12 September 2006

Silence serves us poorly

Another person I knew, albeit distantly, died of an AIDS-related illness recently. Silence about HIV and sex is counter-productive, allowing the disease to come ever closer to those who are dear to us. Full essay.

20 comments:

Jordan said...

That is the problem. One partner can be monogamous, while the other partner is not.
I think it is wise to straighten out the rules of engagement, when both agree to be an item, and to commit with each other. That is the only way to safeguard both parties on safe sex. that may mean abstinence.
Get to know one's potential partner, I guess it is easier said than done, when there is instant attraction. But when the stakes are so high, we have no other options.
Obviously, where we meet would give us a opportunity to get to know each other, before any intimacy.
We do know where to find instant gratification.
So to my fellow peers, get to know one's partner well in advance, before fulfilling one's needs. If not,it is wiser to adopt a monogamous 'me first' attitude, and not sleep with anyone.
Thankfully, we move in well-connected groups, that picking up that 'unknown somebody' in a gay bar is less of a danger.
Our censors are much more find tuned these days.
Again, the issue here is about a monogamous commitment, and not about reckless behavior. That?... Hetros can do as well.

Anonymous said...

Aids does not discriminate.
Everyone who is sexually active should have an AIDs test done on them every year.

Connor said...

What about bi-sexuals? These days one has no idea what women and men's sexual proclivities are? At least gay guys know the precautions that need to be taken.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me? I find 2 of the above comments amazing! Yawning Bread said not to rely on trust alone, but use a condom, and yet Jordan is saying "straighten out the rules of engagement", which is the same as leaving it to trust and promises. And why does Jordan think that picking up in a gay bar is less of a danger???

And Connor, does it matter what different sexual proclivities people have? I think the point of the essay was protect yourself regardless.

Jordan said...

To:Anonymous said...
Is it just me? I find 2 of the above comments amazing! Yawning Bread said not to rely on trust alone,'...

if I misled you, than allow me to clarify once again. Always use condoms, at all times. However, both partners have to agreee on a monogamous relationship.

Jordan said...

To Anonymous: " said... And why does Jordan think that picking up in a gay bar is less of a danger??? '

The reality of the situation is 'it happens'. And we are aware of the precautions that need to be taken.

Anonymous said...

'Anonymous said... And Connor, does it matter what different sexual proclivities people have? I think the point of the essay was protect yourself regardless.'

You never know who the face of AIDs is.
Aileen Getty of the Gettys, has AIDS, she is still alive to this very day, but her survival depends on the top-of-the-line AIDS medication that she can afford to buy. The medication exists, but at a high cost.

Holly said...

Condoms do break, don't they? I was dating a guy, and found out he was gay. I guess we were both in the throes of passion. It affects everyone.

Jordan said...

FYI:
'The fact anyone can get HIV, though in some countries more gay men than straight men or women have HIV. This means that if you decide to have sex with another man, that there may be a higher risk of being infected with (or passing on) HIV. But only if you have sex that isn't safe.

What is 'safer sex'?
Safer sex is anything that reduces your chances of getting or transmitting a STI. It's not difficult and it doesn't have to reduce your pleasure.

Viruses such as HIV are transmitted by body fluids, so to protect yourself, you need to keep your partner's body-fluids from getting inside your body - this means in your mouth, anus or in any cuts you may have on you. Body fluids include blood, semen (cum or pre-cum) and saliva (to a lesser extent). You can't transmit HIV by things like kissing or holding hands.

Safer sex also means not exposing your partner to any danger of infection. If you feel that you may have been exposed to STDs in the past, even if you don't have any symptoms, you should be tested to make sure you're not infectious before having sex with anyone else. And the precautions you would take to look after yourself will also protect your partner - if you want to have sex with someone, you should have enough respect for them to protect them. To find out more information about sexually transmitted diseases, click here.

Okay, so having safer sex means keeping your partner's body fluids out of your body. But this doesn't have to mean you can't have fun. There's still lots of things you can do. Kissing, cuddling, massage and rubbing each other, and penetrating each other with fingers are all fine, and masturbating alone or with your partner is safe too, as long as you don't have any cuts or sores on your hands - if you do, cover them with a plaster or band-aid.

Compared to anal sex, oral is much less risky, but there are a number of STDs that can be transmitted when giving or receiving oral sex. The general advice is that you should avoid oral sex if you've got cuts or sores in your mouth. The risks of this can be reduced by using condoms - and if you don't like the taste of latex, you can get flavoured ones.

I'll be okay the first time, won't I?
If you have sex with a partner who has HIV, you can be infected with it, whether it's your first time or not. If it's the first time you have sex or the first time with a new partner, it can be scary enough without having to worry about condoms. But using condoms can be quite sexy - try getting your partner to unroll it for you.

Sex between men is only risky if you have risky sex, and the more men you sleep with, the more likely you are to come into contact with someone who has HIV.

Some people choose to be celibate, some like to have many different partners, and others prefer to have one steady boyfriend - there's no one 'gay lifestyle'. A monogamous relationship is a type of relationship where neither partner has sex with anyone else. If you have a monogamous relationship with someone who knows that they aren't infected with anything you are at less risk of coming into contact with HIV than if you have lots of different partners. Whatever your personal life and whether or not you're in a relationship, being careful can be fun, and safe sex doesn't have to mean boring sex.

Last updated July 26, 2005'

Seng said...

I am a gay Singaporean. I come from an affluent Chinese family of five, three boys and two girls. My family is old fashioned, and Christian. After my stint in the army, I continued my education overseas, and that was when I experienced my first gay encounter. I was very happy, very relieved, to come out, but this was America, and for once, I felt great inner peace. i did not want to come home, having established my gay life in Boston.
All that came to an end, when both my brothers married, and being the #1 male in a Chinese household, my parents were determined that I return home, get married n settle down. God, my world came crashing down, I just wanted to live my life, I was happy, and at the same time, how could I tell my parents, who would not even begin to understand what being gay is about.
I couldn't let my parents down, so I returned home, and the start for a search of a bride began. All the family members and aunts came down on me like hawks to a prey, "Why you not married yet, lah?", "aiyah, poor boy, study so hard, got no time to find a nice girl, what?"
"never mind,we find a nice girl for you , Seng".
I shut my brain down, just hearing their constant questions, and babbling. I hated it all.
Well, they introduced me to a nice quiet Singapoean girl, my parents were beaming, and the marriage date was set. I re-called attending my own marriage, it was like walking up the aisle, to my own death. Everything was a daze.
I tried with the marriage, thinking I would change, my feelings as a gay was wrong, it was my fault. After having two children,whom I adore, I still yearned for the return of my 'old life'. The feelings I had of being with another man, did not go away.I just had no interest in women. I could hear myself screaming inside my head. On a business trip in Hong Kong, I embarked on a brief fling. It brought back a floogate of tears, I was fighting back who I really was. It was devastating, I had a family in Singapore,and a lifestyle that would not be condoned by my family.
I sought counselling, which was of some help, it made me realize that I am a gay man, and that would never change.
I now lead two lives, a family man in Singapore, and a gay man when I travel abroad. I have no other choice. It is a comfortable accomadation for me, and so long as I am not gay in Singapore, my family will not have to go through the pain of me revealing to them that I am gay. They will never understand.
What other choice would I have, this was in the 70es, when homosexualty was a taboo subject.
I just wanted to share a slice of my life. I am glad that gays have choices now, but for now, I maintain my 2 lifestyles. I mean, how do I tell my kids that 'Pa Pa likes men?". Maybe when they are a little older and I am a whole lot braver.

Ben said...

Alex, great job on your article. No one has really addressed this issue of 'safe sex', and what about teenagers who are discovering themselves? They have no idea who to talk to> Singaporean parents are still paranoid about gays and lesbians, and everyone is in denial.
Our parents may have taught us about the 'birds n the bees', but that's it, we live in cluelessnss about alternative lifestyles, even to this day in Singapore.
For teens who need help, and that is the age group that most young boys and girls begin to discover their sexuality, this is a great start.
Can you imagine how confused a young teen can be? wondering why he is overcome by such feelings, and uptight parents who are not aware of other lifestyles?
Young people have committed suicides over this issue. They think that they are at fault, and compound the spiritual upbringing, these young kids know zap about safe sex, and even where to begin.
Maybe there should be a hotline for people to dial, for help about their confused sexualities?
Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

I just read Seng's story.Doesn't that make you a fraud? i guess you must be in your mid 50es, and typically, the children born in the 50es, 60es, and 70es in Singapore know squat about the gay life.
How long can you keep up the facade? and what about your wife? Is it fair to her that you hide all this from her, so do we blame the Singapore educational system that we are not informed about gays and lesbians?
Who is responsible for defining Seng, as to what his life is now?
What a life, Seng has to hide the truth from his family, coz of face?
Why is it that Singaporeans have to hide,even now? yes...the happiness of family, parents, blah blah,blah is more important than one's own? that's just crap! I would not even go down Seng's road,I am a 80es kid, and I can't see myself in your shoes. hey whatever rocks your boat... but you should think of coming out Seng? You said 'affluent family'- I mean did you do it coz of the family money? Man, that's major fraud on your part Seng.

Bert said...

Here's one to chew on, Bread. Something about Paddy.

Anonymous said...

Seng,

You are a good man. In your youth, you thought more for your parents than yourself. And now you think more for your family than for yourself. Life is complex, and we're all just doing what we can, what we have the strength to do. I feel you deserve more credit than you grant yourself.

Interestingly, I too have a gay friend living in Boston who is an eldest son. He is in a same-sex marriage and does not intend to return. Best solution in an imperfect reality, I guess.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

To anonymous, 13 Sep 12:12 - Let's not be judgmental unless we know what it feels like to walk in another person's shoes. Seng seems to be doing right by his children, what more can we ask?

Anonymous said...

Had I the knowledge you have shared, Alex, it would have spared me great pain and trauma in my childhood.

It is too late for me, and I live with the choices that I have made, but for all that you have done, not least of which is to put up this site, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

xinwei said...

ben said:

Maybe there should be a hotline for people to dial, for help about their confused sexualities?
Keep up the great work!

-

actually there is:

http://www.oogachaga.com/services.htm

just fyi

Anonymous said...

I thank all the bloggers in Singapore. An article about condoms was published in the Sunday Times today. I think bloggers, pushing the limit, the main stream media has no choice but to budge. As a father and a teacher, that article opens up really teachable moments to our young ones. Thanks Alex.
TC

Anonymous said...

I went for HIV testing a few weeks ago and it was the scariest thing in my life. Not the extraction of blood, but the long one week wait for the results. I had sleepless nights and had a good hard think about my careless times. Everyday I lived like I was HIV positive. It's like a cloud over your shoulder, a secret you can't tell, an imminent death sentence robbing you of any long term future. I will never have children!

Thankfully the test came back negative, but I will never have unsafe sex again and my love and compassion goes out to all HIV positive people.

Anonymous said...

'This story is from our news.com.au network Source: AAP

HIV tests 'should be routine'
By Jeremy Mainer in Chicago
September 22, 2006
TESTING for HIV should be a routine part of doctors' appointments and emergency room visits for all patients between ages 13 and 64, according to new federal guidelines designed to catch AIDS patients before they develop life-threatening symptoms.
The policy may be difficult to implement, especially in Illinois, where the law sets tight standards for how doctors must obtain consent for HIV tests and how they can inform patients of the results.

Supporters of the new testing recommendations, released by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said more widespread testing would improve care for the estimated 250,000 Americans who do not know they are infected.

It also could help reduce the spread of the disease by up to 30 per cent, since studies show that carriers of HIV cut back on high-risk behavior, such as unprotected sex, once they learn of the infection.

"People with HIV have a right to know that they are infected,'' CDC director Dr Julie Gerberding said.

In essence, the non-binding guidelines would have health care providers test for HIV much as they already screen routinely for conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

But the effort to treat HIV as just another disease may collide with entrenched cultural attitudes and laws that have set the ailment apart.

The special handling of AIDS emerged in an era when the disease was a virtual death sentence, and an intense stigma around the virus inspired efforts to protect patients' privacy.

Experts believed then that testing everyone would yield little benefit, since there was no good treatment.

Until now, recommendations have called for testing people at high risk of HIV, such as drug users, healthcare workers and homosexual men.

But attitudes about whom to test changed starting in the mid-1990s, when new treatments made the disease manageable, though still potentially deadly.

Tests also have fallen in price - about $US8 ($A10.50) for an ordinary test or up to $US20 ($A26.40) for a rapid test.

Now, the CDC believes, the benefits of early treatment make routine testing imperative.'

Everyone who is sexually active should have an HIV test done yearly.