This is World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. My country’s consulate here in Melbourne has been showing their support for the AIDS-free by 2015 campaign, and to be honest, seeing support from the US like that makes me very proud to be an American.

World AIDS Day often goes unnoticed at our household, which to some extent is partly a good thing as I’m in a serodiscordant (aka “magnetic” relationship). What that means is that I’m HIV- and my partner is positive. He was diagnosed with HIV over 25 years ago and essentially abandoned by the medical establishment at the time and essentially expected to die within weeks.

Today he is a vibrant and healthy man, who I do love very much. When you look at him, you do not see HIV, but his humour and zest for life. Yet, HIV/AIDS is without a doubt a frequent presence in our lives. Some examples:

– When either of us is cut or has an open wound, we take it calmly but seriously. HIV may die when it hits open air, but there’s nothing to say that I could also pass something on which could worsen it.
– When he is off his medicine, he can become extremely lethargic and almost depressed, because the virus saps you of your strength.
– Separate toothbrushes, razors, and deodourant.

Being in a serodiscordant relationship is not what either us expected, but it is our life.

To be frank, whenever he reads about HIV infections going up (as they are here in Australia), he gets pissed off.

“How can anyone be dumb enough to catch it with all the information that is available now?”

As much as I have theorised on that subject on this blog, the fact is there are no clear cut answers.

We can talk about a heavily sexualised Gay & Straight media culture which rarely presents safe sex in a practical light as opposed to just going straight to the tantalising.

We can talk about the fact that we live in a society where we opt not to get uncomfortable for a few minutes, without realising that a little discomfort might be the difference between a positive and negative HIV result.

We can talk about how while PWA are definitely treated better in general, the fact that they are living longer and better lives still doesn’t negate the fact that life without the virus is better than without.

We can continue to talk and talk and go to fundraisers and wear ribbons, but if you don’t take the time to listen and educate yourself and others on the reality of the virus and the lifestyle changes it can impact upon you and your loved ones. Well, then it will hit you.

I love my partner with or without HIV (and yes, his HIV status is one of the reasons we moved to Australia), but I hope I live to see an AIDS-free 2015.

Just so I can end this on a lighter note, today also marks the 18th birthday of JOY 94.9,where I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of World Wide Waves since October. If you can, please support JOY with a membership. It’s a critical part of our community and it helps give voice to many who would be drowned out in our current media landscape.

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The Dorian Gray Decade Needs To Die

Kim Kardashian, taken at the unveiling of her ...

Image via Wikipedia

It might seem a bit odd with this year nearly being over, and the first decade of the 21st Century already past, but I’m calling  the period of 2000-2010, the Dorian Gray Decade. Somehow, the zeitgeist was all about wanting to be good-looking and desired regardless of the cost. Interestingly, it was only during this time that Dorian Gray syndrome was identified.

The past decade saw the birth of the super celebrity without merit (Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton), the attending networks that cater to them (Bravo/Arena, MTV, both of which are the Dorian Gray networks themselves for those who know their history) , and the rise of such social problems as young girls intentionally getting pregnant so as to be featured on Teen Mom, and perhaps the most obvious example, the recent UK riots.

It would be easy for me to take the Socialist view that this is all due to lack of government oversight in media, but that is neither here nor there. See, at some point, we just stopped caring and wanted to consume. It’s hard to say when exactly this kicked in, probably because I’m talking about this in 2011 and not 2021. On one hand, you could say it began with the plethora of terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda and its sympathisers, which pretty much traded on young and horny disaffected and disenfranchised youth telling them that by trading their mortality they could have a morally right sex comedy existence in the hereafter.  That led to the Iraq & Afghanistan wars (the latter still going on) wherein the West did pretty much the same (although swap the sex comedy for perpetual veneration by those too terrified to actually serve themselves).

Then Saddam Hussein was located and the American public realised that we pretty much had been duped into signing away our freedoms and locked into a cult of personality so that an errant son could prove himself worthy to his distant father. Oddly enough not all that dissimilar to North Korea. Meanwhile, because said son and his party demolished so much of the home-grown industry, all we were left with was finance and entertainment. Boy, did we export those two. We literally made a killing telling the world that debt was a valuable commodity. (We have only just begun to pay the price for that hubris.)

On the entertainment side,  we had bored rich girls making money off of sex tapes and using to launch careers as…well…bored rich socialites with influence. Granted the influence came solely because they were marketed as so. Once upon time, you could see that as turning lemons into lemonade, but there was one key thing missing: humility. Why did neither the male nor female parties express any sort of anger at having their private moments being made public? Why did the media go along with the PR and not press them on what their new “celebrity” would be built upon, namely their total unknowing exploitation? Those who willing get involved with porn, are rarely so naive not to realise that they are there for sheer physicality and that it is a short shelf life. This lot, conversely wants to have the notoriety without truly accepting the consequences. Despite or regardless of any self-examination, the American entertainment industry exported this new celebrity archetype worldwide, and since no other nation has been able to match the sheer dominance of the American entertainment industry, it was lapped up and taken as valid from Helsinki to Hong Kong, from Madrid to Melbourne.

There is another aspect of this Dorian Gray decade that hits very close to home for me: the gay community. We have made great progress over the past decade: Same-sex marriage has been passed in 6 US states and districts, not to mention the amount of countries allowing Same-sex marriage or civil unions is up to 26. Yet, where we have massively failed is in HIV/AIDS. I am truly lucky to make it out of the last decade still HIV-, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m in a sero-discordant relationship (which I’ve only been in for the past 4). It has to do with the fact that we have seen companies glorify and profit off of unprotected sex. Granted there are brief, almost discreet disclaimers all over, which are pretty much rendered irrelevant when bombarded with images of muscular, seemingly “virile” and “healthy” men living a life of constant sexual gratification with no consequence. These images play on the minds of young men, who aren’t getting the best sexual education (whether it’s due to homophobia or general prudishness), and you wonder why the sero-conversion rates are going up.  (And if this makes you remember the disenfranchised youth who became Islamist terrorists…)

Why are we afraid to admit there are consequences to our actions? We cannot continue to glamourise what hurts us. We cannot continue to redefine what is beyond the pale, nor should we accept a media that will do so for us for the sake of a slick marketing campaign. Why do we continue to talk and yet never. do. a. damn. thing?