Monday, August 22, 2011

matters of disclosure

Disclaimer: A long read, and heavily opinionated. If you only want fun and excitement and do not want to delve with the musings of the HIV world, redirect to Cartoon Network's website. Kidding! (Or am I?).

I was blog-hopping here and there and I came across the blog of Mr. Rebirth. On his last entry, Mr. Rebirth was apprehensive about another blogger (Mr. Other Blogger) who had the balls of posting pictures and profiles of alleged HIV carriers on a gay social community site.

For things to be clear-cut, I stand by Rebirth's reasoning. The other blog, who allegedly made the effort of disclosing "positive" gay guys to inform, if not warn, the public about the presence of still sexually active pozzies in the world wide web, was appalling. It just shatters sensibilities.

One commenter, Anonymous, banked on the "greater good" premise. Really now, there was no greater good as far as I can see in the blog that black-and-white accused a couple of individuals about their HIV statuses.

Yes, a PLHIV SHOULD and MUST disclose his status to a person whom he is having relationship with, be it the ephemeral sexual relationship or the one that we hope to last, the romantic one. If things are getting sweeter or sweatier, there is a need for a PLHIV to tell the whole goddam truth. Now, considering a pozzie told the truth and he was accepted, let's all give a round of an "Awwww!" to the other guy for rising above himself. But, the other side of it, could be totally devastating: Rejection. And that's what, I assume, most PLHIV is depressive of: the fact that they cannot anymore come clean as any healthy person is, the fact that every relationship hangs on this one condition that would make rejection a valid excuse.

Rejection is what a PLHIV fears, especially when he is already at that stage when emotions are invested and the act of telling that he is an HIV carrier ensues. It's a part and parcel of a PLHIV's life, of my life, of your life, of our lives. We have to write that down and stick it on our foreheads. There's no escaping that glaring, depressing truth.

(SIDE NOTE: That too makes PLHIVs want to simply have a lasting relationship with a PLHIV also. Aside from them standing on the same page, having the connection of minds and souls, both of them know the path each is trudging. Ah! All is fair in love and war.)

But then again, who can ever tell that a person is a positive but he himself ONLY. No third party, as what Mr. Other Blog did, has been bestowed with the supermoral right to disclose the HIV status of a person. On special cases when a pozzie, say, enter a legal battle due to illegal termination from his employers, only the Philippine courts can direct a doctor to furnish records before the bench to prove that the prosecuting party is indeed an HIV victim and that he was perhaps illegally terminated. Other than the courts, no one but the self only.

Mr. Other Blog's action was immature and irresponsible as it borders on the malicious intent of discrediting the faces posted on his site. Granting if some of them are indeed HIV positive, who gave Mr. Other Blog the right to disclose their statuses. If our doctors avow to hold back our records from anyone who does not have the purpose of knowing our statuses, who gave the blogger the right to be at par with our Philippine courts? HIV positive or not, disclosure of status is a personal undertaking of an individual (READ: moral fiber and sound conscience). Every HIV-positive victim is entitled to right to privacy of their medical records, especially pertaining to their statuses. That is why PGH has not written my name as it is on my medical folder. I have a series of numbers and letters that pertain to my identity.

Commenter Anonymous posed a question if Mr. Other Blogger can be blamed for doing such—my adjective—"abhorrent" act. Yes. He can be blamed. If pro bono lawyers would just want to flex their muscles and make RA 8504 a working dictum of this country, they can slap a suit against Mr. Other Blogger on behalf of those men who were unwittingly dragged into such narrow-minded act. (Not really serious though. Just me wildly commenting.) It's about time that the anti-discrimination provision of the HIV/AIDS Act become executory. Who would ever respect it if it doesn't have fangs?

On the "greater good" premise that Anonymous used to rationalize Mr. Other Blogger's entry, that is, in my opinion, twisted. No greater good can ever come from discrimination and out-and-out finger-pointing. The blog itself is hollow and it stands on mere accusations and falsehood. What pieces of evidence do Mr. Other Blogger have to prove the veracity of the infection of the alleged carriers? Assuming arguendo that he has, his act for the greater good doesn't bite. Scandalizing other people's reputation in order to protect others or the majority, despite a working acta republica that entails HIV-positives for the protection of their statuses, is not a valid action. (Sorry, I'm not a fan of Utilitarianism). Again, who gave Other Blogger the inherent right to pinpoint and shake his finger against these males? Not even the law nor the heavens.

If he knows something about these males, now you ask, can't he do something? Will he just see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil? At this junction, I leave it to each and every person's choice. (Yes, I am a fan of Existentialism). If you would have sex, ask. Ask about your partner's status. Know what to do to fend off the disease. Don't be literate about HIV when you only had the disease. (As I did. Sigh.) It is inherent on everyone to know about the disease and to protect themselves against it. Aristotle said, "Ignorance is the greatest evil." If you really want to be so sure, well, abstain from having sex. Besides, abstinence comes first in the prevention against HIV.

But if there is one thing Anonymous said that I had to agree, it is "the premise of right of privacy is to prevent discrimination of hiv pos people, it was not made TO PROMOTE the spread of hiv under the guise of anonymity." True. Right to privacy was established, in my belief, because admit it or not HIV has an accompanying stigma. That whoever gets it suddenly becomes a lower-class citizen to others' discriminating eyes. Right to privacy is there to protect HIV-positives from discrimination and from unwanted shallow stereotypes that are "rooted in fear rather than facts" (as Barrack Obama said).

I assert, without being repetitive, that every PLHIV should disclose their status when entering into whatever form of relationship: be it a mere 60-minute sexual encounter or the one that lasts a lifetime. Ergo, to connect Anonymous' comment, right to privacy has not been crafted "to promote the spread of disease under the guise of anonymity." Anonymous got the exact words. You don't go and abuse the right to privacy just for someone to scratch your balls without you telling him about the danger he might face. That is on the other end also appalling, nay, selfish and egocentric. You have to be beholden for your itch. It's downright irresponsible to have sex, while at the back of your head you know you're infected.

So you see, HIV awareness works in both ways. The negatives should have the responsibility to keep their statuses at the that state by asking, by learning, by knowing the science behind the virus. The positives must disclose so as to not spread the virus. But I surmise that the responsibility leans heavier on the PLHIVs. It's just heavier on us for we are the carriers. Yes, it is sad, no?

Shoot me down if you vehemently disagree but I will tell this a hundred-times-million times. If things are getting intimate you, I, and every one of us PLHIV has the duty to tell that we are carriers of the—I highlight—"incurable" disease. Repeat the word, "incurable." How frightening is that for an uninfected?

I do not buy the "it's-low-risk-sexual-practice" reason for an HIV-positive to keep his status a secret. Nor the, there's-condom-on practice to just go on with his libido, have sex, and shut up about his status. Don't buy my values if you don't like it, I don't bargain either, but again this is where I repeat "moral fiber and sound conscience." Get it?

Why, tell me, whoever gave an oral sex with a condom on? Barely no one. Because, you're right, having condom on defeats the purpose of oral sex to most. Still there is risk even if that is, on the surface, "only" oral sex without condom. And to prevent the risk, a PLHIV must go out in the open and tell his status or suit yourself with giving or taking a head with a condom on. (Still I do not condone the latter. Apologies.)

Tell your status. It will be your last saving grace. Think about the person before you. Think about his life or his family or his ambitions. Don't catch the wind from his sail. Tell what's true. We do not want to wreck the lives of other people. I know that sometime in our past we thought that our lives were already wrecked for being a pozzie, but let's not cultivate the culture of secrecy, if not, hatred, and simply pass down the disease as we zip our lips about our status. Our lives are not wrecked. Time and again my doctor encourages me, "Maganda ang magiging outcome. There is medicine." Besides, we get past depression. We come out stronger.

And when you get rejected, sheesh, walk away! Let's not push things if the other side of the coin does not want to. At least, when walking away, you can tell yourself and to the innards of your conscience that you did your part, that you weren't irresponsible. The other guy was just too narrow-minded to cling stigma on you. Haha. Kidding. Still bitter in the long run, eh?

With that, I leave you with this heartwarming video: HIV Stigma - "I'm in a sero-discordant couple relationship."

"I don't think you can use rejection as an excuse to not disclose, but I think people need to really think of it and understand the impact that rejection has on stigma."

Think about it.

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