Friday, 10 September 2010

HIV+ Women are Evil Criminals

 *draft post - will firm it up when I have time
For my sins I use Twitter. And increasingly I find I am twittering/tweeting back to those who seem to think that anyone with HIV, especially women with HIV, are criminals and deserve to suffer and be punished for having HIV?

  • And that it is often seen as  fair game online and in Twitter  to treat any women even remotely suspected of being HIV ...... as potential trash!
  • (and that all those who sadly do  have HIV as proven trash )
  • That outing their HIV Poz status - or anyone HIV+ - even when it may or may not be so -  is totally  fine?
  • And that it is anyone's business to disclose another's HIV status??

And if a that a woman is famous in some way then it is always totally fine to expose their perceived status on Twitter or anywhere online  - even if you are totally wrong and they do not in fact have HIV!

And that it is totally fine to regard all  women HIV Positive as evil?

So often in Twitter, and elsewhere online, we are called whores, hoe's etc 
( in America the very horrible word they seem to use for this is Hoe's !!) 

Often we with HIVare portrayed as potential murderers and basically criminals!
I was asked by a friend why this may be so as she said........

'Why do people hate people with HIV? They should be showing compassion not hatred. I don't get it?'

A very big and very valid question - as I have HIV and do not get it either or at all!

And since the very first day of my diagnosis I was made aware of this attitude. Even though my diagnosis was so very 'out of the blue' and so very unexpected, I have been confronted with this attitude right from the very start and have been trying to get my head round it ever since diagnosed HIV+. 

So to avoid re- inventing the wheel below are some of my thoughts so far on this I wrote back to her.
This is a very big and complicated question. 

One that I am exploring and have no firm answers as yet. But I do know that this attitude exists and big time and worldwide.

Increasingly  there are those in my very short experience, that are very angry with all those that live with HIV. It is is in my opinion driven by personal fear  - of HIV - Why?
To be fair the prospect of getting HIV is so VERY scary! And rightly so! As basiclaly it is scary and a terrible thing to have to face.

More than even those that know us  that do have HIV really seem to understand .
But we did not want it either - blame does not have a space here ?

Sex and Death

My view is that sex and illness taps in to humanities deepest needs coupled with our most profound fears?

So sex linked with illness and possible death is a so VERY powerful of combination's
Maybe one of the most powerful combination humans and most species on this earth can face?

So HIV being mainly? sexually transmitted,  so neatly combines the two?  Just my very humble opinion!
  • Sex being one of the hugest of  human drives ( drives of any social species is based on the drives to have intimacy and to to reproduce) so HIV or can be also linked to many's biggest fears and - at times - phobias.
  • Sex is a very basic drives of all human motivations - therefore sex linked with a a potentially fatal illness is the biggest driver of irrational fear, phobia, attitudes you will ever care to find.
But that this combination has may have led to the current increasing, ground led, 'movement' to criminalize those with HIV - to regard them - all with HIV -  as potential criminals - is so very shocking to me.
Don't people think for themselves - have their own opinions?

I have been told, in person, by many African women and corresponded about this on the web ( but I have never been there but have to accept what they say That this appalling attitude has existed in places in Africa for some years since, basically since HIV was understood there as to be a i.e STI, sexually transmitted?

And at first mostly a view in  African and a few other communities worldwide where HIV among heterosexual people was more prevalent -
and also there was concurrently a  fear - worldwide sadly -  of gay men as an HIV risk to all i.e heterosexuals i.e if they crossed 'boundaries' and had sex with those who were not predominantly gay?  But this was not as much seen as a fear to the heterosexual community in the beginning ? For many years in US.UK, Europe etc  HIV was seen as only a gay issue or the problem of those who used intravenous drugs, sex workers etc

  •   But then, from my research into this ( sure I may not come over as particularly educated but believe me I am and I have researched this extensively!!)
 The view that hetero people with HIV are a threat and deserve to be criminalized and women marginally more than men, started to change. It seems it was always a view of some but as HIV became not ' just' something that most thought only to exist in Africa among hetero people and in gays or drug users otherwise this view started to change.

This view is now  more widespread and gained credibility.

Often at first, it seems to me  from my research to be mostly a view only a spoken attitude among heterosexual black Americans mostly towards women that may - or in fact may not have had have  - HIV. 

But from what I can see it has now spread worldwide. 
It is even  happening here in the UK among black & white heterosexuals and everywhere in the world now.

I started first to hear of this attitude  almost straight away when I was first diagnosed and even from those down here in my very rural area. 

When first diagnosed i went to online groups to learn ow it was to live with HIV and to cop.e

To start with I was asked a few times both locally and online why did I not take Barry to court for giving me HIV - the logic was even while he may not have known he was HIV he was a seaman & did know he had been unfaithful and did not tell me i.e for grievous bodily harm.

Then I met someone a white male at my local HIV charity who was in the process of taking the partner to court who he got HIV from even though she did not know she had it ( he also used language like whore, evil, dangerous, murderer etc towards her too )

Then I started to hear from women through Poz peoples forums worldwide who had been verbally or physically abused for trying to negotiate safer sex because they were HIV positive - and this was before they even had sex with that person , they were just trying to be honest and tell them first.

Then I heard from others who their partner had blamed them and been verbally and sometimes physically abusive when they found out they both had HIV.

Yet some of them told me - that like me - they have never been unfaithful - others told me that they had but their partners had too?? others that they did not knwo they were HIV positive, others that they have no idea who became HIV positive first ( and of course what does this matter anyway??)

 But whatever the situation their male partners blamed them and at times beat them up!!

But of course I do not care who got HIV first - that is not the point?
Everyone with HIV got HIV from someone? Someone who equally does not want it, there is no room for blame for me in the fight against HIV.

At first I thought this was a minority opinion but sadly then gradually I realized how widespread this attitude is, and vowed to try to do my best to combat this very dangerous development toward attitudes to those with HIV

My View



I have tragically met several of those online i.e forums, FaceBook etc who tried to prosecute their partners for 'giving' them HIV. A hiding to absolutely nowhere except their own trauma and grief in my opinion.

One his partner of many years even though he had no proof she knew of her infection, and she was infected by someone else before she met him

So while this attitude does seem to have started at 'ground level 'it is increasingly affecting laws and policy higher up and this has led to an increasing number of prosecutions or attempted prosecutions world wide for passing or attempting to pass HIV on.
Those with this attitude regard those with HIV+ -even if it is their long term partner who they said before HIV they loved - as a risk, dangerous and dirty, even evil.

Often it is sadly for me as a lifelong feminist - women that are most regarded like this, men more often seen as victims by both genders and women with HIV as 'whores'.

You would have though, from what I have said,  that it would be mostly men with this attitude? and men who do not feel it is their responsibility to protect themselves and use condoms etc?
But in fact - more worryingly to me -  many with this attitude towards women with HIV, are women!? more are women in fact.

The fear that drives this attitude in women  seems to be the fear that 'their' men may have sex with another come and back to them and infect them. 

And that they the attitude in this is to seem to regard all women with HIV as predatory sexually?

Yes this happens that your partner has sex with another and gives you HIV; very sadly for me, it happened to me - but it is blame is what is evil not the woman or person we got HIV from! Not those our men/women/partners may have had sex with to get HIV. We all suffer equally and HIV is a VIRUS!

BUT woman with this hate attitude towards other women who have HIV rarely  blame their man?

( not that I at all  think blame is appropriate but ......I have been there.....a HIV diagnosis for many leads to angr as a first base..... so if your man is unfaithful and gives you HIV yes!!! you will be initially at least very angry as was I.  This is our prerogative to hold anger and deal and process it as we need to  -
But to blame, this is very different -(But this anger in some can lead to blame.)

I also find  harder to understand or accept that  it leads to many women who are not in this position i.e they do not have HIV. Fearing it and instead of compassion and making sure they are safe themselves, they blame women in general who have HIV for all HIV!! 

This is so very HARD for me to understand on on level - but on another I understand  that they fear they are at risk

They seem to blame the women their men could potentially have sex with or do, even when it has not happened to them and may not ever - what is this about!!.

The attitude/opinion seems to be 'Men will be Men, can you blame them, its their instinct' - rubbish is what I say?

We are all responsible for our own sexual activity and to protect ourselves.
And at the total  risk of being controversial ,in my 57 years of life,  I do no think that women's sexual drives are that less urgent than mens??

But the attitude is generally .........

That the women whose  'men'  may be 'tempted' by and have sex with - who just 'may' have HIV -  are potentially evil and killers as they may have HIV, and definitely evil and killers if they do have HIV

This has already led to an increasing level of violence by men towards HIV women, especially in America but it is happening here too and in Africa, where it has always happened.

  • This is another reason why instead of leading a quiet life as a HIV+ older woman - as I so could as I personally am not under threat from this - I have joined Pozfem UK a leading positive woman's activist group 
  • And do my best to challenge such attitudes everywhere I find them - online or in person - and I see both!

The fear that seems to be driving the increase of this this worrying attitude towards is those with HIV+

Is the fear of getting HIV. 

And that those with HIV will sleep around and will infect you ( or your partner/s and so you) and as HIV is seen as a potential killer - as it stall is if you can not get the meds but not if you can.

-that these nameless HIV+ people/often women, will potentially even 'murder' you, by infecting you or your partner?

And that worse.......... hetero people with HIV, especially women, WANT AND LIVE to infect their sexual partners with HIV and do it deliberately in most if not all cases - So we are seen as evil and deserving of any suffering we get and deserving of any public insult, our status being outed online - on twitter etc

  • ( I am not talking about attitudes as they affect gay people here. I am not AT ALL minimizing what gay people are and have always gone though regarding HIV, and I am in solidarity with all gay men especially those with HIV. Gay men have always been regarded by some/many as a risk due to HIV and for many other reasons
  • But I am talking here specifically about attitudes that are now permeating the heterosexual community re HIV/AIDs even in Britain)

This attitude of blame is completely in disregard of the fact that it is everyone's responsibility to protect yourself from HIV with ALL partners, new or old. As you can not EVER be certain of their status unless you have gone to a regular and  joint HIV test with them ( something being married to a seaman I wish now I had done regularly)

But that protecting yourself against the HIV virus is always a joint responsibility even if you both think? you are HIV neg

And in total disregard that most people, who know they have  HIV, do not want to infect anyone else!

Yes some even if they know do not always tell their sexual partners straight away and for many very sound reasons that it is hard to fully appreciate unless you have HIV yourself- so this can happen for many reasons - that can not tell their partners they are HIV+-

But this does not mean you put anyone one else at risk ?? If you know it is so VERY easy to avoid risk to anyone else  including sexual partners!

(  there are many reasons why some do not feel able to disclose, especially straight away, especially women and one of them is this increasing abuse & violence worldwide towards HIV+ women) 

Most people who know they have HIV take great care not to infect their sexual partners by insisting - if they can - on safer sex or condoms

  • BUT ....and very sadly if the truth is told many women who have HIV who are not lucky enough like me to have a long term partner just put their sexual, and consequentially their needs for intimacy, on hold. 
  • Since I have had HIV I have met many women with HIV I have met many women among them with HIV who have not had sex or any kind of intimate relationship for many years with anyone, often since the day of their diagnosis.

It also disregards that the majority of those that pass HIV on are, like my husband , those that do not, as yet, the time they passed it on!, know they have HIV!.

So everyone needs to protect themselves as if all they have sex with are HIV, or if they do not it is equally their responsibility if they get HIV, as it was mine.
All of us with HIV are innocent.

HIV - It is a virus not a crime!

I will fight this horrendous attitude towards HIV till my own death - which with drugs I hope will be way into my 70s - and criminalization of those with HIV.
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