I was honoured when my friend Ron Hudson asked me to host the 9th edition of the International Carnival of Pozitivities here this month! The Carnival's mission is to provide a forum for those living with or affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. As Ron says, this pretty much includes everyone living on Earth today.
As someone who lives on Earth today, I got to thinking about my experience with HIV/AIDS. It occurred to me that the first time I really heard about the disease was in 1987, when that awesome Designing Women episode, Killing All The Right People, aired. I grew up loving those sassy Southern ladies and that episode made a huge impact on 12 year old me. They managed to personalize the disease, tackle the stigma around it and educate their audience on safer sex practices in about 23 minutes of airtime.
When I found the episode recap on Wikipedia, I kind of expected Julia's tirade against bigot Imogene and Mary-Jo's speech to the PTA about condoms in schools to be dated and irrevelant - turns out they weren't as dated as one might like. In the 20 years since that episode aired, there have been great strides forward, but the stigma and lack of education around HIV/AIDS persists, in varying degrees, all over the world. The International Carnival of Pozitivities is an opportunity to throw some light against the darkness caused by fear, ignorance, bigotry and inertia. So, with no further ado, let's get readin'!
Partly in honour my hosting this edition, carnival founder (and the host of the 8th edition last month) Ron Hudson at 2sides2ron has written A Tribute to Women in the Early Days of AIDS, a beautiful piece about how women, particularly lesbians, came to the aid of the gay community in the early days of the virus. This post also boasts a gorgeous piece of original artwork by Becka of the Frank Sinatra School in New York City, entitled "Lovers".
Their courage, at a time when their risk of infection was unclear, was greater than I had within my own soul when I feared my symptomatic gay male friends. Women came to our aid…as doctors, as nurses, as caregivers, as confidants and even as fishing buddies.
Brad hosted the 2nd edition of the ICP at AIDS Combat Zone. In his post An AIDS Warrior Gets Called to the Frontline, Brad prepares to travel to Kenya, where he and his wife will be volunteering with the US Peace Corps.
We will be living in a rural village, working closely with its residents to increase knowledge of HIV/AIDS issues, prevent waterborne and vector-borne illness, and assess other health issues so that the community can be mobilized to address them.
From Latifah at My Realities comes a poem entitled A day in an AIDS hospital. It paints a grim picture of the realities of HIV/AIDS treatment in her part of the world. I encourage you to visit her site and check out some of her other writing as well - powerful, angry-making stuff.
The Nata Village blog, as it says on their site, is "a unique opportunity to witness the battle to control the spread of HIV/AIDS in an African village". The website just celebrated their one year anniversary; one of things they accomplished with this year's donations from folks like me and you was being able to buy protective gowns for hospital staff. The picture of the nurses in their new gowns - awesome.
For years, the nurse midwives have been delivering babies wearing nothing more than a rubber butcher's apron. With a fifty percent infection rate amongst our pregnant women, you can imagine the stress that the nursing staff has been under.
The Dreamer at Nightmare Hall is a regular contributor to the ICP. In his extemporaneous post This n' That, he gives us a glimpse into his daily life, where he gets mistaken for a movie star and takes a stand on a number of issues from the merely irritating to the vitally important. My favourite part, of course, was his conclusion about the recent Snickers controversy:
Tsk tsk, mea culpa, I won't be boycotting Snickers as it's one of my favorite candy bars.
Sing it, Dreamer!!
From the Netherlands, we have Dragonette, who blogs at Not Perfect At All. In her post, It's Been Too Long, she shares her ups and downs around being seropositive for HIV as a woman. I particularly like the beginning of this post - we've all been there.
Life is rushing past, actually not like whitewater but like a slow deep river, the Mekong maybe, which looks swimable, but once you lower yourself into it it's really hard to get back to shore, and when you do you are way downstream already.
Volunteer, teach, give, just do what you can to help. One person isn't going to change the world, and that's exactly why there are so many of us.
Kristian's post, A Story of HIV, is a riveting narrative of how she became a 20-year survivor of HIV. She tells her story with honesty, hope and humour.
My husband died in 1989. I am still asymtomatic HIV, which means no symptoms. I have a high T-cell count, but a very high viral load, which means the virus is fighting like hell to take over. But I am well. I still look healthy and young, and it has been 20 years. I feel like Dorian Gray. ;-) (or a vampire.)
UK performance poet Cereal Killer was a guest poster on Ron's blog this month. His work inspired Seattle's Mark Arnold to submit a piece to Ron as well! Always the consummate host, that Ron. Go check out their work!
From Aurora-Rayne comes a powerful personal statement about the stigma of being HIV+ and how it (I paraphase) BLOWS. Ron egged her on to open up and she did not disappoint!
you see, i want so very badly for my life to have meaning, i want so very much for my kids to look back and say..wow mom was really a fabulous person. i want others to look at me and find strength. i want to be mary katherine gallagher...a real life superstar.
And now for a little video action from an organization in my new home province, the British Columbia Persons With AIDS Society, and their campaign to End HIV Stigma. They've agreed to let us include a link to their two brilliant advertisements in this month's ICP. Seriously - you must see these. And then forward them to everyone you know.
HIV Health and Support Network Community News will play host to the ICP in June this year! The Ties That Bind Us - Part 1(revised) is a impactful post about how stigma and alienation might not always come from an outside source.
Feelings of Isolation, Insecurity about emotional connections, Insecurities about physical contact, to name a few, plague Positive people. Many of whom have struggled their entire lives trying to overcome imagined short comings that left them feeling the same way.
In his post This Child is Infected With HIV/AIDS, Ron Hudson tackles the social stereotypes and assumptions people make when they separate the "innocent" from the "guilty" victims of HIV/AIDS.
Refuse, please, to buy into the argument for judgment of people because they are gay, bisexual, a member of a high-risk minority group, a drug-user or a sex-worker and the fact that they are infected with HIV.
Health, Education & Information
First time contributor Lives in Focus is also the first Carnival contributor from India! Be sure and check out their site; really interesting articles and some powerful video blogging going on there as well. Their article on HIV Contaminated Blood offers a personal story and statistics on tainted blood, blood donor policies and various countries' efforts to improve screening for tainted blood.
International health organizations have made a concerted effort to improve and secure the standards of blood collected for transfusion by proposing 100 percent unpaid, voluntary blood donation. But the world is making slow progress towards that goal.
Miss Empowe(RED) is Making a Difference and she is ON A MISSION to educate!! Some key information here relayed with great spirit, energy and sass.
I urge you, if you took the time to read this and you are concerned about yourself, your sister, your mother, your father, your friends, your baby daddy, your children… WHOEVER... Go get tested. I wish I had someone who was in my face yellin this to wake me up, but I didn't. So I am being that person. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!
This post from Enhance Life is not specifically related to HIV/AIDS, but it does have some great tips on meditation and relaxation for general health and well-being, both physical and mental. Who doesn't want to Relax and Unwind Without Spending Any Money?
Faith, of AIDS Combat Zone, writes about folks who are a) revisiting HIV as a cause of AIDS, b) espousing herbal and religious cures for HIV and c) denying the usefulness of good stuff like marijuana in her post, Three Steps Back.
There is growing evidence that the AIDS pandemic poses increasing challenges for the conduct of peacekeeping operations. These challenges include the spread of HIV by peacekeepers, the reduced ability of countries to contribute peacekeepers, and the decrease in willingness of some countries to accept peacekeepers who may pose a disease risk to them.
From the good folks over at Blog to End AIDS comes an article entitled Ryan White: What's Next? The article outlines some of the current issues with the legislation and offers a glimpse of the new initiatives to come.
Over 100 advocates, activists, lobbyists and people living with HIV/AIDS gathered in a high-ceilinged formal hearing room in the Senate Dirksen Office Building in Washington Tuesday afternoon to begin a three-year conversation on the future of the Ryan White CARE Act and HIV/AIDS health care in America.
Giles writes about rapid HIV tests and the big business of HIV on his blog Slimconomy. In OTC: The Need for a System, Giles expresses his concern about the current lack of a system to offer support for those who take an HIV test over-the-counter.
Having an OTC rapid HIV test is certainly a trigger for all the rapid tests for other infectious diseases. While the benefits remain strong for getting more people to test themselves, there needs to be careful consideration of privacy, reporting, public health monitoring, epidemiology management and public knowledge.
Regular contributor Blogswana brings us up to speed on issues such as the Opt-In vs. Opt-Out debate when it comes to voluntary HIV testing, the use of ID cards at some testing sites as well as ways to give the community a voice in their post O Mang, Testing & the Kgotla.
A kgotla is a public meeting, community council or traditional law court of a Botswana village. Anyone at all is allowed to speak, and no one may interrupt while someone is “having their say”.
For those of you who don't know (like me), VisualAIDS is a New York based organization that "strives to increase public awareness of AIDS through the visual arts, creating programs of exhibitions, events and publications, and working in partnership with artists, galleries, museums and AIDS organizations". Over at the Visual AIDS Blog, this post about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day highlights efforts to increase involvement in the African-American community to fight HIV/AIDS.
Also from the VisualAIDS Blog comes Sugar Baby Love, a short film directed by Wilfred Brimo for a French campaign on AIDS awareness. Oh my god, how I love the French. Wondering when you'll finally see a giant penis on a roller coaster? Well, that day has come, my friends! I would classify this video as just a little bit Not Safe for Work, unless you work at a place that doesn't mind you watching a little raucous gay cartoon sex. HOT. And with a message! Quelle message? You'll have to watch it to find out - I don't want to give away the ending.
Bob Hattoy was truly a person of courage. His prime-time speech on AIDS at the 1992 Democratic Convention broke new ground in the fight to combat the disease and forever changed the way millions of Americans viewed people living with HIV/AIDS.
The post has links to the text and video of Bob Hattoy's speech at the National Democratic Convention in the early 1990s. As Ron said, the content of the speech is eerily pertinent today, and even the name of the President fits. Handy! Also, terrifying.
The End? The Beginning!
Thank you all for coming and reading and thinking and clicking. Hope this edition of the ICP helped, inspired and interested you. The next edition of the ICP will be hosted by Transcending Gender in April, but Ron is always looking for hosts! If you're interested, step into his office! I bet he'll make you tea. Or at least a pound cake. Because he's lovely.