Tag Archives: poz.com

Michael Johnson

The Convoluted, Contorted Saga of HIV Criminalization Continues

     Unless you’ve been “livin’” under some rock, you’d know that the criminalization of HIV has been one very “hot potato” of a topic of late—largely due to the controversial sentencing of Michael Johnson, the 23-year-old Black man accused of having sex with more than 30 unsuspecting individuals–potentially exposing them to the disease.  During their investigation, police uncovered videos of Johnson having sex with his alleged victims.

     The former wrestler from Lindenwood University, which is located in St. Charles, Missouri (not that far from Ferguson), was charged with attempting to “recklessly infect another with HIV” and attempting to “recklessly risk infection of another with HIV.”

    So recently, in just two hours, a nearly all-white jury found Johnson guilty on five felony counts–although that jury found that he had infected just one sex partner.  And, there were a series of  problems with the Johnson trial, including, and get this:  only 13 of the 52 folks in Johnson’s initial jury pool asserted that being gay WAS NOT a sin. 

    Methinks that perhaps, just perhaps, the deck was stacked against Johnson from the get-go.  He will spend the next 30 years of his life behind bars.

 

    With all the ink surrounding and dripping on Johnson, you just very well might not have heard of the Thomas Guerra Case.  Guerra, 30, is a San Diego man who was just sentenced to six months in jail for not disclosing his HIV status.

     According to Poz.com, “Guerra had been charged for violating a California state health code dictating that people with an infectious disease who willingly expose themselves to others are guilty of a misdemeanor.  After a judge (Katherine Lewis) sentenced Thomas Guerra to six months in jail for knowingly spreading HIV, she called the outcome a travesty and said she wished he could be sentenced to more time.  Judge Katherine Lewis called this an oversight in the law, adding that the charge should become a felony.  A future hearing could decide whether Guerra must pay the ‘victim’s’ medical costs.”

     Poz.com continued, “Guerra had pleaded no contest, meaning that the charges against him could be proven but that he didn’t admit guilt.  According to NBC San Diego, at the sentencing hearing Guerra said, ‘I am not a monster.  I would never do something like what I’m accused of’.”

     Stated the Los Angeles Times, “Investigators found text messages and videos in which Guerra laughed about lying to sex partners.  Guerra said that he had been joking.

     “According to court documents, Guerra told a man that he was HIV negative when the two, after meeting in an online dating site, had unprotected sex during a romance that lasted several months in 2013.

     “Deputy City Attorney Jill Cristich said that the man was infected by Guerra: ‘The victim’s life is shortened.  He was deceived’.

     The Los Angeles Times added, “The victim, whose name was not mentioned in court, said that now that he has AIDS, he is taking ‘an outrageous number of medications’.”

     Cristich concluded, “’We hope this tragic case helps to educate people that they have a legal obligation—as well as a moral and ethical obligation—to inform their sex partners of their HIV status’.”

HIV criminalization

Cover of life magazine on aids

Not the “30 Rock” You May Think

      When you think of 30 Rock, what comes to mind?

     Well, it could be the classic, uproarious television comedy that starred Tracy Morgan and Tina Fey.  Or, maybe it’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where the Rockefeller Center is situated. 

     For this article, however, it is not.  What I’m referring to is a recent Poz.com article entitled, “Why Nancy Reagan Refused a Dying Rock Hudson’s Plea.”   I decided to write about the post because it’s rather fascinating and telling.  You see, it’s an unvarnished reminder of the feelings and sensibilities Americans had about AIDS in 1985, 30 years ago—when Rock Hudson, the iconic actor, succumbed to the dreaded disease.

     First though, let’s travel down the “Corridors of Time.”  In the mid ‘80s, there was rampant and entrenched ignorance and fear of the illness.  People actually believed you could become infected through breathing, and didn’t want to kiss you–even on the cheek.

     Pervasive and intense loathing, and hatred for those afflicted were commonplace.  Lovers would drop you–and many more than a few of them would go on to develop HIV/AIDS themselves.  Family members would abandon you.  According to a 2011 CNN report, Dr. John Bartlett, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who has led the school’s efforts to combat and prevent HIV/AIDS since the early 1980s, has stated, “’AIDS gave its victims ‘the three D’s’ that no one wants to have: dementia, diarrhea and disgrace’.”

     “’It was an awful way to live.  They got emaciated.  They died a lingering death,’ Bartlett said.  ‘If you asked me, ‘How would you least want to die’? I’d say, ‘The way an AIDS patient died in 1990’.”  Thankfully however, to a large degree, the advent of antiretroviral drugs began to turn that around.  As a result, the infection no longer is a death sentence. 

     Now, on to Rock.  He was a mega star of the 1950’s through the ‘70s.  And, it was an open secret in Hollywood that this outwardly handsome, macho man was gay. 

     Hudson was “tight” with the Reagans, who were also actors many years before claiming the White House.  Weeks before he died of AIDS-related illness on October 2, 1985, Rock asked both the first lady and the White House to help him cut through red tape to see a doctor in France.  However, his request was denied.

     According to Poz.com, “This previously untold detail of an otherwise well-known story was unearthed by the newly restructured Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., which provided authenticated documents in a BuzzFeed News article.

     “Mark Weinberg, a staffer for the Reagans, told BuzzFeed that the movie star’s request was denied because ‘the Reagans were very conscious of not making exceptions for people just because they were friends of theirs or celebrities or things of that kind.  That wasn’t—they weren’t about that.  They were about treating everybody the same’.”

     But was that really the case?  The media outlet went on to state, “ACT UP activist Peter Staley found that excuse implausible because the Reagans had personally intervened for other friends.  ’I’m sure if it had been Bob Hope in that hospital with some rare, incurable cancer, Air Force One would have been dispatched to help save him’, Staley said.  ‘There’s no getting around the fact they left Rock Hudson out to dry.  As soon as he had that frightening homosexual disease, he became as unwanted and ignored as the rest of us’.”

     And, Poz.com added, “Other documents unearthed in the article show that anti-gay opinions prevailed among high-ranking White House staff and that these attitudes flavored the administration’s response in the growing epidemic.” 

     Even with decades gone by, there continue to be strong critics of President Reagan’s response to the AIDS epidemic–or lack thereof.  Some of these voices go further, stating that the president had a malign neglect regarding AIDS and harbored hostility towards gays. 

     What we do know for sure is that we’re fortunate that the mindset about  HIV/AIDS has evolved for the better.  Thank God for that.

 

 

 

 

 

someone holding a banana with a condom over it demonstrating usage

Recent Study: Black MSM Experience Higher Condom Misuse, Failure Rates

     You know, I absolutely adore my assistant, Raheem!  One important reason: he uncovers topical issues impacting the LGBTQ Community for exclusive features in Wyattevans.com

     Raheem handed me an article from Poz.com about a recent observational study with this eye-opening conclusion:  Black men who engage in sex with men (MSM) report higher rates of condom breakage and slippage as well as incomplete condom usage compared with Caucasian MSM.  Researchers studied cross-sectional data of 475 MSM who participated in this Atlanta study and said they had used a condom for insertive sex (being the top) during the previous six months.

     Poz.com states, “Black MSM were twice as likely as white MSM to report both breakage of condoms and slippage when pulling out.  Nearly 40 percent of Black MSM reported using a condom incompletely, meaning they put it on after already engaging in intercourse for a time or took it off before finishing intercourse; Black MSM were significantly more likely than white   MSM to report this.”

     The source continues, “Thirty-one percent of the MSM reported using a condom correctly, with most error rates similar between the races. However, 53 percent of Black MSM reported using oil-based lubricants, which can weaken condoms, compared with 21 percent of white MSM. Also, Black MSM were more likely than white MSM to unroll a condom completely before putting it on the penis. (The correct way to apply a condom is to roll it down over an erect penis, making sure that what will become the inside of the condom is facing down before allowing the latex to touch the tip of the penis.)    MSM between the ages of 18 and 24 were 40 percent less likely to use a condom correctly compared with those 25 to 29 years of age.  When factoring out race, younger men and those with less education were more likely to use oil-based lubricants.”

     According to 54 percent of the participants, standard condoms did not have the best, the most ideal feel or fit.  And, white MSM were more likely than Black MSM to report fit or feel problems or issues with maintaining an erection while using a condom.

     “The researchers concluded that their findings suggest that oil-based lubricant use, as well as fit and feel problems, may account for a considerable percentage of condom breaks among MSM.  They called for the condom industry to design better fitting condoms to address this problem.  Better feeling and fitting condoms might not only increase the use of condoms in this population and but also decrease the likelihood of incomplete use.”