I AM...

I am whatever YOU think I am until YOU get to KNOW me. This is true for everyone else too, of course.. so don't make assumptions about anyone or pass judgment; ask questions. You might just make a new friend.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012


This may be the defining HIV issue of our time, and it is a
true test of our compassion and understanding of both HIV stigma and the law.
Please read this closely.

Around the
country, and without leadership or guidelines from the Federal government,
individual states have taken it upon themselves to draft laws that
"protect" people from those of us with HIV. Whether using
bio-terrorism statutes or simple "assault with a deadly weapon,"
people with HIV who do not disclose their status to their sexual partners are
risking arrest and prosecution.

already having a visceral response to this scenario, aren't you? You may have
the vague feeling that anyone who doesn't disclose their HIV+ status to a
partner probably deserves to be punished. Don't worry, you're not alone. Not
only do most people support laws forbidding sex without disclosing an HIV+
status, but even a majority of gay men support such laws, and it is understandable,
albeit a misinformed view, as to why.

Many of us
know someone who was infected by a partner who didn't disclose their status, or
even lied about it. I have friends who dated someone claiming to be negative,
until they found a telltale prescription drug bottle and then discovered they
had been infected. Worse yet are the news reports showing some big, scary black
man who has been raping white women and infecting them with HIV. How could
anyone argue against bringing these liars and malicious infectors to justice?

But the sad fact is, most prosecutions under these laws are
not being imposed against those who are deliberately malicious or even
criminally negligent. They are being imposed using not science, but the same
ignorance, stigma, homophobia and racism that has plagued HIV/AIDS throughout
the years. And well intentioned people like you and me are buying into it.

In Texas, a
man is serving more than twenty years for spitting on a cop, despite the
impossibility of transmitting HIV. And in the vast majority of cases against
people having sex without disclosing, no transmission even occurred. In fact,
whether or not there was any real risk of transmission is of little concern to
prosecutors. People on medication with no viral load, for whom transmission is
a remote possibility if at all, are being sentenced to jail time for not
disclosing... even if they used a condom and did not transmit a thing. And the
sentences are outrageous: decades of jail time in many cases.

Consider the
black woman for whom disclosing her HIV status is more than a mere
embarrassment; it could mean the collapse of her support network, the loss of a
job or even physical danger. She is a compliant patient with no viral load, and
insists her sex partner uses a condom. He somehow learns of her HIV status,
calls the cops, and she is prosecuted and imprisoned. These are not fantasy
scenarios, they are happening with increasing speed around the country.

The effect of
these laws on public health is sobering. If those who know their status risk
prosecution for not disclosing, and those who don't get tested at all can have
sex without legal consequences, how does that draw people into HIV testing? As
activist Sean Strub says, "Take the test and risk arrest."

The laws in some states are written so strictly that it is a
legal risk for any HIV positive person to have sex at all.[Editor's Note:
See Sean Strub's 2-minute video below for specific examples.]
 All the
prosecutors need is to know you are HIV positive and you had sex with your
accuser. If the accuser claims you didn't disclose, you're in for an uphill
battle convincing a judge otherwise. You're saddled with the distasteful nature
of any positive person actually having sex, and if it was gay sex, well, God
help you.

Activist Sean
Strub has taken this issue up as a personal crusade. I first met Sean two years
ago when I produced a video blog with him discussing the issue of HIV
criminalization. He took it to the United Nations AIDS Committee last month,
and brought along two heartbreaking stories in the testimony of Robert Suttle
and Nick Rhoades—the men you see pictured above.

Watch Sean's
own testimony about people with HIV being viewed as "vectors of
disease," with less rights but more responsibility to disclose, and you
may view this issue quite differently than you do now.

Is your record of disclosing your status perfect? Mine isn't.
I have been a compliant patient for many years and have an undetectable viral
load. There has been instances in which disclosure felt unsafe, or I was in
environments such as public sex clubs in which no one is asking or telling.

I don't
believe I deserve to go to jail for those indiscretions. Do you?

Sean has
created a trailer for a film he is producing called
 HIV is Not a Crime; we've
included it below. You can also watch Robert Suttle and Nick Rhoades'
incredible testimony at the United Nations AIDS Committee last month on Mark S.
King's wesbite
 My Fabulous Disease.



I watched Showtime's new show House of Lies and must say that I was entertained. However, what entertained me even more was the fact that there’s a gender variant child.
 Marty’s son Roscoe (played by the exuberant and adorable Donis Leonard Jr.) likes to
wear girls clothing and wants to play Sandy in the school’s production of
 Grease. While Marty is confused — not wanting to push
his son away, but not really knowing what to do with a cross-dressing pre-teen
—he goes to bat for the kid. After Roscoe gets the lead of Sandy in Grease,
a teacher calls to say another student’s mom has complained about a boy getting
the role. Marty shoots back at her, “He wants to sing 'Summer Nights' and wear
a poodle skirt. Now Britney Kaufman's mother can't stand it that her little
baby isn't getting every goddamn thing she wants so she's off on some kind of
gender witch hunt.” He later tells Roscoe’s less than involved mom that the kid
is “experimenting with different modes of gender identification.” What makes it
all compelling is that we see Marty (generally) trying to do the right thing by
Roscoe. So is Roscoe gay? Transgender? Or just playing around the way kids
should be allowed to do? We know as much as Marty does but, based on episode
one, it’ll be a fascinating journey watching Roscoe



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