Every day we are surrounded by advertising that uses provocative images to sell their product or service with an implied message that sex sells. Does Sex Sell? Most of us would say, well of course it does. But is that all we’re looking for? Does sex sell a new HIV drug to you? I would hope not. I would hope you would see beyond the sexual message and really understand the benefits and side effects of any new medication including a discussion with your physician (HIV specialist).
Beyond HIV, we just want to be human. I believe we are sexual beings. I believe we are highly motivated and influenced by sex. And, there is nothing wrong with recognizing our desires for a happy and healthy sexual life. More than ever I want to “normalize” my life outside of HIV. Staying adherent to medications and keeping undetectable gives me the strength and ability to focus on life, on faith, on exercise, on sex, enjoying any activity or anything outside of HIV. That’s what gives my life real meaning. Knowing that I can live with this disease and continue to enjoy the things I love in life, including sex.
I’d like to hear from you. What is your story? Does Sex Sell?
Normal. “Normal.” What’s “normal”? Like many terms we hear “normal” is used in several contexts. Some are good, while others tend to exclude or isolate. Certainly what is normal for me is not the same as what is normal for you. I’d like to think that our lives are not so different that we don’t have something in common. We “normalize” things all the time. Commuting, exercising, cooking, feelings, etc. The reality is that none of these are normal. Each are unique to the individual. Some may be shared with others but while we may go out to eat together we don’t usually eat the exact same things. By treating each other as unique individuals with respect we no longer need to use the term normal. Instead we can celebrate our individuality. What’s “normal” to you?
Inner peace is the most precious good you can cultivate. And as much as the world is full of stimuli, it sometimes needs to slow down. And if that’s the case, be able to live alone in peace. That it is possible to touch life after being ignored, kicked, changed. That’s the way it is, it happens after all. And, as cliché as it is, life always brings something better later. Nothing is irreplaceable. Nothing is greater than your peace, than your satisfaction with yourself. And if one is taking away their sleep, their hunger, their energy, take advantage of this “stripping” of things and take that person out of their life. Your well-being appreciates, and your heart also. Because no one is worth more than your peace.
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I recently experienced two separate situations where I felt someone wanted to fix me. I had to ask myself: “Am I broken?” HELL NO! As I described this to a friend of mine he said he felt the same way while at an AIDS Service Organization. He felt that he was treated like he was broken. He didn’t return there. Duh? Of course not. We are not pathetic losers with a disease. We are caring human beings looking to be treated with respect without pity.
If your first thought is “how can I fix this person” you are in the wrong field. I don’t have a shattered life that needs fixing. I may have some special needs that require assistance but I am not broken. This life we live is just like everyone else. We are all on our own path journeying through life. Our journey may lead us to many different places. At times we will seek your guidance. At times we want you to hear our stories. At times we just want you to listen. Whatever that may look like, whatever that may be or feel or care – we are not broken – we are human!
Our systemic barriers to people of color, especially in health, won’t come close to being overcome. What will make a difference are people in touch with youth and who continually whittle away at the stigma and misinformation spewed across our country. Not one of us has all the answers. It will take a village to drive down barriers, eradicate stigma and ultimately End the Epidemic.
The statistics are staggering.
Black gay and bisexual men are among the communities most heavily affected by HIV.
A young Black gay man now has a 60 percent chance of becoming HIV-positive by the age of 30.
Black survivors are twice as likely to experience any physical violence, twice as likely to experience discrimination and 1.4 times more likely to experience threats and intimidation during acts of hate violence.
Black survivors of hate violence are 1.3 times more likely to experience police violence than their non-Black counterparts.
My heart bleeds RED and I see RED and anger and sadness in every face. I’ve been told that it now has been 400 years since the first African slave ships arrived on our shores to brutality and inhumane conditions. Why do we continue to treat people of color as inferior? Reaching young Black men is the responsibility of us all. This week we recognize National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Black History Month (and always) so that we can bring attention to and raise our consciousness to eradicate HIV and End the Epidemic.
I am thrilled that U=U [Undetectable=Untransmittable] is getting more and more attention as an evidence-based practice for HIV Prevention. The science is compelling. This covers about 50% of the HIV population who remain undetectable. It is not meant to isolate anyone further but I do believe it is a worthy goal for those who may be struggling with treatment adherence. I also believe our medical/pharmaceutical personnel need to ensure that optimal medications are readily available for every PLHIV. Together we can End the Epidemic while freeing ourselves of further stigma and isolation.
But, what does U=U (You=You?) mean to you personally? For PLHIV it may mean a boost in self esteem. Knowing we are no longer “toxic” or feeling shamed. For some it may mean being freer to live and love and unashamed of giving in to our desires. U=U may additionally mean U=U+Me. The character Mr. Cellophane from Chicago probably expressed it best. We are invisible until we are not. You+Me means safe and consensual intimacy without fear.
“This Year I Am Determined Not To Live In Shame! ” – Darryl Calloway
I’m so proud to see our hearts and minds open to new possibilities and to live life to our fullest. What does U=U mean to you?
This is an iconic image by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel representing mankind’s spiritual journey toward God and God’s touch on mankind. (This can easily be transformed into “humankind” to be more inclusive.) I use it here as a reminder that we all need human touch and for some of us that may include a spiritual belief. Who touches you?
The early days of the AIDS epidemic demonstrated ignorance and stigma when people didn’t understand. Even touching was repugnant. It took powerful images and courage to change society’s way of thinking from influential people, like Princess Diana. Now more than ever I find a need not only to physically touch but also to touch others virtually. We are so scattered across the city, county, country and world. Sometimes 2 miles seems like a crater or mountain to overcome while 2,000 miles seems just around the corner.
Now more than ever and in so many ways we need to reach out to one another and touch our lives. Ensure that we have the ability, capability and desire to reach out even when we don’t know that we need to. Have you ever brightened someone’s day just by sending a smile, a wave or a text? I have and it’s the greatest feeling ever to know that I’ve touched someone in a way that perhaps no other has. Maybe it’s fleeting, only to happen in the moment, but the feeling will last a long time. And the recipient will remember your kindness. We all crave recognition and enjoy the attention others place on us.
Maybe it’s time to CRUSH stigma by reaching out. You are the center of your world. Who touches you?
Are you HIV+ Strong? There’s a lot of interest in maintaining positive influences and being poz and strong. Whether you’re 20, 50 or 90 we all need words of encouragement and strength to keep ourselves strong in body, mind and spirit.
Personally I love to see images and words of encouragement to keep me going. I think we all crave some attention and appreciate knowing that others care enough to uplift us. It helps us to feel strong about our lives and the people in it.
In the past few weeks my virtual world has expanded exponentially. Those with whom I’ve made a real connection are the ones I feel strongly about and uplift me. We can all spot the naysayers and I say let them be. They will always wallow in self pity and destructive behaviors. We must be positive in our lives, surround ourselves with positive influences and purge ourselves of negativity. We are HIV+ STRONG!
Who owns the content of your story? You? Think again . . .
A number of trusted HIV sources and media outlets have been asking a lot of HIVers to share their stories. It is the latest fad drawing from WWII vets and holocaust survivors from generations of worthy life stories we don’t want to lose. Many have even started verbal video montages to celebrate the endurance of a generation of stigma and lost hope. But who’s story is it?
My first response is that it is MY life story. But as so often is true in the publishing world, including social media, those who publish your story may in fact have property rights to your words. Read the fine print before agreeing to publish. If you hope to write a memoir or tell of your story to many sources then you will want to retain ownership of your written story and it’s content.
I am all for sharing our stories and telling the world what it is really like living with HIV but I also believe my story is mine. I own it, I live it and I am the only one authorized to reprint or share my story with others. Sharing is nice but caring is better.