Between Two Worlds: An Update
The following is an update on my plans to try and explain to a potential sex partner the celebratory news involving new scientific evidence which states people living with HIV, who are well controlled on treatment, are in fact not able to transmit the HIV virus.I have not seen the man who invited me for a glass of wine yet but I did have an exchange which left me feeling shocked and hurt temporarily in this process.
I am for the most part guarded about how, when and with whom I share information about my HIV status outside of the HIV community. I am concerned with stigma and negative reactions. However, a friend wanted to know what I was up to these days.Based on my perceptions of this person with previous conversations we had on diverse and controversial topics I made the decision to tell them about the celebratory news without disclosing my HIV status, fully expecting them to join in my celebration.
The reaction I got left me feeling discouraged as my friend,in a firm statement, expressed their position on the news. Regardless of how much evidence was presented there was no way in hell they were going to drink from the same cup as a person living with HIV because there could be a remote possibility of contracting HIV. They went on to mention how trying to convince the public of the authenticity of new scientific evidence was going to be a challenge as many people, including them, were still not over the feelings of being misled and betrayed by the Red Cross tainted blood scandal and they were not going to accept the new scientific evidence with HIV any time soon.
I did agree there was deception, trust was betrayed and it took a long time for the Red Cross to recover from the scandal and regain confidence with the general public, through acknowledging their errors and providing compensation to those affected. I explained how the situation I was describing with my celebratory news had fundamental similarities – ignoring scientific evidence. In denying or ignoring scientific evidence are we not repeating patterns which will inevitably have catastrophic results if not addressed immediately? Needless to say my rational analogy did not get heard.
After all these years I should be able to manage stigma and discriminatory attitudes directed at people living with HIV, but in all honesty the conversation with my friend left me feeling emotionally drained. It was not easy to listen to them spewing outdated, ill informed and inaccurate views as though it was fact.
After this unpleasant conversation a friend called and I explained what happened. He listened patiently and at one point suggested I might be a bit too sensitive and in turn over react or misinterpret comments. After all the general public cannot possibly be that uneducated and discriminatory with all of the information available from various sources today. I explained how stigma and discriminatory comments are expressed every day about people living with HIV and no, I was not overtly sensitive.
We finished our conversation and later I went on the internet only to see the interview with Donald Sterling and Anderson Cooper.The interview in a twisted sort of way gave credibility to what I had been trying to explain and what I firmly believe.Regardless of how much we want to believe attitudes about people living with HIV have changed, for the most part they have not. Not only did the interview itself demonstrate this but the comments section about the interview confirmed the attitudes in question. One of the reactions that has changed over time is my feelings toward people who are stuck in this antiquated rut. I used to get angry and impatient and try to spell out the facts. Now I am tending to feel more and more patient as I direct them to a resource where they can hopefully learn the facts and in turn stop thinking and expressing ideas which are damaging and irrelevant. I will wait and see if and when an appropriate time will come to direct my friend to relevant updated information.
This is somewhat of a distraction from my original goal of disclosing new scientific evidence about HIV to a potential sex partner, but it does demonstrate how this process is not going to be an easy one. What I did realize was how in spite of my HIV status I am not interested romantically in this person for a variety of reasons I will not go into.HIV has nothing to do with it, HIV just happened to become a priority as I was in the process of deciding how new scientific evidence would impact reactions to disclosure of HIV to sex partners when I met up with this suitor in my neighborhood. Although I have no desire to pursue any romantic activities with him I will follow through with my plan to explain to him why I am in a celebratory and optimistic frame of mind, albeit with an element of trepidation and dread. As I explained initially, this is not going to be an easy celebration but we will persevere. I will keep you posted on the outcome.