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Unlawful HIV and AIDS information confronted

As another Website surfaced shaming Filipino men by claiming to know their HIV status, it is worth stressing the Philippine National AIDS Council’s advisory that stressed that “individuals or groups behind these activities blatantly disregarded rights to privacy of persons perceived, suspected or living with HIV.” It therefore cautions online audiences on these false sources.

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Do not believe those online sites that claim to know, and disclose, the HIV status of Filipinos.

This, in a gist, is the lesson to be learned when coming across Internet-based communications activities contrary to policies and provisions of Republic Act 8504 (or Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998), which – among others – protects the right to privacy of Filipinos living with HIV with non-disclosure of their status.

In a letter received by Outrage Magazine from @dvocateHIV, he complained about another Website that claims to know of Filipino men who are HIV-positive. Making use of the accounts of some men from hook-up site PlanetRomeo.com, this Website includes the usernames and photographs of these men whose reputations are being attacked.

“It wasn’t long ago when a student’s picture came out on Facebook and he was accused (to be) HIV-positive. (Since) the logo of AIDS Society of the Philippines was on the picture, (it) stirred so much attention. Was it because of the logo? Was it because of the recognizable school uniform of the guy in the picture? Was it simply a human rights violation?” wrote @dvocateHIV, adding that “we don’t need any one of those whose pictures (that) were shown to come out.”

As early as August 2011, the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) – which oversees the country’s integrated and comprehensive AIDS prevention and control program; and in particular, the implementation of R.A. 8504 – released an advisory to Outrage Magazine after it received (beginning late July 2011) complaints on Internet-based communications activities contrary to policies and provisions of the law. In the advisory, the PNAC secretariat confirmed that “individuals or groups behind these activities blatantly disregarded rights to privacy of persons perceived, suspected or living with HIV.”

“This advisory primarily cautions online audiences on sources that propagate false, misleading claims, misinform deliberately or otherwise, espouse violation of privacy rights, breach medical confidentiality, and misrepresent legitimate organizations and lawful activities and practices,” PNAC stated.

The PNAC secretariat is rallying “all national response partners to remain vigilant in monitoring and detecting similar occurrences,” as “it assures affected parties of the recent incidents that the council and the Department of Health (DOH) are now working on ways to resolve the situation and mitigate similar future incidents.”

However, two years after the PNAC advisory was released, PNAC and the DOH have yet to make known ways for those affected to resolve this issue. Instead, they only ask “content producers who made publications that violated provisions of R.A. 8504… to voluntarily withdraw all offending information immediately.”

For Michael David C. Tan, publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, which also has HIV-related advocacy efforts, there are various ways to deal with the situation. “For one, you can just ignore the sites. This is another form of trolling – you feed them by paying attention to them. In HIV-related advocacy efforts, there is a saying: ‘Unless I sleep with you, my status is none of your business.’ This is (somewhat) apt here,” he said.

One of the publication’s past interviewees (who was included in another such Website) claimed that his information was included by someone he refused to sleep with. “Shaming was the way to get back to this person, supposedly.”

Secondly, Tan said that there is a need to confront the stigmatization of people living with HIV (PLHIV). “In the past, the worse thing people can say about you is that you are gay or lesbian. Now that LGBT people are more tolerated, it’s one’s HIV status that is being used against a person. In both instances, they’re not helping anyone by promoting hatred.”

Yet another past Outrage Magazine interviewee claimed that such online information came from those who may have problems dealing with their HIV status themselves. “This is horizontal hostility in action,” Tan said, again stressing that this highlights “the need to confront the stigma and discrimination faced by PLHIVs.”

Thirdly, “we promote safer sex as a means to help curb the spread of HIV,” said Tan. This is because, “HIV-positive or negative, persons still have sexual contacts. The best thing we can do is just provide information to ensure that people take steps that will not put them at risk for infection.”

This is also why “we always encourage for people to get tested, for them to know their status.”

Another option may be to go after those who post the wrong information, though the Philippines admittedly has no protections against such cyberbullying. Also, somewhat unfortunately, PNAC’s 2011 advisory stressed that it “also recognizes independence of affected parties in seeking other appropriate, lawful redress of the situation.” And with majority of Filipinos unaware of mechanisms to go about dealing with situations like this, those who violate the law go unpunished.

“Trust not the sites. Wait for people to comfortably disclose their status. Learn more about HIV. Better yet, get tested yourself, so that – upon knowing your status – you will be able to take steps to look after yourself and the people around you,” Tan said.

To prevent future unlawful provision of HIV and AIDS information or services, the PNAC secretariat recommends review of R.A. 8504, specially its standards on information and education. Content producers, including those who intend to republish or utilize official data may seek further assistance from the following offices:

HIV

R.A. 8504, implementing rules and regulations, basic HIV and AIDS information, epidemiological data, and program reports are all available at the PNAC Website.

A registered nurse, John Ryan (or call him "Rye") Mendoza hails from Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao (where, no, it isn't always as "bloody", as the mainstream media claims it to be, he noted). He first moved to Metro Manila in 2010 (supposedly just to finish a health social science degree), but fell in love not necessarily with the (err, smoggy) place, but it's hustle and bustle. He now divides his time in Mindanao (where he still serves under-represented Indigenous Peoples), and elsewhere (Metro Manila included) to help push for equal rights for LGBT Filipinos. And, yes, he parties, too (see, activists need not be boring! - Ed).

NEWSMAKERS

Tech-related jealousy is real… including LGBTQIAs

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media (versus 22% of straight people who say this).

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Social media can be a source of jealousy and uncertainty in relationships – especially for younger adults.

This is according to a Pew Research Center study (with the survey conducted in October 2019, though the study was only released recently) that found that, indeed, many people encounter tech-related struggles with their significant others.

In “Dating and Relationships in the Digital Age”, Pew Research Center noted that “younger people value social media as a place to share how much they care about their partner or to keep up with what’s going on in their partner’s life.” However, “they also acknowledge some of the downsides that these sites can have on relationships.”

Twenty-three percent (23%) of adults with partners who use social media say they have felt jealous or unsure about their relationship because of the way their current spouse or partner interacts with other people on social media.

Now get this: the number is higher among those in younger age groups.

Among partnered adults whose significant other uses social media, 34% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 26% of those ages 30 to 49 say they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media. This is definitely higher than the 19% of those aged 50 to 64 who say this, and 4% of those ages 65 and up.

The insecurity is also common among those not married – i.e. 37% of unmarried adults with partners who are social media users say they have felt this way about their current partner, while only 17% of married people say the same.

Women are reportedly more likely to express displeasure with how their significant other interacts with others on social media (29% vs. 17% for men).

Meanwhile, college graduates are less likely to report having felt this way than those with some college experience or a high school degree or less.

And yes, LGBTQIA community members are no different.

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media (versus 22% of straight people who say this).

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For people in diverse areas, community identity supersedes racial, ethnic differences

Social diversity challenges people to think in new ways, and those people end up seeing other social groups as more similar. This is associated with more positive attitudes toward other groups and positive well-being outcomes.

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In an increasingly polarized world, many see people who are different from them as “outsiders,” or even a threat. Yet, around the world, this tends to be more common in traditionally homogenous societies, according to a series of studies led by Princeton University.

The analysis, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people living in more diverse areas were more likely to perceive themselves and others as being part of the same local community — e.g., New Yorkers — regardless of ethnic and cultural differences. This finding held true globally, nationally, and individually. People living in more homogeneous areas, however, maintain racial, ethnic and religious stereotypes that are less accepting of people outside of that identity.

“This is a hopeful and optimistic message, showing that people can get used to anything. In other words, the ‘melting pot’ lives,” said Susan Fiske, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, who conducted the study with Princeton Ph.D. student Xuechunzi Bai, and Miguel Ramos, a former postdoctoral researcher at Princeton now at the University of Birmingham.

Fiske added: “They can adapt to being in quarantine, or living in a neighborhood with different people. What probably disrupts this process, however, are divisive political leaders who purposefully try to agitate or polarize, and exaggerate the differences between people.”

The researchers began the study with conflicting hypotheses. Fiske thought the more diversity you have, the more you realize how different everyone is, but Ramos thought the opposite — that diversity could bring people together. Ramos based his hypothesis on work he’d published with Princeton professor Doug Massey that found that people adapt to diversity over time. This, coupled with Bai and Fiske’s work on mental maps of stereotypes, motivated the work.

The authors analyzed a range of sources comprising data from 46 countries around the world, data from 50 states in the U.S., and longitudinal data from American university students who were followed during the entire period of their time in college.

In the worldwide study, participants were asked to list up to 20 different social groups they could spontaneously recall. They then ranked each group on competence and warmth, two key variables in shaping stereotypes, according to Fiske. The scores were combined, revealing what the researchers called “stereotype dispersion,” or differentiation, between ethnic groups.

A similar methodology was followed in the U.S. study, which asked more than 1,500 participants online to rate 20 immigrant groups on competence and warmth. They were then instructed to describe their perceived diversity of their home state on a five-point scale. Like the first study, the researchers combined the scores to calculate the stereotype dispersion between states.

In the third and final study, the researchers turned their focus to American college students who were asked questions about campus diversity and perceived stereotypes for Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. They were also asked questions about life satisfaction and well-being. The scores were again combined.

Across all three studies, the findings held consistent: Social diversity challenges people to think in new ways, and those people end up seeing other social groups as more similar. This is associated with more positive attitudes toward other groups and positive well-being outcomes. The researchers say this is an optimistic finding, especially during uncertain times.

“If you can gather people together, you can encourage cooperation and equal status,” Fiske said. “It’s not going to happen everywhere, and it’s a delicate situation to set up, but the idea that mere exposure to diversity can improve relationships is hopeful news.”

The paper, “As diversity increases, people paradoxically perceive social groups as more similar”, appeared in PNAS.

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NEWSMAKERS

LGB individuals have less contact with, and live geographically farther from siblings

LGB individuals had less frequent contact with, and lived geographically farther from their siblings. The pattern of effects was similar for bisexual and gay or lesbian individuals, and stronger for male than female sexual minority individuals.

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual people tend to live geographically farther away from their brothers and sisters, and have less less frequent contact with them. This is according to new research from Australia, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

The study – “Sexual Orientation, Geographic Proximity, and Contact Frequency Between Adult Siblings“, authored by Francisco Perales and Stefanie Plage – suggests that (no surprise here) sexual stigma is a reason why this is so, as it can harm family relationships.

To compare the closeness of sibling relations between individuals with different sexual orientations, the study used data from an Australian national survey (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey). The researchers analyzed data from 13,252 individuals with 35,622 individual‐sibling pairs.

Key results indicated that — when compared with heterosexual individuals — LGB individuals had less frequent contact with, and lived geographically farther from their siblings. The pattern of effects was similar for bisexual and gay or lesbian individuals, and stronger for male than female sexual minority individuals.

According to the researchers, the findings are consistent with theoretical perspectives highlighting the unique barriers to socioeconomic inclusion experienced by individuals from sexual minorities. They suggest that these barriers begin within the nuclear family.

As quoted by PsyPost, study author Perales said: “We know that people who identify as LGB tend to experience poorer outcomes across life domains than heterosexual people… The dominant explanation for this is that these individuals receive lower levels of social support from their family and the broader community. This is because non-heterosexuality remains a stigmatized and not fully accepted social status.”

Family support – or its lack – is an important issue for members of the LGBTQIA community. A 2016 study, for instance, noted that more than 42% of the individuals who self-identified as transgender or gender nonconforming reported a suicide attempt, and over 26% had misused drugs or alcohol to cope with transgender-related discrimination. After controlling for age, race/ethnicity, sex assigned at birth, binary gender identity, income, education, and employment status, family rejection was associated with increased odds of both behaviors. Odds increased significantly with increasing levels of family rejection.

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Love Affairs

LGBTQIA people think domestic violence is a cis-straight issue – study

A study found that domestic and family violence (DFV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) were perceived by community members and professional stakeholders to be a “heterosexual issue that did not easily apply to LGBTQIA relationships.”

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Members of the LGBTQIA community think domestic violence is a cis-straight issue. This is according to a study conducted by Relationships Australia New South Wales (RANSW) and ACON (formerly the AIDS Council of NSW), and was published by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety.

As stated in “Developing LGBTQ programs for perpetrators and victims/survivors of domestic and family violence”, many LGBTQIA people think domestic violence is an issue only faced by people who are both cisgender and straight.

The study found that domestic and family violence (DFV) and intimate partner violence (IPV) were perceived by community members and professional stakeholders to be a “heterosexual issue that did not easily apply to LGBTQIA relationships.”

“In particular, many community members held the view that relationships between (LGBTQIA) people could avoid the inherent sexism and patriarchal values of heterosexual, cisgender relationships, and, by implication, avoid DFV/IPV.”

In a way, this doesn’t come as a complete surprise, considering the language and framework used when discussing DFV and IPV.

The study noted that “although DFV and IPV have received increased attention in recent years, the focus has been on addressing intimate abuse between cisgender, heterosexual people with greater attention paid to male perpetrators.”

Also, “clients and potential clients did not have a full understanding of what constitutes domestic violence and felt this term related only to physical forms of abuse.”

And so “although (LGBTQIA) perpetrator interventions, and research around them, are emergent at best, the scant literature does provide a little information which can be used
to inform program developers and clinical practice.”

The researchers also noted particular kinds of abuse not seen among cis-straight people.

For instance, there are “identity-based tactics of abuse” where the fear of exposure or outing is used as a weapon within queer relationships.

After an individual has appraised that he/she may be experiencing abuse, seeking appropriate intervention may also be challenging because of non-inclusive services currently available.

The researchers recommended the following:

  • Make LGBTQIA inclusivity training required learning for all DFV/IPV sector staff, particularly those employed in specialized DFV/IPV roles.
  • Advocate that inclusivity training be made mandatory within clinical organizations, and among police and legal professionals.
  • Develop referral pathways into LGBTQIA-friendly DFV/IPV programs for key professionals, such as court support workers and magistrates.
  • Increase representation of LGBTQIA people in promotional material about DFV/IPV.
  • Use social media platforms to increase DFV/IPV awareness in LGBTQIA communities and use these channels to engage clients for future programs.
  • Provide ongoing funding to develop, trial and implement tailored programs. Short funding cycles do not provide adequate time to populate groups within an underdeveloped community area.
  • Ensure programs respond to diverse needs within mixed LGBTQIA groups and manage transphobia and biphobia.

This isn’t the first time DFV and IPV within the LGBTQIA community was tackled – even if it remains to be under-researched, and not widely tackled within the LGBTQIA community. In 2018, for instance, a study found that nearly half of men in same-sex couples suffered some form of abuse at the hands of their partner, according to a study that surveyed 320 men (160 male couples) in Atlanta, Boston and Chicago in the US to measure emotional abuse, controlling behaviors, monitoring of partners, and HIV-related abuse.

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NEWSMAKERS

Use of religious beliefs to justify rights violations must be outlawed – UN expert

States have an obligation to guarantee to everyone, including women, girls and LGBT+ people, an equal right to freedom of religion or belief, including by creating an enabling environment where pluralist and progressive self-understandings can manifest.

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Laws underpinned by religious conviction that discriminate against women and members of the LGBTQIA community should be repealed, just as gender-based violence carried out in the name of religion by non-State groups should also be addressed.

This is according to Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, who submitted a report to the Human Rights Council.

“I firmly reject any claim that religious beliefs can be invoked as a legitimate ‘justification’ for violence or discrimination against women, girls or LGBT+ people”, said Shaheed, who noted that “the right to freedom of religion protects individuals and not religions as such.”

In his report, the UN expert urges States to particularly repeal gender-based discrimination laws, including those enacted with reference to religious considerations that criminalize adultery; criminalize persons on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity; criminalize abortion in all cases; and facilitate religious practices that violate human rights.

The independent expert also expressed deep concern at the rise in political campaigns, and those carried out by religious institutions and their followers, which invoke religious freedom to seek to rollback human rights that are, he said, fundamental to gender equality, at both national and international levels.

“Women and LGBT+ people experience discrimination and violence inflicted in the name of religion by State and non-State actors that impedes their ability to fully enjoy their human rights, including their right to freedom of religion or belief,” said Shaheed.

For Shaheed, “religious communities are not monolithic. In many religions, a plurality of self-understandings exists, some of which may be more committed than others to advancing gender equality and non-discrimination.” And “while religious organizations are entitled to autonomy in the administration of their affairs, such deference should be extended within a holistic conception of rights grounded in the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and inalienability of all human rights.”

As such, “States have an obligation to guarantee to everyone, including women, girls and LGBT+ people, an equal right to freedom of religion or belief, including by creating an enabling environment where pluralist and progressive self-understandings can manifest,” Shaheed said.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what are known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The appointed experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve entirely in their individual capacity.

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NEWSMAKERS

LGB online daters report positive experiences… plus harassment

LGB online daters are more likely than their straight counterparts to experience a range of negative behaviors on dating platforms, varying from name-calling to physical threats. Among those who have ever used an online dating site or app, they reported experiencing at least one of the forms of harassment measured in this survey on those sites and apps (69%, compared with 52% of their straight counterparts).

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults who use online dating sites and apps generally report that their experiences with online dating have been positive – even more than straight online daters (65% said their experience was very or somewhat positive, versus 56% of straight online daters).

This is according to a Pew Research Center survey, which found that a majority of LGB adults (55%) report that they have used an online dating site or app at some point, roughly twice the share of straight adults (28%) who say the same.

Among LGB adults who are married, living with a partner, or in a committed relationship, 28% say they met their current partner online. This is more than double when compared with 11% of partnered straight adults.

Also, among LGB people who are now single and looking for a relationship or dates, 37% are currently online dating (versus 24% of straight people who are single and looking).

However – and this is worth highlighting – LGB online daters are also more likely than their straight counterparts to experience a range of negative behaviors on dating platforms, varying from name-calling to physical threats. Among those who have ever used an online dating site or app, they reported experiencing at least one of the forms of harassment measured in this survey on those sites and apps (69%, compared with 52% of their straight counterparts).

More than half of LGB online daters (56%) say they have received a sexually explicit message or image they did not ask for, compared with 32% of straight online daters who say the same.

Stalking was also raised as an issue, with roughly half of LGB online daters (48%) saying that someone continued to contact them after they said they weren’t interested, compared with 35% of their straight counterparts.

About four in 10 LGB online daters (41%) say someone called them an offensive name on one of these sites or apps – 16 percentage points higher than the share of straight online daters (25%) who say the same.

Lastly, 17% of LGB online daters said that someone on a dating site or app threatened to physically harm them. This is more than twice the share of straight online daters (7%).

Perhaps not surprisingly, according to the Pew Research Center survey, LGB adults who have ever online dated are more likely than straight online daters to think harassment and bullying is a “common problem” on dating sites and apps (70%, compared to 61% of non-LGBs).

No matter the drawbacks, don’t expect online daters – LGBT or straight – to just dump it.

As per the Pew Research Center survey, even among those who experienced at least one of the asked-about forms of harassment on dating sites and apps, they still said that online dating is safe for the most part. Three-quarters of LGB people who have experienced at least one of the harassing behaviors saying it’s a very or somewhat safe way to meet someone, with 64% of straight online daters who have been harassed agreeing.

And with 78% of LGBT online daters (and 69% of their straight counterparts) still believing that dating sites and apps are a very or somewhat safe way to meet people, this trend isn’t going anywhere soon…

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