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Thursday, August 04, 2005

I am a Weapon of Mass Depravity

An interesting discussion in another place a few days ago set me to thinking about HIV and our perceptions of ourselves as physical beings. But before I launch into that I should preface my comments with a few facts.

I belong to the group of HIV positive men known in my country as "Second Wavers". We were infected in the period 2001-2005 when HIV rates rose suddenly after years of decline. Unlike many who had gone before us, we were educated and considered ourselves well informed about the modes of transmission and the attendant risks. The reasons for the outbreak of HIV in our group other than the fact that we didn't practice safe sex is not clearly understood. It has been suggested that reasons include "AIDS fatigue" to improvements in HIV treatments to the widespread use of amphetamines amongst gay men.

In 2002 my home state of New South Wales (NSW) reported an increase in HIV transmission of 15%. Queensland (QLD) reported an increase of 20% and Victoria (VIC) an increase of 6%. In the following years these numbers continued to rise until this year NSW reported a decline of 14% in the calendar year 2004. It is interesting to note that the insufferable AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) claims to have played a role in this decline through their "education campaigns" and peer educator networks. They conveniently overlook the fact that HIV increased at a time when they were running similar campaigns. In any case I will take poisonous aim at ACON at another time.

Not everyone agrees on the reasons for the increase. Whilst the rationally minded acknowledge that HIV rates increased because of a drop in the practice of safer sex amongst homosexual men some, such as the odious hate-group the Australian Family Association (AFA) maintains that the increase in HIV was because progressive Australian governments (such as the Bracks government in VIC) increased funding to "homosexual run AIDS organisations". But then what would you expect from an organisation that believes that the Bible is the literal word of their god? Other religious groups also support this view.

It is interesting to note that whilst HIV declined in Australia amongst homosexual men during the 1990s, it actually increased amongst the Aboriginal and Islander people of my country. In that group HIV is predominantly transmitted by heterosexual contact. Numbers are still low, but given the poor standards of health amongst the First Australians (Aboriginal men have a life expectancy 20 years less than that of non Aboriginal men) this trend must be viewed with concern.

However, let us return to the matter at hand. The discussion at the AIDSMEDS Community Forums was prompted by a member who explained why he had a red biohazard tattoo on his leg. I made the point that HIV gives me a perverse sense of power. I can be perceived as walking death. To me, my semen is no longer an innocuous (and tasty) body fluid, it has become venom. I am able (should I so choose) to inflict this fatal sting on others by means of the intimate embrace of sex. Whether I would do so is not the point - it is enough that I am able to. Rather than seeing myself as a weak AIDS victim condemned to a wretched, isolated death I can understand myself as a potent homosexual warrior armed with a deadly weapon. I am to be feared. As Homocult once stated:

Fuck with us and you die.

And indeed I am feared. A couple of years ago I was at the dentist. I filled in the relevant forms and when I asked if I had any infectious diseases I simply said yes. The document didn't ask me specify. The trainee dental nurse (a vain and dimwitted girl of around 17 years of age) asked my what the infectious disease was. When I told her that I had AIDS she promptly kitted herself out in barrier nursing gear, including an enormous clear plastic face mask.

I immediately fell about the place laughing. All this for a simple filling! She looked like an extra from the set of the Andromeda Strain. The dentist did not see the humour. He was horrified.

"Take that ridiculous apparel off, you foolish girl!", he barked.

She burst into tears and ran from the room. The dentist apologised profusely and noted that, in his opinion, the quality of dental assistants declined each year. He arranged for the senior dental nurse to take his erstwhile assistant's place and no extraordinary precautions were taken. The procedure would be described in clinical terms as being "unremarkable".

The terror that still surrounds people with AIDS doesn't just have it's roots in the disease. In my country HIV is still predominantly a condition of gay and bi-sexual men. Very few injecting drug users or heterosexuals (or indeed women) contract the virus thanks to our 20 year history of Needle and Syringe Programmes. As a result AIDS is still strongly associated with homosexuality and homosexuality is viewed as immoral by a large proportion of Australians (about 35%).

Given the views and teachings of various religious institutions, not least the Roman Catholic Church, it should come as no surprise that people like me are feared. Not only is my sexuality "intrinsically disordered" but my HIV positivity comes (in their opinion) as direct result of immoral conduct.

Whatever the case may be, I can't help but enjoy this status as a monster. I'll end with another quote from Homocult:

Everything You Make a Freak Will Infect and Make You Weak.

Indeed.

IN SOLIDARITY

MtD

20 Comments:

At Fri Aug 05, 10:12:00 PM GMT+10, Blogger Patrick said...

It's rather depressing the amount of power these religious right groups actually have. Especially in this country with our boy king.

 
At Fri Aug 05, 10:57:00 PM GMT+10, Blogger Matty the Damned said...

Oh Paddy tell me about it!

Here in Oz we have this creepy Hillsong movement that has taken over the Baptist-Evangelical mob.

At our last federal election they managed to defeat a Labor (progressive) candidate by defaming him because he came from a muslim background.

That Labor candidate is no radical. He is a very moderate fellow called Eddie Husic. His people are Bosnian muslims.

I have had many disagreements with Eddie over the years but he is an honest character who comes from a true working class background. The christians targetted him not on any policy issue, rather they made his cultural background the issue.

Nasty poisonous stuff.

MtD

 
At Sat Aug 06, 07:49:00 AM GMT+10, Blogger ronnie said...

Out with the religious right, in with the homosexual agenda!

 
At Sat Aug 06, 05:10:00 PM GMT+10, Blogger Bucko said...

Matty-

Thank you for putting in words all the power and awe of our infected seed. I like to think that Iris adds an extra piquant quality it lacked before.

I brought my spoon!
B

 
At Sun Aug 07, 08:44:00 AM GMT+10, Blogger David said...

It's a scary thought indeed. Imagine all Hiv + people being isolated together unable to mingle with society as a whole...Suddenly, yours and others weapon of mass depravity is a prison sentence...So much for feeling powerful...Let us pray that things don't get absolutely crazy in this country...like being a jew in Nazi Germany. It's an illness...not a weapon that I would ever use or even consider.

 
At Tue Aug 09, 11:48:00 AM GMT+10, Blogger Matty the Damned said...

Davey,

Our status is only a "prison sentence" if we see it that way. Rather than view myself as a weak pariah, I can't help but acknowledge the terrible power that AIDS gives me. I understand why they are afraid of us.

They should be.

MtD

 
At Fri Aug 12, 06:55:00 AM GMT+10, Anonymous daddy said...

Matty, you are truly maturing in your presentations. As for the "venom" approach, I never happened to think about it in those terms, however, it does bring to the surface a very interesting concept. That of being "bad seed" to the rest of the conservative society that we find ourselves. I find it interesting that in countries around the globe, the "homosexual" deffinition, given by the U.S. CDC, was quickly adopted in South Africa, Europe, Asia, and India, in squashing any and all support for HIV positive people, from the affected governments. Is this politics by assimilation, or just a simple idiot's view of the state of the world's health?

Daddy is pleased that his little arse slave, is doing so well in his presentations, please keep it up, as long as you can.

In total and unequivical lust.

 
At Fri Jul 07, 05:20:00 AM GMT+10, Blogger Jody Kuchar said...

Thank you for this article. I did not know that Oz had the same problem with fundamentalists as we have here in the US.
Do not feel that your sexual orientation is what keeps you marginalized in society. If you are not part of the intolerant religious right, it matters little who you love. Heterosexual, homosexual, independent thinkers all are targets of christian narrow mindedness and hatred.
I am saddened to hear about the increase of AIDS in the Aboriginal and Island populations. Just like in the US, it is those who are economically depressed or/and without health care that will suffer next.

That which does not kill you, makes you stronger!
Best to you.

 
At Fri Jul 07, 08:40:00 AM GMT+10, Blogger Matty the Damned said...

Jody,

I'm glad you liked the article. I wrote it almost one year ago, but decided to submit it to the Carnival of Pozitivities because it's message still seems resonant today.

Alas HIV/AIDS is still on the increase here in Oz and the numbers amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to rise. Especially amongst Aboriginal women.

There is still much to do. Though I suspect the religious right will offer little by way of constuctive effort.

Visit us often!

MtD

 
At Sat Jul 08, 06:40:00 AM GMT+10, Blogger The Dreamer said...

Here in the US we've swung so far to the right that the pendulum is jammed in the wall. It's sad that the entire world is becoming a fascist state, but that's one proce of "globalism" I still fully expect that some day while king dubya or his minions are in power there will be the great roundup and purge of us pozzums. Maybe they can set up a detention camp in Provincetown.

Great article BTW

 
At Sat Jul 08, 11:15:00 AM GMT+10, Blogger Matty the Damned said...

Thanks dreamer. I'm glad you liked it. I love the term "pozzums" by the way. Hehehehehe.

Back in the early days of the pandemic a prominent Australian ophthamologist the late Dr Fred Hollows actively promoted the idea that HIV positive people should be forcibly quarrantined as a public health measure. He went on to include homosexual men, injecting drug users and sex workers in that group.

Hollows is not remembered for this outrageous "suggestion" rather he's lauded as a selfless hero who spent his professional life restoring the sight of the blind in the developing world.

MtD

 
At Sat Jul 08, 04:10:00 PM GMT+10, Anonymous richard kearns said...

mtd--

liked the article a lot. dentists seem to be particularly horrible.

i want to bring something up without being pointed about it. i think it's just the way you put things. you wrote:

The reasons for the outbreak of HIV in our group other than the fact that we didn't practice safe sex is not clearly understood. It has been suggested that reasons include "AIDS fatigue" to improvements in HIV treatments to the widespread use of amphetamines amongst gay men.

what is your understanding? it doesn't sound as if you are equally as puzzled.

at a recent public forum about social marketing (aids healthcare foundation's hiv-not-fabulous campaign), which was targeted at young gay men, an ahf-conducted study found that the majority members of that group had taken hiv tests four or more times in their lives before testing positive. so in other words, they were getting the message about getting tested, which they did, but consciousness of their hiv status had no impact on changing behavior.

what do you recall about that process personally? why do you think you got infected? why did you not stop having unsafe sex?

what do you think would have changed your behavior? could anything have?

if you could convince yourself to take action to keep from getting infected, what argument would you use? what actions would you recommend to yourself or to someone similar to you?

take a look at the posts i've got in the carnival from aids-write.org. there's a poem i wrote for the forum mentioned above, and a series of essays on hiv-related loss of productivity and ability in my own life.

leading the examined life, i guess.

look forward to hearing your response.

rk
rk@aids-write.org

 
At Sun Jul 09, 03:03:00 PM GMT+10, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although HIV has spread to the hetero world in the USA it is still viewed by many as punishment for sinners. I believe it will take many more years, if ever, to change this. The DISEASE that spreads this hate in America is called the Fundamentalist Christian movement. A group I fear that is spreading at an alarming rate.

 
At Sun Jul 09, 05:51:00 PM GMT+10, Blogger Matty the Damned said...

I could not agree more, Anonymous. Their influence grows here in dear old secular Australia.

Nevertheless, with blogs like this one and comments such as yours we do our small part to addressing the problem.

Thank you for visiting and come back often!

MtD

 
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