HIV: A Taboo Epidemic

HIV affects millions of people worldwide. As of 2009, it was 33.3 million. There are 33 million men, women and children, everyday people just like you and me. The woman walking her dog on the sidewalk, your friend from college, the ex-lover you met at a book club. The fact is 1.2 million of those people live in the United States; those affected do not just live in poor African countries, in fact, that only accounts for about 2/3 of HIV cases.

For this reason, it is important that we educate ourselves and the community about HIV. We need to teach our children how to protect themselves, make condoms more readily available, and not be ashamed to demand safe sex. The fact is, this terrible disease will not go away on its own, and we as a community, a nation, a people need to band together to fight this.

Personally, I was never really taught about HIV. My parents were never open about sexuality to begin with, so it never came up in my household. I remember associating what I had heard about HIV with shame, lots of promiscuous sex, and bad people. I figured that those who had the disease were afflicted because they had too much sex or had sex outside of marriage. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I really became critical about social and political issues and started to read voraciously. I picked up a book called Quicksand: the truth about HIV/AIDS that caused me to really start to think more about this issue and educate myself. I soon picked up even more books from the library on this topic and realized that the only reason there was so much stigmatization around the issue was because it was related to sex. And sex, as we all know, is bad and wrong and dirty. (sarcasm, of course.)

I want to now educate others about this important issue, for those who face the same ignorant environment that I once did. Let them know that hanging out with someone that is HIV positive is not a bad person and that by doing so you CANNOT catch it. One of the most ludicrous myths about HIV out there is how you can contract it. Actually, it is very simple. You can get the disease in only four different ways: From sex or sexual activity, from breast milk, from blood, or from childbirth (that is, from the mother’s blood and vaginal secretions when the baby is being born, but precautions can be taken to prevent this). You can’t get it from sharing a toilet, you can’t get it from kissing, you can’t get it from sharing food or water.

I think that even from this simple fact alone a lot of negative attitudes about HIV can be dispelled. For example, those who are HIV positive are often shunned in society, a direct result of people believing they can contract it from them in everyday circumstance. If people knew the truth then those with the disease wouldn’t be treated so coldly. Also, this could lead to people being more open about sex in general. If they are more aware that everyday people are affected by this, they would be more willing to be open and accepting of others. This is exactly why I have written this article. I hope you have been affected in a positive way and have been inspired to share this message- HIV is just a disease. One that we can prevent with education and acceptance.

Source: http://www.avert.org/america.htm

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Thank You

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Stitch and Bitch: Not Your Granny’s Sewing Circle

I remember Stitch & Bitch groups as a glorious invention of the late ’80s. Another bastard child of necessity and creativity spawned by the Queer Community and left on the world’s doorstep; a brilliant byproduct of the AIDS pandemic, a sort of fairytale princess able to spin gold from shit: “Take that, Reaganstiltskin!” Read more by G.L. Morrison

[box] “Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it.” — Oscar Wilde[/box]

[box type="bio"] G.L. Morrison

G.L. Morrison is a professional writer with a fistful of awards for publishing a buttload of poetry, literary fiction and erotica.

Polysyllabic polyamorist, she’s seldom met a word she didn’t want to fuck (or fuck with) and is delighted to have peppered New English with such savory additions as “heteroflexible” and “flirting with intent”.

When she’s not being battered by the neverending Great American Novel, Morrison lectures, teaches and holds court on sex-positivity, fat-love, writing and polyamory with maddening irregularity.

Her current distraction/creation is BeMuse, www.bemuse-arts.com, a series of art shows featuring a cross-pollination of literary and visual arts.[/box]

[box]Support #WAD2011! @EdenFantasys is donating $1 to @ASCNYC for every retweet! Support ASC and 20 years of positive change![/box]

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World AIDS Day: HNSTM Asks…

What is the Christian church doing about AIDS?

I want to start out by stating that “World Aids Day” is totally new to me. I’m not sure how long it has been around, but I am thankful that Eden Cafe brought it to my attention.

As a conservative Christian in a small town, AIDS is not something I have ever had to deal with. Because of this, I’ve never really thought about it and how it can affect the lives of others. I knew that it affected adults and children, and that it was deadly, and people were often ostracized once they received a diagnosis of AIDS. I also knew of the term, “AIDS Cocktail” to describe the combination of medications that victims had to take.

That was the extent of my knowledge about AIDS and the whole AIDS epidemic. Because it didn’t touch me or my life or those around me, I never thought about it.

After reading about what EdenFantasys and Eden Cafe is doing this year, I decided to go on google and find out about the “church” (in general – not a specific denomination) and AIDS, to see what is being done. I wasn’t sure if I would find anything worth writing about – but it was worth a try.

I immediately disregarded some of the first few links that came up. They were judgmental and talked more about the gay lifestyle and how wrong it was or how it caused AIDS. I was wondering if I would find anything positive to share about.

It took me a bit, but I did find a few links that interested me. The organization I’m about to share about intrigued me the most. I think one of the reasons that I found it so fascinating was because it involved breast milk that was banked by healthy mothers to help provide care for babies with AIDS. Many times these babies are orphaned when their parents die of AIDS, and they are taken into a transitional home, which houses up to six babies at a time while looking for adoptive parents for the infants.

The organization’s name is iThemba Lethu, which means ‘I have a destiny’. Their vision is to restore the destiny to babies and young people whose futures are at risk of being negatively impacted by the affects of HIV/AIDS.

There are two transitional homes available for the infants, and they are housed there until placed with suitable homes, which can be foster homes, an adoptive home, or with an extended family member. Children from birth to three years old are taken into this program.

The program actually has four main emphases and they are:

  • Running the two transition homes for babies that are orphaned or abandoned due to HIV/AIDS.
  • Screening and training prospective parents.
  • Assist in the placing of children.
  • Oversee the running of the breastmilk bank.

I think that the breastmilk bank fascinated me the most, because it is something I would never have considered, even though I know breastmilk is supposed to be healthier than formula. According to their website, there are about 20 mothers who are donating about 250 ml of breastmilk per day. They receive training in how to express and store the milk, and are given a pump and bottles and assigned a donor number. The milk is frozen by the donors at the end of each day and then collected by the staff of the bank. At the bank, the breastmilk is stored and pasteurized as needed, and whatever is not used by the transitional homes is provided to other HIV/AIDS orphanages and babies’ homes.

One of the reasons that I admire this organization and am thinking about possibly donating money (since I can’t donate breast milk) is because of the fact that they are able to give babies more care and one on one attention than a larger institution is able to provide. I believe this is important for the future emotional health of the children.

In the 2009 report, the organization shares that during the year, five babies were brought into their program and three were adopted shortly afterwards. They helped facilitate the adoption of eight babies during the year, and there were three babies that were currently in the process of being adopted. In addition, there were five children who did not currently have any adoption proceedings going on, and there was an update on each one, and how they were doing.

If you are looking for a way to fight AIDS and want to do it in a way where you are touching lives personally, this may be an organization to support. You can find out more about them at the link below:

http://www.ithembalethu.org.za/

 [box]Support #WAD2011! @EdenFantasys is donating $1 to @ASCNYC for every retweet! Support ASC and 20 years of positive change![/box]

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Winged Victory: Opening Minds and Hearts with the Power of Art

In 1993, the same year that Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia broke down barriers surrounding AIDS and an HBO film based on Randy Schilts’ And The Band Played On deconstructed the beginnings of the epidemic, Tony Kushner’s seminal heightened-reality play began making waves.

Angels In America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes is, as the name suggests, a work that covers a vast amount of territory. Set mainly in ’80s New York, Angels tackled AIDS, homosexuality, Mormonism, humor, supernaturalism, death, and the issues both inside and outside the closet.

Read more by Kal Cobalt

[box type="bio"] Kal Cobalt

I love robots, social media, words in all their many methods, music, reality TV, great food whether haute or pedestrian, and my lovers — both physical and non-corporeal (my muse never lets me forget she’s my primary partner). More KC madness at www.kalcobalt.com![/box]

[box]Support #WAD2011! @EdenFantasys is donating $1 to @ASCNYC for every retweet! Support ASC and 20 years of positive change![/box]

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World AIDS Day: Educate Yourself

I grew up in South Florida, and starting in middle school, students were offered, but not required to participate in, a week of learning about sexual health. That was when I first encountered her. I don’t remember her name, and I vaguely remember her face. What I do remember, is her story.

She was young, a teenager, when she was diagnosed with AIDs. It wasn’t HIV, it was full-blown AIDs. She received this diagnosis in the late 80’s, early 90’s, when it was still a taboo subject. The only people who contracted AIDs, according to the media, were prostitutes and gay people. The men, yes, men, who had brutally raped her, were spending their lives behind bars, she said. But that didn’t mean she wasn’t walking around without the scars from the abuse. She not only had to recover from the mental trauma, but she had to battle a physical illness, everyday. She was lucky though. Her children both tested negative.

After hearing her story, I have dutifully made sure to get tested periodically. Not many people are willing to subject themselves to an STD screening, though. It is believed, at least where I am from, that if you need to get tested, you must be extremely promiscuous, and you are frowned upon.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that almost 1.2 people living in the United States are living with HIV infection, or AIDS. Twenty one percent of the Americans living with HIV, or AIDS right now, are unaware they are infected. In 2009, it is estimated that 42,000 people were diagnosed with HIV infection, in 40 of the 50 states. Those are some scary numbers.

Are we ready for scarier numbers? Let’s move on to geography, race, and sexuality.

In 2007, of the estimated 35,962 new AIDS diagnoses, 46% were in the south. Florida is third in cumulative AIDs diagnoses, as of 2009.

In 2009, African Americans represented approximately 44% of new HIV infection diagnoses. Latinos represented about 20%.

Homosexual men accounted for about 61%.

I’m not here to freak you out. Well, I sort of am.

I’m really here to remind everyone to do their research! Getting tested doesn’t take long, at all, and Planned Parenthood will do it for a discounted price. If you don’t know if there is a Planned Parenthood around, check out their website. They will tell you where their closest locations are, and what services they provide, although I have not found one that doesn’t offer STD screening. For college students, most universities offer health services, including STD screening, for real cheap.

What is the harm in knowing for sure? For an hour of your time, you could potentially save lives, including your own.

And always remember to practice safe sex! Use a condom. Don’t be pressured to not use one, by anyone. Anyone who refuses to wear a condom, or let you wear a condom, isn’t worth your time. Be prepared! Guys, keep one on hand, and girls, tuck one in your purse. It’s 2011, almost 2012. We should all be educated, and ready, at a moment’s notice.

For more information, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, and Planned Parenthood’s website.

[box]Support #WAD2011! @EdenFantasys is donating $1 to @ASCNYC for every retweet! Support ASC and 20 years of positive change![/box]

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Keith Haring: Pop-culture Prince, Art World Antihero, Enduring Activist

[box]It’s been 20 years since artist provacatuer Keith Haring passed away; a pioneer for AIDS activism, who himself succumbed to the disease. The imagery he left behind is a catalog of both innocent delight and quirky, carnal wit. The world was his canvas: From the sidewalks of New York City to the human body, nothing was safe and everything was sacred.

Read more by Cherry Trifle[/box]

 

[box type="bio"]Cherry Trifle

I entered the realm of professional adult scribblings at age 19 and despite continued success in many other genres, the subject of sex kept knocking on my door. Now I just leave the key under the mat.[/box]

[box]Support #WAD2011! @EdenFantasys is donating $1 to @ASCNYC for every retweet! Support ASC and 20 years of positive change![/box]

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World AIDS Day: My Brother

A few months ago my brother went into cardiac arrest. He’s only 44 years old.

As it happens, an electronic box that was placed in his back went on the brink. The box uses electric shocks to help control the pain he suffers from falling off a roof and injuring his spine.

What does this have to do with World’s AIDS Day 2011, right? I’m getting there. When this happened, my brother was out of state and they couldn’t do the surgery because it was too dangerous. After he returned home, his regular doctor scheduled blood work for him and scheduled a time for his surgery. It was scheduled fairly quickly, since it became a life or death situation. After the blood work came back from the laboratory, he received a phone call and notice that his surgery date had been cancelled.

Now, a little history. My brother and I have pretty much hated one another since I was five, and he was 10 shooting my Barbie dolls with his BB gun. Our relationship only got worse over time. One might think ‘oh poor him,’ with the spine injury, until you understand that he was drunk and high on who knows what, dancing on top of someone’s third story roof when he fell. Through the years, he became a worthless excuse of human life. He has endured a life full of drugs, assault & battery, stealing, in and out of jail; he’s just the bottom of the barrel, laughing at any and all responsibilities. Being a victim of his drugged abuse, I have always had little to no sympathy for him. In fact, if it wasn’t for the love of my mother, I wouldn’t care if he was suddenly wiped off the face of the Earth.

His injury has rendered him fairly harmless, so when visiting my mother I tend to ignore his very existence. (Yes, he’s 44 years old, still living with mommy, and that has nothing to do with his injury). So this brings us to his blood work. He mentioned they would have to reschedule the surgery due to something, but never told anyone what that was about. So nothing more was said about it, and life continued as normal.

One day while my children and I were visiting, he brought out this baby squirrel that had run into his open window. He had made it a pet and was showing it to my kids. It got scared and bit him. Blood went flying and my children were in the midst of it all. My brother just let it go, and it ran back to its bed and hid. He wrapped his shirt around his hand and went back to his room. My kids didn’t get any blood on them, and once they realized their idiot uncle was fine they were laughing about it.

Right after that, my mother got injured and had to move in with me for a couple of weeks. I went back to her house to pick up her clothes, blood pressure meds, and some books. When I got her meds I came across my brother’s meds. I wasn’t really trying to be nosy, but there were so many of them. I flat out asked him about what could be wrong with him. He went all around the subject but admitted to nothing. Whether he admits to it or pretends it doesn’t exist, the meds were what they were, and from what I knew they were for treating HIV.

Why wouldn’t he tell me? I realize we don’t really like one another, but in all seriousness it isn’t something that shouldn’t be shared with family. He may be in denial or somehow ashamed, but these are my children that he was bleeding around. I don’t even know how to cope with that. Had he said ‘oh stay back’ or anything at all, I’d have had more respect for him, but then he has never cared about anyone but himself. I really tried to understand him, but I don’t know enough about HIV or AIDS to form any conclusions. At this point, I don’t even know 100% that is what is wrong with him. All I was going by is what the medications said on the visible label and extremely limited medical knowledge. I may be nosy, but I’m not so much that I would dig into his stuff for the answer.

I asked my mom about it because I wanted to be sure before I jumped to conclusions. She just said he has some virus affecting his system but couldn’t remember the name of it. So I asked her if it was Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and she said yeah that was it.

So now the brother that I have spent a life time hating is on borrowed time, and from what I do know, it won’t end well. I always figured I’d get a call in the middle of the night saying he died in a car crash or overdosed in some back room. The idea of him suffering from a disease never even entered the thought process. All the hate and pain he personally put me through seems to have been found by karma. Maybe for some, it may seem odd that I can’t find any enjoyment in knowing he will go through this alone. But I guess malice isn’t within me.

So what is there to do? Forgiveness doesn’t come easy, and more hate was compounded when he could have endangered my children. I don’t care what kind of denial he is in. These are my children. I haven’t allowed my children to go there since I found out. I know it’s partially fear and ignorance in what I don’t know about HIV, but that’s not all of it. Truth is, I don’t trust him to do what is right to ensure they are safe. I’m left with emotions I can’t identify and some I can’t justify.

I care that my mother will end up being the only one to deal with him. I also worry what will happen if she simply can’t at some point. I know I would never take on that responsibility myself. I don’t even know at what point and time during this disease he would need help or caring for. I don’t know anything about care, concerns, life expectancy, or even the basics of what is safe and not safe for anyone dealing with a family member who has HIV or AIDS. My own ignorance on the topic scares me.

Despite my lack of feeling for my brother, I still need answers. I need to learn and understand what HIV is, and how it affects a person. I may never be able to deal with my brother, and that is entirely his own fault, but I won’t be in a situation where it will be fear that determines what I do for him, for my children, and for a future that cannot be predicted. So 2011 marks my first World AIDS Day that I truly care. This will be my time to educate myself and my family on this terrible disease.

World AIDS Day 2011 has personal meaning now, as it is no longer a disease other people have to deal with. It has hit close to home. Now I’m left wondering why it took such a tragedy for me as an individual to take the necessary steps and learn about this deadly virus. Sure we all hear about it. Some of us may even know of someone who has it. But there are those who live it, and those that care for others suffering from this disease. Don’t wait for it to come close before you understand it. Take a stand and join me on World AIDS Day 2011 to educate ourselves and to help change our future.

[box]Support #WAD2011! @EdenFantasys is donating $1 to @ASCNYC for every retweet! Support ASC and 20 years of positive change![/box]

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World AIDS Day: Winterseve Wants You …

to be Aware

First of all, AIDS is a scary disease. When you hear it, the first thing you will think of is different from what anyone else will think when they first hear it. I think of my aunt. She was delivering a baby for a woman who was AIDS positive. This lady was in so much pain, and on so many drugs before her labor, that she grabbed a needle from nearby and stabbed my aunt. The needle had been used to draw blood from the woman minutes before. Every six months since then she had to be tested for HIV.

AIDS and HIV can be very scary. Back when I was in school they didn’t mention it much, aside from the fact that it would kill you, was from sex, and that it was a virus. They mentioned not sharing needles, wearing condoms, and not touching blood from anyone else. Later, in college, I learned the history, pathology, and treatment for the disease. I also learned that most deaths from AIDs are caused by secondary opportunistic diseases that attack the person and cause their body to ultimately shut down. Coming in to that knowledge gave me the kick I needed. I now try to help people in everyday life to learn about HIV/AIDS and encourage them to not look down on someone if they think or know another person has it. Sadly, several babies are born each year with HIV. Other people acquire the disease and don’t know they have it. They are then able to pass it on in the right circumstances.

In romanticized sex within movies, strangers have sex with strangers almost anywhere. First dates lead to sex, as well, in movies, but there is never any talk of AIDS, HIV, or other STIs; nor do they discuss risks and protected. This does not help support awareness or prevention.

I have been tested before because a lover was promiscuous, and he had no knowledge of his lover’s history/condition. We had sex before I found out about his discretion. I was terrified, knowing nothing, and went to the doctors. I was tested and found out he had passed something on to me, but luckily I was not HIV positive. Later, I found out the girl he slept with wasn’t positive either, but that scare alone was enough to put me on high alert for life. Those days spent waiting to hear the results were some of the scariest to live through…the uncertainty was painful. I spent hours going over scenarios of how to tell people, if I’d have to talk to my boss, what to tell my other doctors, how to act if I cut myself around someone else. It was endless in my head. I am now in a monogamous relationship, and before my husband and I were committed to one another, and checked out health wise by doctors, we always used condoms and reported on other lovers. Communication and protection during sex is the key. I don’t think about it too much in the bedroom anymore. My husband and I are “clean” and are only having contact with one another. When we do decide to open our bed to another person there will be lots of talking and preventative measures taken, just in case.

Thankfully, there are programs out there that support those with HIV and AIDS. There are support groups and groups for loved ones living with those people suffering from the disease. I just wish people wouldn’t shy away from the topic so much. We need to get loud, get out, get helping, and work toward curing and preventing this fatal disease. Take the time to look it up. Take the time to learn. Take the time to protect yourself and help others.

[box]Support #WAD2011! @EdenFantasys is donating $1 to @ASCNYC for every retweet! Support ASC and 20 years of positive change![/box]

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In the Blood: AIDS and the Arts, Part 2

Yesterday, we explored expressions of artistic imagery touched firsthand or via inspiration by HIV/AIDS. Today, a poet and songstress felled by this deadly killer, whose voices have become anthem to a landscape of both hope and loss. Read more by G.L. Morrison

[box] “Do I speak now only about issues of sexuality or do I look at the issues that go hand in hand with being a black gay man: racism, economic injustice, crime rates in the communities. How do I make my work speak to and make those connections?”—Essex Hemphill [/box]

[box type="bio"] G.L. Morrison

G.L. Morrison is a professional writer with a fistful of awards for publishing a buttload of poetry, literary fiction and erotica.

Polysyllabic polyamorist, she’s seldom met a word she didn’t want to fuck (or fuck with) and is delighted to have peppered New English with such savory additions as “heteroflexible” and “flirting with intent”.

When she’s not being battered by the neverending Great American Novel, Morrison lectures, teaches and holds court on sex-positivity, fat-love, writing and polyamory with maddening irregularity.

Her current distraction/creation is BeMuse, www.bemuse-arts.com, a series of art shows featuring a cross-pollination of literary and visual arts.[/box]

[box]Support #WAD2011! @EdenFantasys is donating $1 to @ASCNYC for every retweet! Support ASC and 20 years of positive change![/box]

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