HIV-positive Women Find Support In Dating Again

 

Being HIV-positive is a challenge. Being HIV-positive and single is often a nightmare. We all want to love and be loved, but the barriers- social and psychological- for HIV-positive persons are high. From The Seattle Times:

 

Like many women with HIV/AIDS, Nicole Price worried about love and life, post-diagnosis. She now counsels HIV-positive women on forging romantic relationships, knowing each time out that disclosing one’s status can be a deal-breaker.

 

In 2000, Nicole Price’s ex-boyfriend fell ill. They had recently ended a five-year relationship, so she went to see him in the hospital. He had AIDS.

English: HIV positive dating

She got tested. She was 24.

“It was the longest two weeks of my life,” said Price, now 37. We thought we would get back together because we both had it.”

At the time of her diagnosis, Price was using meth and living in California when her mother, a Bothell resident, learned about a Seattle-based support group for HIV-positive women.

Within two years, she packed her bags for Bothell for a fresh start.

Like many women with HIV/AIDS, Price worried about love and life, post-diagnosis. Once she settled here, she became increasingly involved with the support group, BABES Network-YWCA, eventually rising to program manager. Price now counsels HIV-positive women on forging romantic relationships, knowing each time out that disclosing one’s status can be a deal-breaker.

“They can stop having sex altogether and never do it again,” Price said. “Some of our women have chosen to be in a lesbian relationship. Actually quite a few of our women have. I think they feel that betrayal. They feel like maybe they got betrayed, and now they have issues when it comes to men.”

Trusting a sexual partner and dealing with rejection are regular topics at BABES.

Through peer counseling, support groups, educational lectures and retreats, BABES tackles the challenge of maintaining relationships — especially romantic ones — after testing positive. Women take part in mock disclosures, an exercise meant to ease the stress of telling a partner about being HIV-positive.

“I encourage women to date when they’re ready. I ask them questions to see if they’re ready. When do you want to disclose your status? Are you ready for the response?” said Brenda Higgins, a BABES peer advocate.

“I’m never ready for the response I’m getting,” she added. “There’s really no way of preparing someone with that.”

 

Read the full story here

Infographic: Ending The Drug War Will Help End AIDS

From Jag Davies, Drug Policy Alliance in today’s Huffington Post:

Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that drug criminalization forces people who use drugs away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risks become significantly elevated. Mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders also plays a major role in spreading the pandemic, as inhumane conditions and lack of HIV prevention or treatment measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks and AIDS cases behind bars – and among families and communities once those imprisoned are released.

Yet in countries where addiction is treated as a health issue, the fight against HIV/AIDS is being won. New HIV infections in countries such as Australia, Germany and Switzerland have been virtually eliminated among people who use drugs, just as mother-to-child HIV transmission has been eliminated in countries that make medicines for pregnant women accessible.

In the United States, however, the federal government has resisted evidence-based HIV prevention strategies — costing us hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Congress re-instated a longstanding ban last December that prohibits using federal funds for syringe access programs — a move that will cost thousands of more lives in years to come.

Money talks- just remind your politicians that the money they are not spending on “immorality” is costing the taxpayers 1000x the amount in the long run…

AIDS: “The Unnecessary Epidemic”

This eloquent, excellent article is from The National Association Of People With AIDS/HIV (NAPWA) newsletter, Positive Voice. It outlines many of the challenges we face as a country- including homophobia, stigma, and stinginess- in getting HIV under control:

This is an exciting time for all of us who live with HIV or are affected by it. Theoretical models predicted for years that treatment-as-prevention could work, and the last year confirmed it. In the elegantly designed HPTN 052 trial, results showed that serodiscordant heterosexual couples had a drastically reduced risk of infection for the HIV-negative partner when the positive partner was receiving effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs.British Columbia didn’t wait for trial results. For several years, the province has aggressively sought to find and treat as many HIV-infected people as possible, and the numbers of AIDS deaths and new HIV infections are now coming down. Dr. Julio Montaner, father of the B.C. program, remarked recently that the falling number of (known) new infections was not the result of less testing, or of safer sex. That leaves only one plausible explanation: reduced community viral load.

So we can end this epidemic. It’s time to start calling it The Unnecessary Epidemic.

As NAPWA President and CEO told us in the previous issue of Positive Voice, ending the epidemic will take resources, resources, resources. Resources for high-impact prevention programs. Resources for treatment and support services for all who need them. Resources to fix an unfair health care system.

But it’s also going to take more than resources. It will take changes in public attitudes. Twenty percent of Americans living with HIV don’t know it. Some of them don’t because prevention and testing programs haven’t reached them. Other don’t because having HIV can be so stigmatizing that they would really rather die slowly than know their status.

So let’s look at some public drivers of HIV stigma, and then look at the consequences.

The evils of “second-hand sodomy”

On the site Conservapedia.com – think of it as Wikipedia for the “right”-minded – Americans for Truth (!) president Peter LaBarbera writes, Why isn’t there a concerted government effort – akin to the current anti-smoking campaigns – to reign in homosexual promiscuity – beginning with closing down all sex businesses (bathhouses) that facilitate homosexual perversion? (Of course, we favor closing down straight prostitution businesses as well.) We know that bisexual behavior (men on the “down low”) help spread dangerous diseases to the general population: how many deaths and illnesses have to result from “second-hand sodomy” before authorities take corrective action?

Translation: it’s all the gays’ fault. If we could just shut down all gay sex, the epidemic would go away. Never mind that a majority of African Americans living with HIV are women, in numbers that could not possibly be accounted for by some partners’ “down low” adventures, and HIV in Africa was a heterosexual disease from day one. LaBarbera is saying that sex he disapproves of is perversion, perversion leads to disease, and “second-hand disease” is tantamount to murder.

Just as bizarrely, Dr. Peter Duesberg continues to contend that HIV is harmless and AIDS is caused by gay sex and drug use. Somehow, we just don’t think most of the African American women living with AIDS have been having gay sex and sniffing poppers…. And never mind the experience of people with HIV who were on the ropes in 1996, when drug cocktails based on protease inhibitors were just coming into use, and eight weeks after we started our new drug regimens our viral loads were down, our T cells were up, and our dermatologists were telling us we didn’t have to come back anymore for our every-two-weeks appointment to zap new KS lesions. Practical lesson: control the HIV and the AIDS symptoms go away. Conclusion: the virus causes the symptoms. Discussion over, Dr. D.

Not victim-free expressions of opinion

We can laugh at these extreme opinions, but publishing them is not a victimless crime. Duesberg’s opinions delayed wide use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) in South Africa for years, and people died. The shame about non-majority sexual orientation spread by Conservapedia and others keeps people who know they should get tested from doing so and having to live with a positive result. Using criminal law as a (failed) tool to prevent new infections drives infected people and injection drug users underground, where prevention and treatment services can’t reach them.

How the Grinch stole your needle exchange

The 2013 federal budget just passed reinstates the former ban on federal funding for one of the most targeted, cost-effective HIV programs ever conceived: injection needle exchanges. The ban was one of many prices, just before Christmas, for passing any budget at all. The underlying thinking may have had something in common with Conservapedia’s panacea of outlawing gay sex: just say “there ought to be a law,” whether it’s a matter law can deal with effectively or not. It can’t, and we wonder whether many members of Congress demanding the ban knew that. Certainly those with competent health policy staffers did.

Naming stigma – and praising constructive action

As a community of people who live with HIV or serve those who do, we have a responsibility to call out stigma wherever we see – HIV stigma, homophobia, unease with transgendered people, the cruel expectation that people trapped in sex work or drug use are in control and should just go cold turkey and quit. This is more important than any quarrels we may have among ourselves about PrEP, condoms, or whether to concentrate on developing a preventive or therapeutic vaccine first (scientific accident will decide that for us).

 To join the National Association Of People with AIDS/HIV, click here.

‘Montanans With HIV’ makes the paper

Map of USA with Montana highlighted
Image via Wikipedia

The Great Falls Tribune yesterday did a featured story on HIV in Montana with several sidebars on testing and the classification of the disease from AIDS to HIV stages 1-3. Along with Trisha Gardner of the Cascade County Health Department, Dean Wells of the Yellowstone AIDS Project and an anonymous man living with HIV in Great Falls, I was interviewed for the piece, which, among other things, focused on the stigma of persons living with HIV in the state.

Excerpt:

On average, about 20 Montanans are diagnosed with the disease every year, said Trisha Gardner, community health education specialist and HIV case manager at the Cascade City-County Health Department.

“The number of newly diagnosed cases has held pretty steady every year,” Gardner said.

Overall, the number of people in Montana living with HIV is increasing because they are living longer, she said.

While that number is on the rise, most in Montana never publicly disclose they have HIV, Gardner said.

“They don’t have to,” she said. “For the most part it’s kept a pretty private issue.”

Many who live with the disease in Montana fear losing their jobs, friends or family, and even becoming a social outcast.

“My view is that the stigma definitely reduced over the years, but it’s still there,” said Dean Wells, executive director of the Yellowstone AIDS Project in Billings. “Many of our clients live in fear of someone finding out about it.”

John, a pseudonym because he fears losing his livelihood, was diagnosed with HIV eight and a half years ago.

Trying to be honest and open after his diagnosis, John told his employer.

“It wasn’t a week later, they asked me to find another job,” he said.

Fear and stigma is still with us but there’s a lot of hope in current HIV treatment and prevention.
The key is to get tested. HIV unsuppressed in the body does damage- sometimes very significant damage- which  cannot be reversed by treatment.

World AIDS Day in Montana

On World AIDS Day we should not only remember the lives we’ve lost and think of those who are continuing to battle this disease, but we should also remember the challenges we’ve overcome and move forward towards the challenges ahead.
Here in Montana, we have a lot of challenges in regard to HIV/AIDS, but it’s important to me to highlight something some people may not pay particular attention to; something that drives me crazy every time I think about it;  the particular challenge of Congressman Dennis Rehberg.
Congressman Rehberg has a long history of furthering stigma and reducing access to treatment for people with HIV.
When he was our Lt.Governor, Congressman Rehberg argued against providing treatment for people with HIV, saying, “The problem with AIDS is, you get, you die, so why are we spending any money on people that get it...”
And no apology.
I’ve documented more recently that Congressman Rehberg hasn’t changed his thoughts on fighting this disease. In fact, he wants to eviscerate the budget. His recently released budget bill (in which he solicited no input from Montanans) would cut nearly $33 million from the CDC to fight the spread of HIV, Hep-C and other STDs. Obviously, Congressman Rehberg doesn’t realize that stopping the spread of these diseases now will save us millions of dollars in health care costs down the road- and potentially save the lives of millions of Americans and hundreds of Montanans.
He’s too busy pandering to the Tea Party.
I attended the Governor’s World AIDS Day awards today and I heard the award recipients and the many inspirational people talk about the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day, “Getting to Zero: Zero Infections, Zero Discrimination, Zero AIDS-Related Deaths.” It struck me as I was listening to the speeches, that, over his decades as a politician, Denny Rehberg has done an incredible disservice  to his hundreds of constituents living with HIV/AIDS- and their families. His ignorance and inability to separate HIV from stigma and shame is repugnant- and the exact opposite of the hope, selflessness, dedication and service those people in the Capitol Rotunda represented today.
Let’s make sure that by next year’s World AIDS Day Congressman Rehberg won’t be able to work against our efforts to stop the spread of this disease and the stigma associated with it.