Friday, February 02, 2007

The 8th Edition of the International Carnival of Pozitivies (ICP) 1.8

Welcome to the Eighth edition of the International Carnival of Pozitivities (ICP). The ICP is a blog carnival for people who are vitally interested in HIV/AIDS, either because they are infected or they are at risk of infection and they want to learn more about the impact of the disease on individuals or society. Others might visit this carnival because they are allies, friends, family, co-workers or caregivers of people living with the disease. In my opinion, this includes all people living on Earth today.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to read the work of the contributors of this edition and that their efforts will encourage you to speak out about HIV/AIDS in your sphere of influence. Stigma about HIV/AIDS is one of the most detrimental issues facing all of us. By making our voices heard, and by speaking frankly about this disease, we can raise awareness and help to demystify the illness.

Stigma and HIV/AIDS

In one of the most touching stories included in the International Carnival of Pozitivities, guest writer Adhyambo Odera of The Daily Nation in Kenya writes It Is Time To Break The Silence. The courage of Ms. Irungu and of Mr. Odera to speak up about HIV/AIDS is to be applauded. This article goes directly to the issue of breaking the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, a goal shared by this forum. My sympathy goes out to both families, but my admiration is much greater. Thank you for speaking out.

Before then, Aids to me was abstract — only afflicting the poor, the ugly, the illiterate. Not any more. It infects our loved ones — friends and family.

Stigma is not unique to HIV/AIDS. Low self-esteem and a lowered sense of self-worth can lead people to put themselves at risk for many different threats to living a full life. This may manifest in behaviors that lead to infection with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), depression, suicide or actions that cause harm to others. In Brandon Peele’s Sexuality and Identity on his blog Generative Transformation, Mr. Peele describes his specific history of sexual identity and stigma and how it affected him and those around him. Please be aware that Mr. Peele frankly discusses sex and sexuality in everyday terms, and that some of his experiences would be considered outside the "norm" for many people.

The takeaway from these experiences was that anything gay, arty or cautious was unmanly. If I wanted to be a man I must throw caution to the wind and be deviant, criminal, funny and most importantly heterosexual.

Although this article was not specifically related to HIV/AIDS, I felt it was important to include it. I have known many people who do not consider themselves at risk for HIV/AIDS even though their behaviors clearly put them at risk. Classic examples are men who do not identify as gay but who have unprotected sex with men. Unfortunately this risk then transfers to their wife or female partners, resulting in increased rates of infection in heterosexual women.

This situation is largely due to the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. In an era where people whisper rumors of a person's status or judge others who are infected as deviant, criminal or undesirable, HIV/AIDS will continue to spread in silence. It is not that there should be pride in one's illness, but neither should there be shame. As I have stated before, HIV/AIDS does not infect people because it is a punishment, but simply because it is possible.

Personal Accounts of Living with HIV/AIDS

The Nata Village Blog highlights the personal story of Pilot Mathambo, a young man living with HIV/AIDS in Botswana. In the article, The Pilot Mathambo Story, we learn how individuals with HIV/AIDS are educating the very young in Botswana about HIV/AIDS, starting in first grade. Pilot’s story is very moving:

By 2001, I had developed wasting syndrome. I went from 154 lbs eventually to 62 lbs. and had sores all over my body. It was getting harder to keep the secret.

Brian of Ontario, Canada, has been living with HIV/AIDS for a while and has been struggling with the management of his medications and their side-effects. It is important for us to discuss this issue because there is a misconception among many in the HIV/AIDS-at-risk community that the medications are simple to take and cause no problems. This misconception, I believe, is leading to riskier behaviors and to the consequent increase in infection rates that have been noted in recent years. In Move Over Fergie…Cause I’m Viralicious!, Brian highlights a dilemma for many of us living with HIV/AIDS and our medications. We can not predict from one day to the next how we will feel with any certainty. As Brian writes on his blog AcidRefluxweb...

Oddly enough yesterday, after writing how nice it would be to have someone drop by or something, and lo and behold a friend calls and offers to drop some lunch off. Today hopefully [will] be better, yesterday wasn’t too bad. The strategy is too eat more often small snacks or meals. It seems to keep that vomitous feeling at a bay more or less.

One of my favorite writers on the topic of HIV/AIDS goes by the name Dragonnette on her blog Not Perfect At All. This month, she has consented to contribute her article Resistance-Resolve-Resolution. I find a particular fondness for Dragonette because of her clarity of expression about the emotional impact of HIV/AIDS.

…I did have myself to put up with, and I suffered moods and fears and even nightmares, as well as sleepless nights and constipation. Nothing extreme, but I realized once more that - at least as long as my status remains a secret and stigmatization is not a threat - I am my own worse enemy.

Circumcision and HIV/AIDS

Faith, writing at AIDS Combat Zone and Carolyn of Texas AIDS Blog both describe how scientists are recognizing the growing importance of circumcision among males as a means of reducing HIV/AIDS transmission risk. In their articles Cuts Make Sense and Circumsize Texas (?), the results of studies of infection rates among uncircumsized men and the implication on policy are discussed. Granted, this is a controversial subject. It is clear from the discussion that false security should not be conveyed simply by removing someone’s foreskin. Circumcision would simply be another method to reduce risks of infection…another weapon in the arsenal against HIV/AIDS and not a replacement for safer sex practices.

Male circumcision has been discovered to prevent as much as 50 percent of infection for men. It is even protective for women, reducing their rates of infection substantially.

The fact is that two circumcision studies were halted, one in Kenya and one in Uganda, when it was discovered during a Data & Safety Monitoring meeting yesterday that circumcision reduced risk of HIV infection by one-half. Both of these studies were randomized. In stopping the studies, all participants will now have access to circumcision.

World Round-up of HIV/AIDS News

From Canada, we have a new contributor this month. Webconomist of Slimconomy asks whether marketing over-the-counter (OTC) AIDS tests reduces the public's perception of the impact of HIV/AIDS. In his article, Are We Diminishing HIV Going OTC?, he writes:

If we allow a rapid HIV test into our local pharmacies, does it diminish the implications of HIV? Already there is the misconception that HIV is a "chronic condition" that is "manageable". Oh, so, 10 pills a day or more, constant lesions, pain and social outcasting is "manageable?"

Leila of reports on a criminal trial in Kazakhstan where various members of the community are accused of negligence in the HIV infection of 87 children. Her article, Without Much Ado… begins:

The criminal investigation in the case of 87 South-Kazakhstani children infected with HIV is over. The investigation lasted for half a year and resulted in 47 volumes of court material. But the most scandalous case of 2006 will be considered in the quietest trial. The trial will be conducted behind the closed doors.

Our friend Richard Kearns of Los Angeles returns to the ICP this month with a brief article, la/ca aids/hiv/mmj reports begin at awo 11-21-07 (553) where he discusses crackdowns on medical marijuana clinics and the aging of the HIV/AIDS survivor community in Los Angeles County, California, USA. To read more of Richard’s reports from Los Angeles, please visit his blog.

i’ve realized i’m part of the rapid demographic shift that’s taking place in the hiver community over the next 5-10 years: we’re getting older. today 10 percent of us are over 50. in 5-10 years, 60 percent of us will be over fifty: a mighty river of long-term survivors.

The Dreamer, a regular contributor to the ICP, joins us this month with Poz Mailbag-2. This article is part-two of a service that the Dreamer provides to answer questions about HIV/AIDS for curious readers. Please visit his blog, Nightmare Hall to read about his personal experiences of living with HIV/AIDS for over 20 years.

It's been a while since I wrote part 1 on of the mailbag and since then a lot of new questions have come into my email bag. Since the last posting, I set up a profile on one of the premier gay chat/sex/pickup "whatever you want to call it" sites. The profile plainly states that that I am not there looking for nookie since I'm not one of their tribe, but I am there to share info and to offer an ear to guys who have recently found out they are HIV positive and don't know where to turn. I also mention that I've been poz for over 20 years and that poz guys are not alone.

Pseudo-Adrienne of Pseudo-Adrienne's Liberal-Feminist Bias presents a round-up of news about advances in gender-equality around the world in her post Also going on in the world of women's rights. It is an intrinsic part of combating HIV/AIDS that women be seen as equals and that they are able to protect themselves from violence and unsafe sex practices. Equality of all human beings doesn’t seem like it should be a contentious issue, does it? Still, women struggle to find equal footing with men throughout the world. However, there are glimmers of hope.

Namibia reported on various measures taken to address violence against women, HIV/AIDS, women's land rights, discrimination in the family, women's participation in the formal work force and in the political arena.

From the United Kingdom, we draw upon the materials of Positive Nation. I have personally witnessed statements about the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS from oral sex. Usually, I hear blanket comments such as “Oral sex is considered safe” or “As long as you have no open sores, oral sex is safe.” Despite this, I continue to hear personal stories of people who claim only to have engaged in oral sex and who have sero-converted to HIV+ nonetheless. In the article Giving and Getting a Mouthful, you will find a comprehensive list of oral sex acts and discussions of their relative risk that is reproduced by kind permission of Positive Nation and the UK Coalition of People Living with HIV.

This month I will try to unwrap the mysteries and myths of HIV and oral sex. I’ll try to be clear about what kind of sex is involved, who is doing what with whom, and spell out the HIV risk to negative partners.

A fine organization, The Press Institute for Women in the Developing World details how discrimination often follows diagnosis with HIV/AIDS. We know that this is the case not just in Mexico where this story originates, but throughout the world. Writer Maria Antonieta Gómez Álvarez reports from Chiapas State in Mexico in her article After the Diagnosis, Discrimination.

After the initial blow of being diagnosed with a terminal illness, many HIV positive people face discrimination in the workplace, from family and friends, and even at the hands of doctors. This emotional stress can take a toll on their health, said Dr. Jose Luis Najera, of the Public Health Department of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. "Emotional stability helps maintain a stable immune system," he said.

In Botswana, Brian maintains Blogswana, a blog which frequently addresses issues relating to HIV/AIDS. In this month’s article, he highlights the importance and difficulty of medication compliance, particularly among women. He states, in Challenges to Adherence to Antiretrovirals:

Access to [Anti-Retroviral Therapy](ART) is but one component of treatment. “Persons on ART must maintain near perfect adherence at about 95% of all prescribed doses in order to prevent opportunistic infections and hospitalizations.” Ninety-five percent! 80% is the usual standard for other chronic diseases such as hypertension.

In ”Cruising” Internet May Increase HIV, Akira Ohiso of Blog to End AIDS cites a Reuter’s article from January 17, 2007, in which the links between the internet, crystal methamphetamine use and HIV are tied together.

In New York, thousands of gay men use the Web sites, and as an easy way to meet for sex marathons at underground orgies while high on the addictive stimulant.

Similar sites exists in other cities. The phenomenon -- while affecting only a small part of the gay community -- underscores the spread of meth from the U.S. rural areas where it gained an early foothold.

Davidson College’s Biology Professor Dr. Dave Wessner hosts The AIDS Pandemic where students in his HIV biology class post their papers. This month, the ICP is featuring an article about breastfeeding and HIV by Meredith Prasse, entitled Mother to Child Transmission of HIV.

When the AIDS epidemic commenced in the early 1980s, the high risk groups were identified as the 4 H’s: homosexuals, hemophiliacs, Haitians, and heroine users. Today, the face of the AIDS epidemic has transformed and women have the highest rates of infection. As more women become infected, the potential for vertical transmission from mother to child increases.

Another new contributor to the ICP, Morgaine Swann of Eastern Kentucky, USA, edits Women's Autonomy and Sexual Sovereignty Movements. In her post, When Prudishness Costs Lives, she references an article from Nicolas D. Kristof of the New York Times where the author points out the holes in current US policy toward HIV/AIDS. Morgaine goes on to editorialize about the appalling state of sex and sexuality education and HIV/AIDS in the US among the teen population.

I'm sorry, but I don't think a teenager should pay for doing what teens are built to do with [their lives]. 38% of girls and 46% of boys know nothing about birth control at the time of their first sexual encounter. That's appalling. And deadly.

Special Valentine’s Day Feature

As many of you know, I have opened up my personal blog to provide space to anyone who wishes to contribute to the ICP. This month, Janina from the kd lang MSN langisms fan group contributed an original poem in honor of St. Valentine’s Day. Janina describes herself as a hopeless romantic and has shown tremendous support for the ICP within the kd lang fan group since I began to participate a while back. Her poem, hearts ~ is not specifically about HIV/AIDS, but her contribution is intended to spur on others who might be willing to write something relating to HIV/AIDS for future editions of the ICP.

a weaving melancholy,
flocks of birds crossing their wings;
two hearts entwined as one
enflamed passion unites.

In many of our lives, we suffer needlessly from lack of compassion. Often, we suffer alone. Isolation is an ever increasing issue for people living with HIV/AIDS. Never, ever give up hope. Hope is what truly keeps us alive. Reach out to make new friends if your old friends have left you behind. Do it for you because you do not deserve to be alone.

Until next month, when you can join the ICP at Creampuff Revolution, please have Safe Journeys!

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Anonymous Jenny D said...

Dear Ron,

My name is Jenny and I am part of an online community called CarePlace, for people experiencing similar health related issues and their caregivers, including HIV. We have recently added new HIV related communities and content to the site.

As your blog relates to what we are doing at CarePlace, I was wondering if you might be willing to check out our site and let me know if you think it might be helpful to the people who communicate through and with you. People can join multiple communities, share experiences, check out info on medical conditions and treatments and form their own groups within the site.

We have gotten great feedback and as you know the more people in various communities the more outreach and support that happens. Our users have really liked it so far and we are adding new features and content based on what they are telling us.

It’s clearly important to us to get feedback from people like you about CarePlace as we develop our site. Site address is Please add me as a friend (profile name Jen D). I would very much appreciate any insight and thoughts you have about our organization and the site.

Thanks in advance!

Jenny (jend)

2/27/2007 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Brian FInch said...

Hey there, I hope you are doing well. I'm sorry I really haven't been an active participant, but I'm glad you can find stuff to use.

Once I get myself back on track, I'll be a better contributor for you.

Post rehab:)

4/09/2007 04:59:00 PM  

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