Wednesday, November 28

Would you date someone...

with HIV?

That's more of a rhetorical question than something I'm asking readers (although as always, comments are welcome). It's something I had to think about long and hard as I started wading through my WIP (currently at 110,000 words and almost ready to submit, ONLY six months late!) This book has turned into an incredibly emotional piece for me; I only hope my (very patient) publisher likes it as much as I do.

I'm a child of the 80's--as in, I was a teenager during the 1980's, I graduated from high school in 1987. I lived a fairly sheltered life as a kid, raised by a fairly sheltered and conservative grandmother. So I hadn't ever heard of GRID, but sometime when I was in high school, AIDS became front page news. Of course back then it was still considered a "gay issue" by a lot of (ignorant) people (some willfully ignorant, some honestly so). I don't remember them talking about it much in Health class, although to be honest, I'm glad they talked about what was the more commonly called STDs (not STIs) and contraception at all.

I remember watching An Early Frost in 1985 and understanding it...sort of. I didn't understand what exactly AIDS was or where it had come from (no one really did) How had it become such an epidemic and why couldn't "they" (scientists and doctors) do something about it?

While we have the answers to a couple of those questions, I know the others are things we're all still asking ourselves.

And that leads back to the opening question. I'll admit it's one I never thought about myself; maybe I should have, I was single for a pretty long time, and intermittently in between marriages, but maybe it's one of those things most people don't think about until they're confronted with it. That's what happens to Pasha, one of the main characters in my book Hanging by the Moment. (Yes, I was listening to Lifehouse when I came up with that title). Like me, he's bumbling through life (although he's only 25--because the only "age crisis" I ever had was just before my 25th birthday), and meets this amazing guy. Daniel is...well, nobody's perfect, but Daniel is sweet, sexy, funny, and he looks at Pasha like one else in the room is worth paying attention to. You know that look.

They have in incredible first date and talk every day for a week. And then Daniel has to come clean: he has HIV.

I didn't set out to write a story about someone with HIV--I'm woefully unqualified. But there I was writing away and my characters hijacked the story on me. And there I was suddenly writing a serious piece about something I'd never thought about myself. What would Pasha say? What would he do? What would *I* do?

So I went online and I Googled the question; I also posted it myself on Yahoo Answers.

I've got to be honest, some of the answers made me almost physically ill. I'm not sharing some of them here to embarrass anybody (but I figure if you type it on a public forum, it IS fair game), and the best way to illustrate the heartbreaking ignorance of the situation is to let these answers speak for themselves:

Question (asked by someone else)
Would you ever consider dating someone who was HIV positive?? I met someone 6 months ago who I fell for the moment we met. We went on a few dates, had a great time, then he told me that he was HIV positive. I told him that i could not get into a relationship with him because of his situation.

Did i do the right thing?? I still really have feelings for him and i'm wondering if i made a mistake by turning him away. Serious answers only.


"Best" Answer:
hell no girl snap out of it, its your life your probley young 
and you have your whole life ahead of you. dont do it.
break it off fast and clean. you will get over him fast there is 
plenty of fish in the sea so protect yourself and dont be shy 
and dont feel guilty about saying no and dumping him.


Here's another answer to the very same post:

RUN TO THE HILLS, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! 

Here's another answer to the question "would you date someone with HIV?":

Personally, I could never do it, as I plan on entering the health-care field and that would be a major risk to myself, not to mention my patients!!!

I don't think I would want a health care "professional" with so little understanding of HIV. I hope that person has changed their mind after becoming more informed. 

Here are a few more:

uhhhh isn't it at least somewhat likely to get hiv from dating someone with HIV even if u use protection? Why take the risk?

thats really sad for people who do have those illnesses, but the fact is no. its a health risk. i would be there friend ,but no intament reaction. people with aids/hiv should date each other.

I don't know, would you WANT a friend who felt that way? I don't think I would. Kinda like when I had a "friend" who didn't date black girls (but could be their friend). It just felt too much like racism to me; we didn't stay friends for long. I also can't be too friendly with anyone who is transphobic or homophobic. It just doesn't jive. (And yes, I have said before that I tend not to date too far outside my religion, and it's true, I don't. But I never turned anyone down flat because of their religion, I just made sure he or she went into it knowing what MY views are. If we can agree to disagree, I'm cool with however you worship...as long as we share core ethical values when it comes to tolerance and education). Anyway, moving right along....some more answers that made me alternately want to scream and cry:

nope sorry i could not do it i am not going to lose my life over someone elses mistakes. If i had it I would have to be happy alone......because why would you want anyone to suffer they way you do!!!

If I was dying of cancer with 2yrs to live..sure.

Thats like asking would you date someone with a bomb strapped to their body, hell no.

there are much quicker ways to commit suicide.

absolutely not!! Relationships are difficult enough without adding the "death by sex" equasion into it.


Here's a doozy: 

If she was a very beautiful woman I would. If other women saw me with her they would think I must be someone really special, if I was able to get her, and maybe I could get one of these other women to date me.  I'd date her, I would'nt touch her.

I kinda wish I was making at least that last one up.

That last bunch are from a het. dating site. There were a couple of responses to the question that were so inflammatory I was seeing red and really wished I could put my boot up someone's butt (that last little weasel just needs a good smack).

But straight people don't have the market cornered on ignorance or stupidity, there were plenty of responses on gay dating sites that made my heart hurt just as badly. AND there were some incredible uplifting stories of great HIV+ guys and mixed status (or serodiscordant) relationships that were strong and healthy (in every sense of the word) that just made me smile and inspired me to keep writing about Pasha and Daniel.

It also made me sit down and think about what my own answer would be, if I weren't married/in a happy stable relationship (despite my occasional urge to kill him) would I date someone who was HIV + ?  It wouldn't be easy. I do know how you can (and can't) contract the disease, but that wouldn't stop me from being uneasy--but I also know me. I know my heart.

If I could be someone's friend, if I could love that person unconditionally as a friend, if I could fall in love with them, how could I possibly allow three (albeit scary) little letters stop me from building a life with that person? Of course I would fly into a panic at every cold, but I would do my best not to let it show. Of course I would be afraid that I would outlive my partner...but then again, I could get hit by a bus crossing the street tomorrow. No one knows what the future holds. I could get sick myself with some awful condition...heart disease runs in my family. Would I want somebody saying to me "I can't love you because you might die of heart disease?" Yes, it's a might where as HIV is more of a certainty, but in reality the only thing that is truly uncertain is how long any of us has on this planet.

We don't (well, we DO) need a vaccine against HIV, so much as we need a vaccine against ignorance--and to quote a great man, "The vaccine against ignorance is education." (Thank you, Edward James Olmos!)

Here's a great place to start getting educated:
The Body.Com

After reading post after post of ignorant, hurtful, and sometimes down right HATEFUL statements, I was more determined than ever to learn more and to write the best damned novel I could.



More information:
World AIDS Day 
(Saturday Dec. 1, 2012)
HIV/AIDS timeline
(basic answers that SHOULD 
be common knowledge by now
(there's a long way to go
but the news is better than it's ever been)



This time of year, I start thinking of warm foods. Hearty meals. Thick soup. Rich sauce. Okay, not so good for the waistline, but if you don't over indulge it's okay once in a while!


This recipe is actually a combination of two dishes and one of my favorite meals:
Greens in peanut sauce and Chicken in peanut sauce

Ingredients: 

2 chicken breasts (boneless skinless) – although any cut of chicken will work

Approximately 8-10 oz. of your favorite greens (kale, collard greens, mustard greens, even spinach)—this is one of those places where I eyeball it a little. If you're a bunch rather than a bag, one bunch is probably about right. (Basically, you can add as much or as little as you like, we usually end up using a little over 2/3 of a 16 oz bag.)

1 or 2 small hot peppers (habanero, scotch bonnet, etc.) OR ¼ teaspoon cayenne or other powdered/dry hot pepper… remember if you like it spicy, you can always kick it up a notch, but you can’t take the peppers out once they’re in!

1 clove of garlic, minced (and yes, you can use powdered if you like, it really won't affect the taste)--and again, you can adjust the garlic to taste

2  14.5 oz cans of chunked tomatoes (I usually use the ones w/ onion and garlic)—you’ll be using the juice and all.


1 small onion, sautéed—if you’re not using the tomatoes w/ onion in, you’ll want to make that two; I usually use Spanish onions for this one

1 1/2 cups peanut butter; I usually use creamy, but there’s no rule against chunky

Oil for sautéing—peanut oil would be perfect, sesame also has a great flavor, and of course olive oil is the old standby

Optional: green onions (slivered) and crushed peanuts to garnish

Optional: four or five slices crispy bacon, chopped OR bacon salt

Method

This is my method; I do as much in one pan as humanly possible. Warning, you WILL need a big skillet. If you don’t have a big skillet, you may need to do the chicken part and then the sauce and greens part. And of course if you wanted to make it really pretty, you might want to sauté the chicken breasts, set them aside, make the sauce and greens, put that on a platter, top with the breasts and then garnish for a lovely presentation that will knock your guests socks off…but if it’s just you and your cat, nobody needs to be impressed! Likewise if it’s just you and Fluffy, you can cut the recipe in half  ;-)  (By the way, don’t actually feed anything with onions in it to Fluffy or Fido! Onions are bad for our four footed children. Something about the alum).

Dice your raw onion and sauté on low heat until the translucent; add in the diced hot pepper and garlic.

I like to cut up the chicken for this one into large bite sized pieces (so really two bite pieces) and add it to the same pan and cook until done (chicken will be a nice golden brown)

Add tomato and juice and then slowly stir in the peanut butter

While this comes back up to temperature (and all the flavors get a good chance to marry), give the greens a rough chop and add them to the pan and cook on very low heat until the greens are soft. (10-20 minutes, depending on what kind of greens you're using). 

Give it a good stir, garnish with green onions, bacon, and nuts as desired and serve.



And above all, don't forget the important stuff about today's blog.


Unfortunately, we do not yet yet have a cure or 
a vaccine against HIV.

But we do have a vaccine against ignorance.
Education. 

HIV is a scary word
but it's not a dirty word.

Let's end the stigma together.







5 comments:

Michelle said...

Thank you! I am very inspired by your post. I don't look at the outsides of a person I'm decideing to date. Male, female, rich, poor, black or white. So why would I let one thing (even though it is a scary one thing) decide for me if a person is date worthy or not? I could and would date someone with HIV. As long as they weren't a jerk of course :)

janice padgett said...

This time of year is so hard for me. I remember 4 years ago having a holiday meal with friends. One of which had been HIV positive for ten years. Looking at him I knew it would be our last Christmas with him. I have told sexual partners in the past that condoms are a must because I could not guarantee that I had not gotten something from a patient. I would date someone who is positive. I believe that everyone has a right to be happy.

H.B. Pattskyn said...

Michelle, you're welcome! I'm glad the post touched some folks, because I know I felt all kinds of emotions pouring over dating and relationship sites. It was a really tough question to answer, but it boils down to, "if I could be friends with someone why couldn't I date them?" It's just a matter of getting educated. But I've never looked at the outsides, either and as a result, I've dated some amazing people in my life and had even more as friends.

H.B. Pattskyn said...

Janice,

I can't imagine how hard it must be looking back and missing your friend. I haven't lost anyone to HIV, but I did loose a dear friend to suicide...gosh, ten years ago now? Maybe a little more than that. I still miss him. (For me it's Halloween that gets me, although he left us in summer, there's just something about that time of year that reminds me of him). It's so hard to get over loss like that.

You are so right that everyone deserves to be happy, to find that special someone and be accepted for who they are, past mistakes (or accidents) included.

~Helen

lost-amber said...

It is really amazing how hurtful people can be. I have to admit I would be a little hesitant about dating a person with HIV but not because of the health risk. I would be more afraid of losing someone that I cared deeply for alot sooner than I would want. Still I don't think I would say no in the end, I certainty would tell the some of the shit those people where saying.

I am really looking forward to the book you mentioned :) There aren't enough stories out there with that type of storyline to make people really think about the question of loving someone HIV positive.