#lgbthealth

Southern County Pledges Big Bucks To Fight HIV & Promote PrEP Use.

With all eyes on Atlanta for the Super Bowl this weekend, the rest of the year it may draw attention for some bad health statistics.

“Fulton County has one of America’s worst HIV epidemics, and it simply will not be solved without government leadership at the local and state levels,” Melanie Thompson, interim chair of the Fulton County HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care & Policy Advisory Committee, told Project Q Atlanta.  According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Fulton County has the second highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the country in counties with 100,000+ people.

How do you solve an epidemic that even in 2019 many feel is a gay issue?  Fulton County, where Atlanta, Georgia is located has decided to move ahead with intelligence, education, and funding.

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners has decided to add $670,000 to help fight HIV/AIDS in the county.  The money will be used to fund nine new healthcare specialists and expand the availability of PrEP. It will add one nurse practitioner, three disease intervention specialists, two licensed practical nurses, two social work coordinators, and one medical records assistant.

Many cities and states are getting on board with promoting the use of PrEP. 

It was part of a nearly $1.2 million increase in funding (10 percent higher than last year) for the Fulton Board of Health in the county’s 2019 budget that was approved during a Board of Commissioners meeting on Jan. 23.

Thompson called it:

 the first step toward ensuring adequate health department services. Fulton County has one of America’s worst HIV epidemics, and it simply will not be solved without government leadership at the local and state levels. The Fulton County HIV/AIDS Advisory Committee thanks the commissioners for their commitment to end AIDS in Fulton County. We have a long way to go, but today our leaders took a much-needed step in the right direction. - Project Q Atlanta

Commissioner Natalie Hall (top photo) spearheaded the funding request. The District 4 commissioner said she worked behind the scenes with the HIV/AIDS division of the Fulton Board of Health after discovering the county’s budget committee denied its funding requests.

 


h/t: Project Q Atlanta, cp.wabe.org

Reader shares story of when a hook up doesn't go as planned.

I signed onto Grindr the other day and saw the announcement to the right. It was yet another pop up on another dating/hook up site for me to ignore. Nope, no capital T for me, thanks. No judgment, but it is not for me. I did see that it was either a regional survey or one that was going to gather data and separate it regionally.  But once again, it didn't matter since I'm not into that. 

But PnP, parTying, and inTo are common words we see on some of the bigger hooking up apps. And there are app users that don't mind a little T on occasion or all the time.

Later that same day, I received an email from one of our readers about something that happened to him. It was a little deja vu / is someone watching over my shoulder moment for it dealt with a PnP incident he had.  We've all had some hook ups that we wish we did not have. Here is what the reader sent us.



I'm writing because I would like to share with you and the general public a situation that happened to me just yesterday. I would like to highlight the prevalence and dangers of PNP and how it still remains rampant and a danger within my community. However, before I do I would like to say this. I'm a gay man that has struggled with drug abuse from an early age, mostly because of the rejection we suffer from at the hands of family, friends, and society. Ever since I was a teen, I always hoped to one day be an advocate, a voice for those in my community suffering from depression, drug abuse, and suicide. I have had very personal experiences with these three especially, and am hoping the sharing of this personal event helps. 

Yesterday, I was in a very frisky mood and decided to hop on Grindr to see what kind of trouble I could get into. Unbeknownst to me, this would truly be the biggest understatement of my life. I saw a profile of a very attractive man, a very simple picture of him taking a selfie in a bathroom, nothing out of the ordinary. I sent him a message and almost immediately received pic after pic with a reply. His pics were very hot, showcasing a chiseled body and a nice endowment. He stated he was from New Zealand and all I could think about was that accent and the fun we could have. He asked if I liked to party, and I replied that sometimes I did, and asked what did he have in mind? He said that he had some T to share and would love to get together. I thought of how hot of a time we could have, and I invited him over.

I gave him an address to a business right next door to my complex so I could meet him there, rather than him coming directly to my home and told him that I was going to shower. He said great, and he'd be there in 40 minutes. I was ready, excited, and nervous all in the same breathe. Forty minutes had passed, and nothing. I had given him my number to contact me when he had arrived, yet again nothing. After waiting an hour and a half, I was giving up and about to take a nap when I got a message on Grindr stating he was there. I contemplated not going to meet him because he was so late, and I had a weird feeling in my bones, but then started to feel bad thinking the time it took for him to travel to me, and then of course the hormones took over. Never in my life had I wished more that I went with that feeling in my bones.

I went to go meet him, and there was no one there. I looked around and he was nowhere to be found. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw him standing in the business I had given him. He popped his head out the door and gave that all too familiar head nod. He came over to where I was waiting and on the way to my place we had a brief discussion about where he was from and what he did. Never for a moment during our discussion did he seem messed up, anxious, angry, or mental. He was very jovial, intelligent, and engaging and of course extremely good looking. As soon as we get to my place, I direct him to my room with much anticipation. We have some brief banter and then the PnP/parTying began. Fifteen minutes into it and out of nowhere, he says that he's going to leave and he thinks I'm a cop that I'm setting him up. I laughed and asked him what kind of cop would be doing all of this with him so I thought he might just be a little nervous. He frantically got himself together insisting that he was being set up and that he couldn't believe I would do that to him. At that point, I was not too far inTo the parTy and started to realize that he just might be a little paranoid and or had a head start on the parTy so I escorted him downstairs, said my goodbyes, and thought wow, what a crazy, but thankful that was the end of that. 

Some time goes by and I get a message on Grindr from him saying that he was going to call the cops and have my place raided, and that after our activities, he was having some "side effects on his appendage" and he was going to get me for assault. I had to read and reread the message just to make sure what I was reading was actually there. I asked him why would he do that, I'm not a drug dealer, never have any drugs except for the stuff he brought over and he seemed to be enjoying our time together. This went on for about half an hour, and it was clear to me that there was something wrong with this man. He was inventing and fabricating stories about what actually happened and there was just no getting through to him, so I blocked him. An hour or so goes by and I hear a knock on the door but don't answer as I'm relaxing in my room. My roommate comes home and everything is fine and normal, she and I are having our regular conversation and we both retire to our rooms. About twenty minutes later and another knock, this time I answer. As I open the door, it's him and he's clearly extremely high, agitated and tweeked out of his mind. I'm like, "what's up man, what are you doing here, I don't want you here, this is private property and you need to leave." He repeats the threats from earlier and adds that he's going to get me on luring, bribery, and countless other charges that have no truth to them. So I said, "you were going to call the cops on me earlier, so now that you're here I'll do it for you and have nothing to hide." I call 911 and tell them that there is a man stalking me and he's messed up and I need for him to leave the property.

Coincidentally, as I'm in the phone with 911, he places a call of his own to 911 but I can't hear what he's saying. I go back inside to tell my roommate what's going on, needless to say, she is pissed at me and won't let me explain anything. I go back outside and he is not there and I walk to the front gate to wait for the police. Five minutes go by and there are literally 20 cop cars, 5 fire trucks and 3 ambulances, and I'm thinking wow, all this just for my call? I approach one of the officers and identify myself as one of the callers and asked her why there was such a big response. She told me that the other caller stated that there was a fire in my unit and people were trapped inside and that somebody had sliced his penis. I was absolutely shocked by what she told me and assured her that was not the case and that the other caller was crazy and stalking me. As I'm walking with the officer to my unit, my roommate calls and tells me that the door has been damaged and the door knob has been broken off. One officer tells me that it was probably them trying to get in, but when we got to my unit, the officers there said they arrived and the door was like that. So some how, in the time frame in which I was waiting for the police and them actually getting there, he had broken the door handle off. Now, this guy is no where to be found, and I'm not even sure the cops were really looking for him. The police leave and give me a card with a phone and case number and say that someone will be in touch. I ask them about the guy, fearful that he may come back since he's already broken the door. They told me if I see him again to just call them back and they will take care of it.

I had called a friend that lives close by to see if he could help with the door as my roommate could not get out, and I couldn't get in. I go to the gate to let my friend in,  and I'm like omg, that's him, that's the guy ... I can't believe he's still on property. So I call the police again and they tell me the call has been answered and someone is on the way. My friend fixes the door, and as I'm walking him back out, we see him again, except this time he is in the trash dumpster looking for something. Again, I call the police and a little more frantic as nobody has shown up yet and his behavior is becoming a little more erratic and frightening. The operator tells me again that the call has been picked and and someone is coming, and if I see him again to call them back. Forty minutes go by and no police, yet I see this man, going back and forth to the dumpster, when then all of a sudden he retrieves something from the dumpster and heads to the gate. I follow behind as discretely as possible and as I get to the gate he jumps into a taxi. I run to the taxi and ask the driver to please wait as the police are coming and need to talk to this guy, but he drives off. I took a picture of the taxi cab plate and car number and give it to the police when they get there two minutes later.

I'm pissed, I'm scared, I feel violated and to top it all off my roommate wants me out. I have never before had someone over to the house, and the one time I do, this is what happens. I know it could have have been much worse and very grateful it didn't.  However, he is still out there, and the uncertainty is driving me crazy.  This man has had two things refreshed in his mind - PNP is so overrated and be careful of who you bring to your house. 



Our reader only mentioned PnP and not inTo or parTying which when there is a use of the capital T, it means the use of crystal meth. 

I know i've had some hook ups in the past that I wish I could CNTRL-ALT-DLTE and make it as if they never happened (can I throw an ex in there, too?). 

But do those that do PnP need to be more cautious? Do you increase certain risks of safety when PnP occurs?

From verywellmind.com we see these risks of Party and Play Behavior.

Besides the risks of being arrested, participating in PnP carries heavy risks in terms of physical health. PnP has been found to increase rates if STD transmission, including strains of HIV/AIDs. Some drugs, like meth, can cause mouth sores or abrasions which can make you even more susceptible to contracting a serious STD.

Additionally, PnP users are vulnerable to other threats, such as assault, theft or rape. Because many nP meetings are arranged in secret, using codes and often anonymous forums, you have no idea who you are engaging with and can be in serious danger by meeting up with these people in a motel room or other private location. 

We all get off differently, have different levels of excitment, like to be stimulated just so.  No matter how you like it, just be careful out there.


h/t: verywellmind.com

D.C. Soon To Be First Territory To Ban Conversion Therapy On Adults.

Several states have taken steps to protect minors against conversion therapy.  But what happens with conversion therapy practices once a person becomes 18?  Well, you're an adult right? And you will have choices of your own to make about your own life.  But what if you are still under the guardianship of another at and after the age of 18?  What if someone else has the legal right and responsibility to make choices for you?

On January 16th, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a bill calling for banning licensed mental health practitioners from conducting conversion therapy on adults who are under the care of a conservator or guardian. The bill was approved unanimously by the City Council last month. The Conversion Therapy for Consumers Under a Conservatorship or Guardianship Amendment Act of 2018, would be the first of its type in the country, pushing conversion therapy protections to include and go beyond 18 years of age.

Some news sites are saying that the bill is now law, but the WashingtonBlade.com in their Bowser signs conversion therapy ban for adults with disabilities is saying that:

Following the mayor’s signature the bill was to be sent to Capitol Hill where under the city’s Home Rule Charter it must undergo a 30 legislative day review by Congress. If Congress takes no action the bill become law.

Let's cross our fingers that Congress does what they do best, no action, and D.C. can get its desired law. 

Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy and Government Affairs for the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBT youth told the WashingtonBlade.com that“Nobody should be subjected to the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.”

Washington D.C. is moving in the right direction when it comes to LGBT protection and equality. In our post DC Group Ratifies Three Pro-LGBTQ Measures, we mentioned the conversion therapy ban above as well as the DC Council voted twelve to zero to confirm DC Mayor Muriel Bowser's nominee, gay activist Peter Rosenstein to the D.C. Office of Employee Appeals and passed "Sense of the Council" which will provide support for transgender people.


There are a total of 15 states have done the right thing and banned conversion therapy. 

California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, And Washington.

There are 14 states that have proposals for similar conversion ban laws to be considered.

Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

New York City is the only other place in the United States that bans conversion therapy for adults, but NYC bans it for all adults, not just those with guardians. The NYC Law simply states:

This bill would prohibit any person from charging consumers for services intended to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.


h/t: WashingtonBlade.com , gaytimes.co.uk

The Best Christmas Present Is A Happy You. We All Do Different Things To Get To That Happy Self.

I'm not a big fan of the traditional self-evaluation at the New Year and setting up resolutions to make a better life for the next Gregorian calendar, but I myself like to do a life-evaluation at Christmas.

As I sit here vacationing in the Pacific Northwest with one of my best friends, enjoying one of my favorite cities, Seattle, and looking forward to experiencing Victoria Island and Vancouver in the next two weeks, I'm enjoying life, have two great jobs that provide different opportunities for me, and will soon buy my first home.  I always think, if you can't be happy at Christmas, when can you be happy. 

But yes, Christmas is more than just about you, yourself, being the only happy one around. As mentioned, there is self-evaluation and life-evaluation. One reason I came out to Seattle was not only to have a great time, but as well to make sure my good friend had a great time.  He's on a long trip and taking some time to regroup and enjoy life himself and looking into the future and to see what he wants to do moving forward after a major life event. As we sit having bagels and mimosas by the fireplace, yes, we are enjoying it all, but we also are reflecting on where we've been and thinking about where we are going.  One thing that made us smile was something that happened to both of us, just yesterday.

My friend and I were standing at Three Girls Bakery near Pike Place Market, trying to decide which loaf of bread we would get to compliment our homemade Christmas dinner.  A woman walked up and said, "I always get the fig (i forget the full name) bread.  We come from Hawaii to Seattle and every time we come, I have to get myself to Three Girls Bakery and get this bread."  I think we both liked the idea of someone else deciding for us, since we were all over the place.  We took her choice and went back in line, about three people behind her and her husband and waited to order the bread that was housed behind the counter.  I heard her order three loaves of that fig something something bread as well as a couple of other loaves and was trying to remember if there were more than three in the display case.  I turned to my friend and said, what do we do if she just told us what bread to buy and then she bought it all? They bagged up her bread in three different bags and they left the counter window. She approached us and said Merry Christmas and handed us a bag containing the loaf of bread she recommended, which was the most expensive kind of bread they sold. We were both taken back by her simple generosity and was reminded of being kind to strangers, small acts of kindness, and just love thy neighbor.  Yeah, the mushy gooey corny stuff, and we felt great.  Of course, that small act of kindness stuck with us and reminded us that little things like that, paying it forward, being kind, sharing a little bit of yourself, can brighten someone's day.

One of the biggest presents you can open at Christmas time is yourself.  Open yourself to others, may it be through presents, gifts, acts of kindness, or just simple words. I stumbled upon a post by one of Instinct Magazine's friends, Matthew. He shared with ImFromDriftwood his story of leaving a cult that was not accepting of his life, of who he was and is. 
 

 

 

Imagine making that choice to remove yourself from not only that environment but your family. I know that many of us have had to make that choice to leave the blood family and make a chosen family and are better off for it.

We need to look back and embrace those hard tough choices that helped make us who we are. Matthew shared on his Facebook - 

This was a hard story to tell - but I hope it can bring courage and hope to someone else in a similar situation.

Thank you Matthew for sharing your story.  We know it was tough to share, but we are also sure, every time you do share the story, it reaffirms that your choice was the right thing. 

So as you sit on your sofa, couch, sandy beach this Christmas, jungle canopy hammock, take some time to look back on some of those tough choices, the blessings you have, your family or your chosen family, and what you have.

Merry Christmas everyone.  Embrace who you are. You're the best present to yourself and those around you. 

What US Region Has Highest Number Of HIV Diagnoses? CDC Results Have Us Thinking.

The numbers are finally in for 2017 regarding how HIV diagnoses are distributed across the US and regions.  Around 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the US.  Southern states accounted for more than half of the 38,739 new HIV diagnoses in 2017.

Overall, in the 50 states and the District of Columbia only, the majority of people who receive an HIV diagnosis live in urban areas. But in the South, 23% of new HIV diagnoses are in suburban and rural areas, and in the Midwest 21% are suburban or rural—higher proportions than in the Northeast and West. The South’s larger and more geographically dispersed population of people living with HIV creates unique challenges for prevention and treatment.

Understanding the places and populations that are most affected by HIV allows the federal government to allocate its resources to the geographic areas where they are needed most, while still supporting a basic level of HIV education and prevention for everyone across the country.

Once again, these are statistics on new diagnoses, not the total population living with HIV. 

HIV Diagnoses

In 2017:

  • The South made up 52% (19,968) of the new HIV diagnoses in the US, followed by the West (7,270; 19%), the Northeast (6,011; 16%), and the Midwest (5,032; 13%). US dependent areas made up 458 (1%) of new HIV diagnoses.
  • The rates (per 100,000 people) of HIV diagnoses were 16.1 in the South, 12.3 in the US dependent areas, 10.6 in the Northeast, 9.4 in the West, and 7.4 in the Midwest.

From 2012 to 2016:

HIV diagnoses remained stable in the US, although some decreases were seen in regions with fewer diagnoses.

  • US Dependent Areas: Decreased 27%
  • Northeast: Decreased 17%
  • Midwest: Decreased 6%
  • South: Remained stable
  • West: Remained stable

Forty-four percent of people diagnosed with HIV live in the South, even though the region only contains about a third of the U.S. population.

In looking at the where the largest concentration in regard to cities, here are the rates of HIV diagnoses pre 100,000. 

10. Baltimore, Maryland – 24.3

Aside from Baltimore, all of the cities in the top 10 are in the South.

9. Jacksonville, Florida – 25.1

8. Columbia, South Carolina – 25.6

7. Atlanta, Georgia – 25.9

6. Memphis, Tennessee – 27.6

5. Orlando, Florida – 28.8

4. Jackson, Mississippi – 32.2

3. New Orleans, Louisiana – 36.9

2. Miami, Florida – 42.8

1. Baton Rouge, Louisiana – 44.7

What are the reasons these cities are on the top 10 list?  Just like with everything, there is no one cause for or one cure to a problem. Here are a list of problems highlighted by blackdoctor.org for why these cities may have the highest HIV diagnoses rates in the nation.

  • lack of education
  • tourism
  • poverty
  • rural geography
  • lack of affordable healthcare
  • social stigma - being a part of the ‘Bible Belt’
  • a diagnosed person might not seek treatment due to fear of rejection from the religious community
  • people who have the disease are not aware of it, so they may continue to spread the infection
  • Most people in these regions don’t have access to prevention, treatment, and care programs
  • due to shared needles because of opiate addiction crisis

 

h/t: blackdoctor.org, www.cdc.gov

Discharged Cadet Shows Honor and Pride While Fighting US Military's Ban On HIV+ Soldiers

Imagine that your life's dream was almost obtained, but then you were casted out for something you thought would never happen.

Cadet Kevin Deese was discharged from the United States Navy after a routine blood test found that he was HIV-positive.  The 2014 blood test was one month before Deese was to take part in the U.S. Naval Academy's May graduation. Officials told Deese that he would be allowed to graduate but he would not be commissioned.

In an interview with TheBody.com, Deese shared:

So April Fool's Day 2014, I'm eating lunch in the dining hall with my best friend, and a lieutenant I didn't know comes over and ushers me to the commandant's office, which is like the dean of students. "It's not a good reason that you're here," the commandant says, and I start to panic. What did I do? Was I in trouble? I had no idea why. Then he tells me that I tested positive for HIV and my heart just dropped. It was not something I thought I had been at risk for. Then he says that I will not be commissioning as an officer along with my classmates. It was a double whammy -- so much stigma and shame, everything I had worked for and that the Naval Academy had paid to educate me for. So I spoke with the chaplain and the brigade medical officer. "We're not going to abandon you," they said. But really no one had my back. It was presented as very cut-and-dry with no possibility to get a waiver, no process. One of the commandants had prepared talking points for me and had scrawled "not a death sentence" on a Post-It note

We could not imagine the pressure and stress of going through with the graduation and then needing to tell all why you were not continuing with your military career and on top of that, telling them that you were HIV+. 

In a recent Facebook Post, Deese wrote:

I’m a little scared but determined to take additional action by putting out to the world that I am an HIV-positive gay man who’s here for people who don’t feel they can or should be out as being positive – and who’s not here for your HIV stigma, society.

NowThis worked with Deese to put together this video of his story. 

AS stated in the video, Deese, who is gay, has joined an ongoing legal battle to remove this outdated policy. 

  • 1985 - 1st Screening of Military Applicants for HIV screening applicants for HIV in 1985.
     
  • 1991 - Under George H.W.Bush, the Military Banned HIV-Positive Applicants
     
  • 2018 - "Deploy, Or Get Out" - Trump's New Policy requires Military to discharge any service member who cannot be deployed for at least 12 months. People living with HIV are automatically disqualified from deployment. 

Best of luck Kevin in your suit against the Government. Your courage is noted, appreciated, and envied. It takes a strong individual to rise above not one but two life changing occurrences all at the same time. 

We know it has been hard and will be hard. Deese recently shared the following on his Facebook page. 

Content warning: Quotes from people with a lot of ignorance and not a lot of compassion. Could be hard for people living with or affected by HIV to read.
.
.
.
"I wouldn't want to be near you at the mall let alone on the field while bleeding to death"
"They dont want your hiv blood on everything your putting others at risk"
"What I don't like about this guy is he's willing to put other people's lives and health at risk. Very selfish!"
"Your a liability"
"Why does he feel so entitled?"
"Get over it."

Thank you to NowThis for sharing my story. I wasn't sure what to expect when I agreed to do this. Maybe reading the comments was a mistake, but it at least confirmed what we've always known: we have a long way to go in educating people on HIV in general (treatment as prevention, transmission risks, etc.) - and obviously specifically in the military context (i.e. people living with HIV currently serve in the military, there are many jobs in the Navy that don't involve getting shot at, etc.).

I'd be lying if I said the personal attacks aren't hard to read, but it makes a world of difference knowing the support I have behind me. Thank you to anyone who's ever voiced their support; it means more than you can know.

But enough about me...happy World AIDS Day to all; may we take a moment to remember all those who died and those who still die today because they cannot access treatment.


h/t: thegavoice.com, thebody.com, Kevin Deese's Facebook Page

What Are People Learning About HIV/AIDS In The PrEP Era? What Are Serosorting, 'Inevitable’ Transmission, and U=U?

Out of sight, out of mind. HIV/AIDS is not in the news, it is not mentioned as much as it used to be, and is considered a non-issue for many. So why do we care?  Why are we not caring as much anymore?  It seems the closest discussions our community has around HIV/AIDS is the debate about PrEP, But is PrEP more about not halting the  spread of HIV, but so people can believe they don't have to wear condoms? Are we fogetting why we are wearing condoms in the first place? PrEP = no condoms, oh yeah, and that things about AIDS.

Do we need a shot in the arm to remember that HIV/AIDS is out there? I recall the one time a former partner told me he was HIV positive. While waiting for my test results, I had some of the longest hot showers ever, just standing there, thinking, wondering, worrying.

Most of us don't stop and think about 'IT' as much as we used to. But some of us are still fighting the fight personally, while others are fighting the fight so others do not have to think about it as much as before.  Gareth Johnson, from MainlyMale.com, caught up with Chase Ledin to talk about his research into HIV and AIDS.

What drew you to the study of HIV in the UK and US?

I come in contact with HIV every day — when I log onto Grindr, when I talk queer theory with my colleagues, and when I explain the historical trends of sexual health, wellness, and queer culture to my students. Though I am seronegative, I’m asked to negotiate behaviours within the realm of serosorting.

I came out in a time period distinctly after the first-wave HIV epidemic. This period has saturated most spheres of my life with the message that HIV is treatable. This narrative is part of my shared-community history of queer kinship — it’s uniquely removed from the devastation of the ‘lost’ generation.

My inquiries started with undergraduate studies exploring queer literary history, especially invested in MSM socioeconomic histories, their queer community histories, and their sexual encounters before and during the first-wave epidemic. I was drawn into HIV studies when exposed to the works of Sarah Schulman, Tim Dean, Samuel R. Delany, Christopher Castiglia, and Christopher Reed. These scholars expressed concern about an ideological shift of social contact and the subsequent ‘gentrification’ — alteration, forgetting, erasure, departure — of queer history.

Introducing deeply unnerving case studies about perceptions of the HIV epidemic, many of these authors responded to public discourses constructing the AIDS epidemic as an ‘isolating event’ that estranged social practices and altered localities within queer history — such as bathhouses, sex clubs, bars, literary salons, and queer camping. I found myself attracted to the arguments because they pointed at a social juncture and existential dread that many gay men experience even today — the legacy of HIV and its perpetual complication of queer life.

I probed the archive for specific examples of ‘departure’ in queer history during my master’s coursework. I was drawn to the work of Andrew Sullivan — especially his 1996 article in The New York Times, When Plagues End. Sullivan spoke of a rupture within the primary AIDS narrative. He most likely sought to construct a departure of medical categories — HIV/AIDS — providing unique foresight to the ‘end of AIDS’ as a widespread and deadly disease which could be replaced by the chronic wonders of anti-retroviral therapies. Instead, his article was received as a premature and swift departure from the memorialisation that hung over US and UK communities. Sullivan’s proclamation permeated cultural discourses about HIV. His work colluded with larger structural changes, such as international efforts to provide HIV medicine to countries in Africa, and allowed for a larger dismantling of the AIDS=Death narrative.

My professional and doctoral work looks closely at the changes in queer health and period immediately following the epidemic — 1996–2012. Part of contemporary thinking about the epidemic and continued transmission relates to a narrative that says young queers ‘lack’ empathy. Whether or not this is true, this mode of thinking says that the HIV epidemic at large derives its power from insufficient standardised settings — such as education systems, and accessible and appropriate forms of queer consumerism.

The ‘lack’ of queer-initiated and sub-cultural norms — as LGBT folk are mainstreamed — is the absence of queer-specific tactics for managing sexual, emotional, and mental health, instead directing individuals to private, corporate, or national entities that manage queer care ‘outside’ of the queer sphere. An important other narrative within this mode of thinking suggests that the ‘lack’ within the ‘post-AIDS period — after 1996 — is an inability to speak candidly about the devastation and the unwillingness to signify sexual practices largely at play during the epidemic period. As this public narrative suggests, HIV and STIs can be managed and suppressed by highly-effective contemporary medicine — the urgency to tackle issues of gonorrhoea, syphilis, and chronic HIV is reserved for specialists, and community members are free to focus on social issues and developing a new status quo.

The ‘lack’ or ‘gap’ in historical empathy is sometimes mistakenly written in popular media as a wilful rejection of queer history and the differentiation of queer generations. The ‘gap’ in empathy for queers who do not have direct access to mentors who maintain oral histories before, during, and after the epidemic is not a fault of their own but a larger systemic ‘lack’ that can’t be solved by establishing a narrative of generational difference. In order to understand how we can resolve the ‘epidemic pain’ endemic to generational difference, and how we can provide a foundation of care within digitally-facilitated sexual interactions, we need to uncover how the epidemic has positively impacted queer contact in the twenty-first century and how queer markets can expand to better educate queer demographics.

My research analyses how this epidemic event, and its subsequent waves in the US and UK, continues to serve as an underlying informant that threads every booming neo-liberal sexual market. Every market item, including PEP, PrEP, and advanced sexual devices, is informed by the ‘epidemic pain’ turned into possibility for an easier sexual, social, romantic, and cultural life for queers. Sexual markets are saturated by viral discourses. Forgetting the pain of the epidemic period is not erasing the agentic and forward-thinking tactics of those brave ACT UP and Queer Nation activists, and does not remove the virus from our queer realities. Instead, these markets integrate the ‘pain’ from lessons learned and enable the proliferation of systemic change, even when such change cannot be reflected in each queer individual.

Is it important that young gay guys, who are beginning to learn about sex in the era of PrEP, have an understanding of what the medical and social history of HIV has been?

Young queers have an obligation to learn about viral history because it pertains to their sexual well-being, and because queer history provides extensive examples and opportunities for developing empathy and experiencing psychological ‘likeness.’ Both sexual well-being and empathy help to build a healthy queer individual.

Learning about the extent of the devastation is not necessary inasmuch as understanding the social and cultural tactics for confronting a ‘plague’ that was denigrated to gay men. When we learn from positive reactions to negative situations — such as ACT UP’s activism against the CDC ignoring requests for rapid anti-retroviral approval — we inculcate tactics to develop queer community.

Perhaps the number-one reason why generational tensions emerge is failure to engage with others’ life experiences. When handed an opportunity to reflect upon the past, especially a sexual past arguably all queers share, young queers should, in the least, cultivate a critical awareness of physical, psychological, and ideological barriers rampant during the 1980s and 1990s that, perhaps more covertly, continue to thrive today.

In the least, young queers must learn that HIV doesn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation. Young queers should integrate sexual history into their daily lives especially because serosorting and HIV stigma are common practices within the queer community. Stigma is derived from lack of social and medical contexts in addition to cultural and historical contexts. One systemic solution to HIV stigma emerges from the standardisation of queer life in educational settings, providing plain-fact science in addition to multiple cultural contexts for queer life across human existence. Even if young queers are to integrate this information from outside of institutions, they must, in the least, learn communication methods for introducing, analysing, and ‘unpacking’ these big ideas with their friends and partners.

I was quite moved by Matthew Hodson’s recent article, which reminded me that the ‘lack’ of our post-AIDS period is defined by a lack opportunities for practising cultural acculturation. Young queers hardly ever have opportunities to critically respond to queer messaging, especially since they’re not taught anything significant about queer life in standardised educational settings — and especially because queer adult life rarely mandates the exchange of ideas between experienced and inexperienced queers.

The myth of the ‘gay disease,’ for example, is substantiated by skewed numbers — queers who align with such a theory must continue to explore the vast archive of HIV and queer history to understand that queer life is not defined by a ‘gay’ disease. Importantly, by accessing these resources, young queers can build safe and respectful communities having learned from those who have come before them.

Is there a unified and consistent queer narrative regarding the experience of gay men with HIV and AIDS, or are there competing narratives?

There are competing narratives and will always be competing narratives regarding HIV. Today’s increasingly popular narrative is U=U, or undetectable equals untransmittable, which emerged in recent years. We also continue to have narratives that find their roots in the first-wave epidemic, such as serosorting. Serosorting is a common practice for many queer men. Many use serosorting to reject seropositive partners as a prevention tactic. Naturally, the problem created by this social narrative of exclusion, in order to prevent, ignores science and begs an updated understanding of HIV transmission and safer-sex tactics.

Another widely held narrative is the belief in ‘inevitable’ transmission, which, though less common than the former two, also derives its significance from the first-wave epidemic. This narrative suggests that, whether or not HIV is treatable, a large portion of gay male populations partaking in ‘risky’ sex are liable to acquire HIV, so it’s better to receive the virus as quickly as possible in order to start anti-retrovirals and continue with sexual practices. These three are not an exhaustive list but certainly some of the most prevalent in contemporary public discourse.

What are some of the current areas of focus for your study?

My current focus is on chronic medicine and how anti-retroviral technologies — before PrEP — changed queer life. For instance, I’m exploring perceptions of ARV adherence during the treatment era, and narratives that explore the boundaries of life ‘after’ HIV. There are a number of authors who continue to toe the line between ‘chronic’ narratives and ‘life without HIV’ speculation, which introduces a new element of ‘anticipation’ or ‘future’ unlike in AIDS discourse defined by terminal illness. My research focuses on the historical development of HIV in the UK, but is by no means isolated from the global expansion of HIV treatment and technologies.

I’m also working on a monograph about the representation and disclosure of HIV through body modifications and tattoos.


Follow Chase Ledin on Twitter


Content republished with permission from Gareth Johnson, from MainlyMale.com

Originally from Australia, Gareth now lives in London. A non-smoker who loves to laugh, Gareth writes about all aspects of the LGBTQ experiences, with a particular passion for travel, sport, and films.

HIV Diagnoses Rose Faster Among Young Gay, Bisexual Men, New Study Says

Do you think the youth of America are getting tested? Are teens and twenty somethings taking the responsibility and testing for HIV?

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that HIV diagnoses are rising faster for young men who have sex with men (MSM) than for their older MSM peers. However, the extent to which the rates are being driven by increased testing or by an increase in transmission is unclear.

The CDC reported that between 2008-2016, the annual number of new HIV diagnoses among young MSM (those aged 13-29) increased by 3 percent per year, while decreasing 4 percent per year among MSM aged 30-49, and remaining virtually unchanged for MSM over the age of 50. Overall, the number of new infections among the youngest cohort of MSM was four times higher than among the 50-plus age group, MD Magazine reports. - mdmagazine.com

So are younger men getting tested more and therefore being diagnosed more?  Are the "older" men not getting tested as much?

Andrew Mitsch, MPH, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said the age-cohort disparities themselves were not a surprise, but he and his colleagues were struck by the size of the gaps. However, Mitsch told MD Magazine® the increase in diagnoses among young MSM might not be due to risky behavior.

“The increase in annual HIV diagnoses among younger gay and bisexual males might reflect increased HIV testing, in addition to ongoing transmission,” he said. “Our report suggests that the public health community and partners are reaching more members of this vulnerable group with HIV testing. It’s important to note, however, that some younger gay and bisexual males—like American Indian and Asian—are presenting at diagnosis with advanced immunosuppression.” - mdmagazine.com

But here in Wilton Manors, it seems every Friday and Saturday night there is at least one mobile testing center parked near one of the 14 gay bars on Wilton Drive. In my head, I'm thinking ... I hope the young men of our community are using this service.  Maybe I should just be thinking every gay man should be taking advantage of this service.  

Of course, when ever we mention HIV these days, the PrEP debate/usage comes up as well.

One issue hanging over the discussion is utilization rates of PrEP, the pre-exposure prophylactic. Overall usage remains very low and varies widely by region. A letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this month highlighted some of those disparities.

“[T]hough the CDC estimates that more than 1.1 million people in the United States would benefit from PrEP, it has been prescribed to less than 150,000 people since it went on the market,” wrote Robert H. Goldstein, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital, and colleagues. “Of these prescriptions, nearly 75% went to white gay or bisexual men, predominantly those living in the Northeast or on the West Coast.”

Mitsch agreed that access to PrEP remains an issue, but he said awareness is also a challenge.
“There is still work to do to increase knowledge of PrEP among both health care providers and a broader population of people who would benefit from its use,” he said. - mdmagazine.com

The best thing for all of this is communication.  Communication with your doctors, with your partners, and even with your friends.  Even a heated debate is one where HIV/AIDS is being discussed. It's a topic, a worry, a concern that will be with us for many years to come. 

When was the last time you were tested?  I get tested twice every year, once in April (my birth month) and once at Thanksgiving. It's just easy for me to remember and it's now habit since 1998, when I became sexually active. And to be honest, there are years where I have more tests than sexual partners. 

Do you have a personal schedule for getting tested? Or do you wait until you think you might have "a scare" and then get tested?


h/t: mdmagazine.com

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS - New Web Series Focusing On An Overlooked LGBTQ Generation. Can You Relate?

At the age of 44, I've apparently passed into gay death as well as suffered normal mid-life crisis time. Neither one is promising at all. What is there to look forward to? Which one of my nieces or nephews is going to help make sure my old gay shell of am man is taken care of when I get older? Did I plan right so I don't need someone else's assistance.  Yep, they always said plan for later.  Well, later is coming up pretty soon. 

Someone must have heard my thoughts and concerns for a new web series is looking to address these issues?  Will they give me some pointers? Make me realize I am not alone? Do it all with a chuckle and maybe a cry?  I think all of the above.

Based on actual events, THE DISAPPOINTMENTS is a darkly comedic web series that looks at pivotal issues men face as they navigate their 50’s: What do you do when you realize that time is running short, the road behind you is longer than the road ahead, and your job, your relationship, or lack thereof, and your life has not turned out the way you had hoped and planned when you were young? 

Rocked by the suicide of one of their own, a successful television producer, these men are forced to face the failures and disappointments found in their own lives; the fallout from faltering careers, empty bank accounts, the scrambling to figure out how to reinvent themselves, and setting themselves up to survive in the decades yet to come.

What makes this series important and why it needs to be made is that is shines a light on a vital segment of the LGBTQ community -- a rapidly increasing population of LGBTQ aging boomers-- that currently isn’t reflected in mainstream media or even in gay culture.

The project launches this week with an Indiogogo campaign to raise funds for the production of entire first season. As of publication time, fundraising was of to a good healthy start.

Screenwriter Rich Burns, whose credits include Disney animated movies, a Netflix TV series, and a soon-to-be produced gay-themed WWII feature based on his Outfest Award-winning screenplay “The Dunes of Overveen, is the series creator. He states:

The idea came from a dark place, actually. A few of us were at dinner, talking about a good friend -- a gay Hollywood producer -- who, depressed and struggling with money and career problems, had taken his own life. And he wasn’t the first. We knew others who had done the same thing, all within the last couple of years. These were gay men in their 40’s and 50’s, all of them hitting that age and suddenly feeling hopeless.

The story is told through the author’s unique and darkly comedic voice. “The series is painfully funny. These characters identify where they’ve fallen short and then take desperate action to turn their disappointing lives around. Most of their choices are ill-advised and the results are often straight-up disastrous.” 

The characters on this journey include;

- a hot, silver fox-type screenwriter, who, aging and struggling in his career, hopes to keep himself afloat until that next script sells by moving in with a rich, gorgeous and much younger boyfriend,

- a former sitcom star from the early 80’s who lately has been performing in truncated Broadway shows on cruise ships,

-  an unemployed actor with an estranged daughter who finds himself to be an unemployed department store fragrance salesman after an ugly meltdown in the makeup aisle,

and a host of other colorful characters both gay and straight.

The cast of actors include:

- James Campbell, (Broadway’s Forever Plaid)

- Michael Corbett (Two time Emmy winner, one of the hosts of the TV show Extra, Broadway veteran and former Young and the Restless star)

- Tom Berklund (Broadway’s A Chorus Line, The Addams Family, The Normal Heart). 

Campbell says all the actors were all drawn to this project for different reasons.

"For me it’s an opportunity to bring to light, some of the struggles, hopes, dreams and fears which we all shared, but had not necessarily shared so openly.” Corbett agrees and adds: “I know so many friends and colleagues in the community that just aren’t ready or prepared for this next life chapter, and the scripts really take you on their journey as you cry and laugh at the same time.”

The series in currently in the fundraising stages and looking for even more support from the LQTBQ community to hit their goals and begin production.  The Indiegogo campaign launched this week to a very successful start. 

Why did the team decide to go the crowd fund raising route? According to Burns:

The landscape of television and movies is constantly shifting, with streaming services leading the charge. Content is king and more and more people are bypassing the traditional routes, taking matters into their own hands. And the results can be astonishingly good. Our team has been inspired by filmmakers who have broken with the traditional paths to financing in order to protect their creative integrity. Coming directly to the audience to crowdfund our budget allows us to do the same.

To learn more about the show and watch a teaser video that gives a hint of what’s to come, click this link -- and donate! livepage.apple.com . We'll also include the video below.

 

(Photos and information courtesy of 'The Disappointments')

Men: Breast Cancer Symptons You May Need To Look Out For

"Men think they don’t have breast tissue, but they do."

Those were words Dr. Kristen Fernandez, medical director of the breast center at the MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Maryland shared with MensHealth.com

When I think of men and breast cancer, I think of two very different things, man boobs and 9/11. 

It was recently shared in the New York Post that over a dozen men who were near Ground Zero have breast cancer.

“I was a healthy man before,” said Silverstein, an Army veteran who has lived in Battery Park for 30 years.

The breast-cancer cases are just the latest tragic saga in the health woes of those who spent time at Ground Zero.

Nearly 10,000 people have suffered cancers linked to the toxic dust and smoke, the World Trade Center Health program reported. - New York Post

And of course having man boobs does not mean you are more susceptible to get breast cancer. It just means you have man boobs. Some more food for thought, when you develop glandular tissue in your breasts—as opposed to fat tissue—it's called gynecomastia. The culprits behind full-fledged man boobs largely have to do with your hormones (8 Things That Might Be Giving You Man Boobs - MensHealth.com)

Men have less breast tissue than women making the risk of breast cancer nearly nil, but it is still there.

We cis men of course have a bigger risk of testicular cancer, because, well, we have those round things down there, some even have three. The extra testicle is usually found in the left sac of the scrotum and it is often detected around age 18. Most often, men with polyorchidism will have three testicles but the record stands at five. We occasionally should check for pain or lumps in our basket of goodies, but how often do we check our breast tissue?


All people, whether male or female, are born with some breast cells and tissue. Even though males do not develop milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. Even so, male breast cancer is very rare. Less than one percent of all breast cancer cases develop in men, and only one in a thousand men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola. Men carry a higher mortality than women do, primarily because awareness among men is less and they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment.  - Nationalbreastcancer.org


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Do you know what to look out for?  Dr. Kristen Fernandez shared with MensHealth these four symptoms of breast cancer that guys should watch out for.

Lumps

Inverted Nipple

Nipple Discahrge

Open Sores

For more description on the above and the full article, head over to Menshealth.com.

When it comes to testicular cancer, do you need big or small ones?  Not at all.  So when it comes to the chest/breasts, fit or fat, big or small, do you check your breasts?  Let's take care of ourselves guys.

h/t:  Nationalbreastcancer.org, Menshealth.com, New York Post

 

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