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WANTED: A change in perspective

Some people will have unsafe sex with someone whose HIV status is not known, but will not have safe sex with someone who discloses his/her HIV status. With this comes a need to change perspectives for efforts dealing with HIV to truly work.

Me and some friends were discussing HIV, when – just as the discussion was winding down – one of my close friends (I have diverse friends, see…) said that “seropositive people should only date others who are also seropositive”. This is, of course, an ignorant way of looking at this situation – after all, there are successful “serodiscordant relationships”; and, for that matter, people with Hepatitis B do not only date people also with Hepatitis B, just as nurses don’t just date other nurses, rich people date only other rich people (we should have learned already from all those crappy telenovelas thrown our way every night), or men with STIs dating only women who also had STIs.

That – as this friend said – “it (HIV) is better kept among a small number of people” is (sorry for this) dumb, what with the availability of safer sex practices. But it is also un-feeling. Because, simply, if one person falls in love with a person, shouldn’t that love be all-accepting/non-judgmental/boundless? At least that’s what we keep saying whenever we stress that when loving someone, we accept them “warts and all.”

Here’s what’s interesting, though: I ask the same friend if he ever had sex with a seropositive person, and he said “No”. I asked him how sure he was he never had sex with a seropositive person. The reply: “Because I was told so (by the sex partners).”

And so we have problems continuing affecting HIV efforts.

There’s the assumption that “it” (HIV) is not everyone’s problem, when in truth it is.

There, too, is the assumption that one is clean solely based on looks – which is erroneous.

And then there is the discrimination thrown in the way of people living with HIV or AIDS (PLWHAs) – easily reminding me of The Hilarious Idiocy of Anonymous Gay Sex, what with many men who have sex with men (MSM) having unsafe sex with others as long as they are not told of their serostatus.

When asked about the sexual practices of his partners thus far, my friend – who mainly gets his men from MSM-specific social networking sites (Grindr, PlanetRomeo.com, Scruff, Adam4Adam, and even the re-resurgent mIRC) – said that many of these partners have a “needs discussion” approach to condom use, though so far, they all claimed to be “clean”. He had unsafe sex with some of them, he admitted. And sadly, he’d continue having unsafe sex with some of these men, though he stressed that “I don’t think I’d have sex with one who openly claimed his HIV status – and that’s even if his viral load is undetectable, and he practices safer sex”. There is, for him, misplaced comfort in not knowing.

That he is not alone in believing this, and being guided by this belief, is extremely problematic. Checking PlanetRomeo.com alone, aside from those who openly bugchase, numerous accounts sadly continue to have the “needs discussion” stance on condom use.

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Truly, as such, education has to continue, indeed, for this problem to be solved.

And with that educating, the changing of perspectives needs to be similarly emphasized…

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).

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