CAI is thrilled to bring you a new multi-part blog post. For this series of posts, we are stepping away from our traditional commentary on HIV/AIDS. We will look at HIV/AIDS through the lens of the art and words of Outsider-Kansas City artist, Bruce Burstert, and his former partner Robert Smith, long ago claimed by AIDS. This is the first in a new series of blog post looking at HIV/AIDS through the micro lens of other artists.
In December of 2015 Contracting An Issue shifted our focus to a new community, Tampa/St Petersburg, FL, with the assistance of Metro Wellness we initiated our story auditions. Tampa/St Pete will be our third iteration of the Contracting An Issue HIV/AIDS awareness project. This project is a new experiment for us, in that we are not living in the location where we are collecting stories. Initially, we discovered that it is more difficult to truthfully connect, and see eye to eye, with a distant community. Never say die, and back to the drawing board. We asked ourselves, why? The answer, we need “boots on the ground,” someone who lives in the community and who will personally connect with people around what can be a taboo subject. An ambassadorship for the project was our likely next step, and Contracting An Issue is pleased to announce its first ambassador for the project, Willow Parsons.
Geography plays a major role in how we perceive what a community includes. The idea of community is one bound by geography. Inside each community there are different communities to which we belong. Whether it is our national sense of community, which is bound by borders and fences; or a community based on who you identify with, such as LGBT, athletes, mothers. Even then we can delve into the details of who is included in a particular community. Boundaries, borders, and lines on a map make a huge difference in how we perceive certain areas of where we live
Have you ever had someone tell you that they have contracted HIV? We were sitting in the parking lot of a liquor store when he told me. It was surreal; even after all the interviews, all the talks, and information I had around HIV/AIDS, I still found myself speechless and scrabbling to try and not say something dumb, something I knew was not the truth, like, “everything’s going to be okay” because most likely it is going to be okay, but do I know that for a fact?
To elaborate—I thought, for this blog, we might talk less about HIV/AIDS and more about community engagement/social practice art, along the socioeconomic/racial divides. Each one of those subjects is very heavy, and many scholars still ponder them today. So, like in my past posts, I plan on only covering my thoughts and trials that pertain to the Contracting An Issue project.
I won’t lie: I had some trepidation about working closely with, sleeping next to, and caring for a bunch of sick kids in the beginning. Yes, at that time I’d been longtime wonderful friends with many, many poz adults. Perhaps I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to care for the kids in the way that they needed. And perhaps I was a little scared that I could, and that I would really grow to love them.
I began wondering about how all this affects (us) when it comes to HIV/AIDS? Beyond stigma, is loneliness one of the biggest factors in our repertoire that eventually helps lead to the spread of HIV/AIDS in our culture? One of my friend’s answers to my question was, “YES,” but he then went on to say, “hook-up culture is killing us” … (please don’t try this at home, but I did more thinking). My true question: has our life style as gay men sealed our alienation and inherently corrupted us from the inside out?......
Maybe the question is too convoluted for the vox populi. Still, it is a question I think must be addressed when doing a project based on stigma and HIV/AIDS, a [mostly] sexually transmitted disease in our society.
Last year I dated an HIV positive person, not for the first time, but more seriously than before. Previously, I was definitely guilty of serosorting because I rationalized (only internally) that if I were to find a life time partner, I would eventually want to take the condoms off. The fact that PrEP has been shown to be more effective than condoms alone makes this a possibility, particularly with a positive partner whose viral load is undetectable and the risk of transmission fairly low. This allowed me to consider the relationship in a very different light from before.
People are no longer dying in droves large enough to make the evening news: I doubt any teachers are screening the movie Philadelphia with their students as they did when I was in high school. Also, it seems like you never really hear of anyone getting to the stage of full-blown AIDS anymore. We are no longer afraid to have “poz” friends for fear of contracting it from a hug. While I know very few HIV-positive people, it seems like the burden of prevention has shifted back to gay men, even though they are not the only ones affected.
Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, and as long as I can remember, AIDS has been a big part of my life. As I headed to bed one night this past week, I gazed upon the bedroom wall at a grid of family portraits my father painted. One of the paintings caught my eye. I saw something I had not seen in years, something I maybe never really noticed in one of the portraits...
In light of the recent discussion circulating around news articles and social media on Zachary Quinto and his comment in an interview where Zachary is quoted as saying: there is a tremendous' complacency towards HIV awareness in the LGBT community. To me it seems very interesting to read, and try to understand why people are offended. I get that HIV activism has not completely been silenced, and that many men and woman, old and young still pursue HIV/AIDS awareness, and more. I would like to think I am one of them. But it is hard for me to deny that Zachary Quinto is completely wrong. I wonder if so many have found his comment offensive because it is true?
EBOLA VS. AIDS: WHY THE DIFFERENCE IN REACTIONS? As Michael Musto writes: "Part of me says, Yay! We’ve moved forward. We’ve learned from the early days of AIDS and are addressing a potentially explosive health scare with serious attention. But another tiny little voice inside me wonders, If Ebola only hit gays and IV drug users, would there be all this fuss? I can only hope the answer would be, “Yes,” because we’ve come a long way since 1981 when it comes to rights, acceptance, and visibility. But honestly, you still have to wonder." http://www.out.com/entertainment/michael-musto/2014/10/20/gregg-araki-new-movie-white-bird-blizzard-being-gay-hollywood?page=0,2
The article “Please Don't Infect Me, I am Sorry,“ written in 2012 by Rich Juzwiak talks about HIV/AIDS from a prospective not often heard. I would say it resonated with me, and was my main inspiration and the source where I derived the concept for the title of this project-