“HIV Taboo BS”
Guest Writer: Bobby Smith
Are our actions saying only the lives of celebs like #MagicJohnson or #CharlieSheen matter after a HIV-positive diagnosis?
I “went straight” after the maternal matriarch of my family–my great grandmother–passed on to a higher plane. You see, I broke up with the high school crush I had connected with six years after graduating. Then, I entered into a heterosexual marriage–in concession to the perception that the only source of purely unconditional love had left me all alone.
Shortly after exchanging vows, I moved my family to Atlanta, “JOJA” (Say it out loud if you don’t get it!) where events unfolded that “straightened me back out” – leaving me with no other option but to face and accept the sexual orientation that had been evident in my life since early childhood. One of my first orders of business was to reconnect with my ex and apologize for a breakup to which he had no culpability.
Unfortunately, I was unable to locate him. I later discovered, however, that he had moved back in with his mother; at which point, suddenly, all former social contacts had been severed.
As a result, no one in our social circles knew he had passed until well after his interment. In the late ‘80s, when someone who was gay, under thirty years of age, earning an income well above minimum wage in a high-demand vocation moves back to the family home, odds were heavily in favor of correctly deducing that some health crisis was instrumental in that situation. I thought about the loneliness and alienation my beautiful ex must have experienced in his final days.
That prompted me to begin volunteering in the HIV arena.
As a HIV-negative person, I had little to offer besides companionship. I wasn’t afraid to touch someone who was positive, or drink and eat what was offered to me in the homes of people who were treated as lepers. My “meager” offerings were treasures to people who had become accustomed to the paucity of handshakes and hugs, to people whose relatives forced them to eat off paper plates and sit on plastic placed on furniture in their own childhood homes, to people who settled for avoiding the public by remaining inside their homes – waiting to die, and then also having to endure the emotional torment of trying to cope with the mistreatment of others, which was due to rampant fear bred by the culture of ignorance that existed back then.
Nowadays, I cringe when I see comments in reaction to posts by men such as Kyle Goffney, who show themselves as making informed decisions, armed with knowledge of PREP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, the use of anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV-negative individuals from becoming infected)–and the true risk associated with “undetectables.” Several oppose promoting PREP because they strongly believe that our entire LGBTQ community will succumb to barbaric wantonness without the discipline of HIV taboo (stigma).
Others preserve HIV taboo (stigma) by denouncing the studies proving the low transmission rates by those who maintain an undetectable status because the transmission rates are not zero, while simultaneously passing out condoms at events and socials. NEWSFLASH! Condoms carry close to the same risk as unprotected sex with an undetectable. Combine using a condom with someone who is undetectable, and the risk approaches that of abstinence (100%).
Instead of preserving the draconian fears that birthed HIV criminalization laws, our community needs to change its attitude that an undetectable status is as deadly as an untreated, undiagnosed HIV+ status. Get tested! If your result is positive, then adopt and follow a treatment plan you can stick with so that you can obtain an undetectable viral load.
And if your result is negative, update your information by reading the current facts available athttp://j.mp/namaidsmap_factsheet or http://j.mp/PARTNER_studyQA. Don’t miss your opportunity to possibly meet “Mr. Right” because you’re “Mr. Wrong Information.”
Bobby Smith advocates unapologetically, incorporating LGBTQ orientation into one’s total identity (as opposed to the other way around). He lives in Atlanta with his husband. “Mr. BS” has been a social activist/writer in the HIV/AIDS, mental health, and LGBTQ rights arenas for over twenty five years. Catch more glimpses of his focus of thought by liking the Know No Oppressive Thinking Facebook page — https://www.facebook.com/1.KNOT —and by reading some of his prose at https://wordsfromtheb.wordpress.com/. And, you mail email Bobby at: firstname.lastname@example.org