November 9, 2010

Queer Issue: The Stigma of HIV

World AIDS Day is December first and local groups that I'm involved with are currently in the process of planning events. So I thought I would take some time to offer some thoughts on the issue of HIV and AIDs.

By now most people should know that HIV is a Sexually Transmitted Disease that causes AIDS. People who engage in risky behaviors should be tested for HIV on regular basis. Common sense, right?

As I view leaders as the ones who should be setting a good example, when I was asked at a recent doctors visit if I would like to be tested for HIV (and with the approach of World AIDS Day on my mind) I naturally answered "yes". This way - I thought at least - I could tell people that I had been tested, and yes, it is a good thing!

This of course meant that I had to spend the next few minutes trying (awkwardly) to act like "yes, I do have unprotected sex with multiple partners and therefore my risky behavior is a very good reason for me to be tested for HIV."

It also meant getting a lecture on the dangers of having unprotected sex with multiple partners from my doctor and lab orders for pretty much every other STD that can be tested for. At least now, I'll have peace of mind... not that I was worried or anything.

Also, in terms of leadership theory, misleading your doctor is generally a bad idea and people really should be doing as I say (do not mislead medical professionals) not as I did. Seriously!

In any event, this also got me thinking about the stigma and prejudices that still exist against those infected with HIV. One of the most common reasons I've seen used to argue for "homosexuality" as being an immoral sin (other than quoting biblical texts) is the rate of incidence of HIV infections among Men who have sex with Men. Which is a rather terrible reason when one thinks about it.

Here's why. While HIV is a virus that is most readily spread through unprotected sex, it is not the only way. Granted, certain activities are more likely to spread HIV then others. Populations that engage in those activities typically have higher incidence rates of infection. Anal sex has the greatest chance of infection, but vaginal intercourse can also lead to an infection, among other possibilities, such as sharing dirty needles.

Furthermore, according to the CDC website "...even though more men than women have HIV, women are catching up. In fact, if new HIV infections continue at their current rate worldwide, women with HIV may soon outnumber men with HIV." If HIV really were God's wrath against the "homosexual" lifestyle, you would think he would pick a more discriminating method.

Logically, to me at least, it makes no sense to judge an individual who has HIV then it does someone with the flu. Would we ridicule someone with skin cancer for not wearing proper sunscreen? A disease is a disease. Some are more deadly, spread easier and through different means, and kill more efficiently. But still, at the end of the day, whoever gets "it" is not "immoral" or suffering punishment under the whims of a omnipotent deity.

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