As you can see from the title, I have a guest post for you today. This one comes from my friend Edward Lang, President of UniQ Canterbury, and he’s writing about today:
ecember 1st is, as days go, fairly significant. For those of us in Godzone™, it marks the beginning of a long, hot summer (or at least the hope of one, depending on location). It is the anniversary of Ukraine’s vote for independence, and East Germany’s end of enshrined single party dominance.
This year, however, is especially significant. December 1st 2011 is the 30 year anniversary of official recognition of the AIDS virus. The theme of this AIDS Day is Getting to Zero, and the 5 year campaign aims for a complete elimination of new infections, discrimination and AIDS related deaths.
The insidious fact about AIDS is that not only can it affect everyone, its effects are especially pronounced in the most disadvantaged communities. Even in the United States, HIV affects African American communities at a far higher rate than White communities in the same area. And when the transfer rate via childbirth is 25% for those who are without treatment, it is absolutely vital that we institute policies that work towards the Getting to Zero goal.
On the Queer front, things can be seen to be getting better. In 2009, Obama lifted the entry ban of those who tested HIV positive, and in the same year India legalised same-sex activity, enabling HIV/AIDS foundations easier access to Gay Men at risk, who no longer faced legal retribution for sex and who could now openly access testing and prevention services.
But there’s more to do. The Arab Spring hasn’t produced the same gains for the LGBT community as we would perhaps have liked. Although the death penalty bill in Uganda failed, the atmosphere of persecution haunts the LGBT community throughout the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia. When the LGBT community is forced underground it becomes extremely hard to reach out to those most at risk, for the fear of being outed and thrown into prison can be too much to bear. When this is combined with no governmental support for anti-HIV programmes amongst the LGBT community the results are devastating.
We need to make sure that governments don’t make it hard to access anti-HIV programmes. We need to make sure that such programmes are holistic, and incorporate all groups. We need to make sure that programmes are adequately funded and are able to help those they seek to. We need to stand up and oppose those who undermine anti-HIV programmes, whether they’re religious in nature, or tinfoil nutjobs.
So for Christmas this year, consider buying someone a donation in their name. For $40.50, you can buy an HIV test kit for mothers. It’s quick, easy and is a concrete step to helping reduce the spread of HIV. Go on, I dare you.
HIV is still a serious issue. But access to antiretrovirals have turned it from the horrific death sentence it once was, to a chronic disease, which (along with sex education that hasn’t kept up) have led to people being blasé about safe sex. I myself have been surprised when I’ve had to remind a partner to use a condom (seriously, you just met me in a bar, how do you know you can trust me? I mean, you can, but that’s beside the point).
But safe sex is not about trust, it’s about hygiene, and you shouldn’t rely on someone to truthfully tell you their HIV status, nor should you demand it: that shit leads to stigmatisation, which makes people lie, which exacerbates myths around transmission. What you should do is always use a condom and lube.
Last year, HIV infection rates in the UK and NZ were the highest since records began. Part of this has to do with those infected not dying, part of it has to do with younger people, who never saw the horrible face of AIDS related illness, not thinking that it’s a threat any more. We do need to care, and we do need to protect ourselves — and encourage others to protect themselves too. Safe sex should be the only kind of sex you should have.
But Edward’s right to point out the disparity in those communities affected by HIV/AIDS. Approximately 34 million people are now living with HIV, but only 6.6 million have access to treatment. This is something we need to solve. As a start, I recommend doing what Edward suggests: and donate to buy an HIV test kit for mothers.