would be the lying bisexual husband who doesn't practice safe sex.  (Oh, and his wife who NEVER suspects anything and continues to have unsafe sex... but that is possible, of course.)

Similarly, if you mean the married spouse going out and sleeping with another woman, who is then the source of the HIV -  that just proves the point that married men can get HIV from ANY GENDER of partner - from having unsafe sex.   Here the "source" would be a heterosexual woman, passing HIV via a cheating lying husband having unsafe sex, to a married heterosexual woman.   (So again, the wife who NEVER suspects anything and continues to have unsafe sex... but that is possible, of course.)

I think it would be great to educate married women about HIV risks because I am sure you are right a lot of them never assume they might be a risk and probably have unsafe sex with their husbands.  Its the women's responsibility to protect themselves, so teach them that responsibility.  

But please, when you do finally do the education, its great to focus on one population that interests you, but remember HIV is just a nasty virus and "populations" aren't as easily defined as you might think.   The most important thing in HIV education is to say its a virus, ANYONE can get from unsafe sex.  So to educate toward REMOVING definitions of "at risk" populations.  These definitions don't help in the overall fight, in my opinion.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2011, 03:14:36 PM by mecch »
“From each, according to his ability; to each, according to his need” 1875 K Marx

Offline smiteler

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  • Posts: 56
Re: How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2011, 02:56:45 PM »
as a guy who was infected by his ex gf on purpose
i think you need to work on your stigma
against men first  :-[
before you will be able to help anyone else!

Offline zach

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  • built to last
Re: How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2011, 03:11:23 PM »
 :-[ feeling some shame, embarrassment, and stigmatized now

thanks for that
gonna go up to the mountain, for to find a little peace
looking over the valley, for the beauty i see
out across the hills, forevermore

Offline emeraldize

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Re: How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2011, 05:13:56 PM »
"How can we hope to end stigma and ignorance when there is absolutely no information being filtered to this very large population of people (specifically those who identify as heterosexuals) and feel somehow safe from infection?"

In addition to answering the previous posters' queries concerns, I encourage you to do a little research before you make broadbrush statements such as the above that NO information is being 'filtered'.

You're actually expressing being interested in two topics that have ties. Reducing stigma and increasing HIV prevention through awareness. Your forecast regarding heterosexual women being the next large population to be affected is already a given, it's been happening for a while now.

There's a new anti-stigma website I posted about (I'll find the address and add it back in momentarily) and I'm sure there's an organization in your city or near you that you could work with to help be the testimonial you state you are. Take it to the microphone. There's nothing like addressing a roomful of college-aged women and men about HIV prevention.

I have one thing I'd like to share in response to "I shudder when I think of the thousands of respectable women of all ages, races and economic circumstances... " I think all women are respectable and not just certain women.

Back soon.
Em
 
edited to add: http://www.stigmaactionnetwork.org/

PS - I think a Welcome to you is in order -- with only three posts, I think you're brand-new, heh?



  
 
« Last Edit: July 07, 2011, 05:19:35 PM by emeraldize »

Offline MarcoPoz

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Re: How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2011, 10:48:19 AM »
I was infected by one of your 'respectable' women.  If you'd like to see an interesting 'buffet', how about checking out craigslist and other dating sites for all the supposedly married or otherwise committed women surfing for everything that will meet their little lust-filled, rod-riding, train-pulling freaky fetish (personally I support everyone's right to a good f#ck, however they want to enjoy it) and unwittingly bringing home their chancres, sores, discharges and viral cooties to their partners?

Double standards, denial, gender bias and heterosexism are like gasoline poured on the stigma fire. 

Offline emeraldize

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  • Posts: 3,353
Re: How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2011, 11:33:02 AM »
I was infected by one of your 'respectable' women.  If you'd like to see an interesting 'buffet', how about checking out craigslist and other dating sites for all the supposedly married or otherwise committed women surfing for everything that will meet their little lust-filled, rod-riding, train-pulling freaky fetish (personally I support everyone's right to a good f#ck, however they want to enjoy it) and unwittingly bringing home their chancres, sores, discharges and viral cooties to their partners?

Double standards, denial, gender bias and heterosexism are like gasoline poured on the stigma fire. 

I agree with you, Marco.

Offline likinglife

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  • Posts: 7
  • A Nice Lady w/ AIDS
Re: How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2011, 12:21:34 PM »
Of course these remarks can be brushed in either direction... plenty of females out there who are guilty of infidelities and who may also be spreading the virus to their families... and you re right about Craigslist... there are a lot of people out there that continue to be ignorant to the risk they take when they "hook up".

As for the "other side of the buffet"... i.e. Sex with strangers... male or female...  I didn't mean to infer that only homosexuals spread the virus... Sorry if anyone felt singled out by my remarks.

I should have put quotes around "respectable" as I was referring to a label we wear as women. I think all women are respectable. Doctors and sometimes the HIV community themselves draw those "at risk" lines and fail many of the people that need to be tested because they don't "seem to be at-risk" or in other societal terms "respectable"

I'll stipulate that yes, I'm angry. Trusting again will take some time. I just don't understand why we, as women aren't being tested as a matter of course. Is it really so difficult to make it a recommendation the way we're recommended to have mammograms, PAP smears, tested for diabetes... etc etc. I think the medical profession is in denial. I've had the virus for a long time... have a team of good doctors and never once have any of them suggested that I should get tested until I was near death with PCP. In spite of presenting a whole host of warning signs over the past three years.

I'm hypersensitive to all the literature and media being pushed at women to protect their health, yet there's never anything that even mentions HIV/AIDS let alone discloses all the facts that people need to know to help end the stigma. If you can only find this information in the ghetto or West Hollywood... how can we blame society for stigmatising HIV?

Sorry for ruffling anyones feathers but it's just my two cents.


 

PCP 7/15/10
CD4 26 at diagnosis 7/18/10
Started Kaletra & Combivir
CD4 28 9/29/10
CD4 76 12/8/10 vl=UD
Swap Combivir for Isentress
CD4 126 3/3/11 vl=UD
CD4 99 5/4/2011 vl=UD
CD4...still at 99 as of 8/18/2011 vl=UD

Offline Ann

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    • Num is sum qui mentiar tibi?
Re: How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2011, 12:28:31 PM »
Likinglife, I felt similar to you when I was first diagnosed in 2001. When I was finally well enough to leave my house and go to the doctor after my seroconversion in 1997, I was told it was "probably some virus that would run its course and go away." Four years later when I saw the same doctor after my diagnosis, he said to me that if I had been a gay man and come to him with the same illness, the first thing he would have thought of was hiv and would have had me tested.

I've learned a lot since then and I've come to realise that sexually speaking, the only true risk group is that group of people who engage in unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse and that's pretty much everyone on the planet over the age of sixteen or so.

I've also learned that going about trying to reduce stigma in the way you're going about it is a sure-fire way to anger and alienate people.

I feel that your heart is in the right place - you just need to fine-tune and simplify your message. I also sense that you have a lot of anger issues over how you became infected. You might think about getting some counselling to help you overcome that so you can be a more effective spokesperson and advocate.

I find one of the best ways to get your message across is to be open about your status and talk to people. I often talk to young adults in the pub and even give them condoms when it looks like things are getting heated with someone they've just met. Because I'm open about my status, I often get people approaching me with questions about risks and how to protect themselves, and that's not just young people either. I recently spoke to a woman who had divorced a year or so ago and was getting back out into the dating scene. Getting the message out to one person at a time is still getting the message out.

I agree with you that we women should be encouraged more to be tested. I get a letter once every year or so reminding me to have a PAP smear - if they can do that, why can't they also remind people to be tested for hiv? Men too. Everyone should be offered testing at regular check-ups.
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"...health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for." Kofi Annan

Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man. Mignon McLaughlin

HIV is certainly character-building. It's made me see all of the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I'd rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character. Randy Shilts

Offline paulaanne

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Re: How can we end stigma... expand education for heteros??
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2011, 03:10:05 AM »
Hello, I am new and glad to beo say hello. First time

 


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