One would have thought with the expansion of the understandings of sexuality, the now more than ever urgent need to filter out subgroups alongside their sex seeking behaviours and psychologies associated with same we would have gotten passed this nonsense of omitting what some see as lower risk groups for HIV infections hence they need not be included. The lumping of transgender persons into MSM studies for example in times past seems not to be recognized as yet and accepted by the establishment as the 32% rate being bandied about from then is often referred to despite the error has been quietly seen. The figures are obviously flawed to begin with, one does not have to be a genius to see it; in the days when words such as “pre-operative” was not a dirty word in transgender realms and represented ‘transitioning’ suggestions were made to separate such persons out of the study as some trans did not pursue such but who identified as gay and found some comfort in the gay community
I find it most odd that it has to take a gay man like myself to be writing on this. It also stems from two greater conclusions I have drawn several years now, first being much more could have been achieved if not for forward thinking and action and secondly some of the very folks at the helms are the actual obstacle to said achievements to materialise. Frankly I am getting tired of the itty-bitty achievements it is time for monumental if not better positives and outcomes on a much larger scale after all these years, when the potential exists for forward movement.
As World AIDS Day came to a close and the cogs of HIV settled back to business as usual an old discussion came up via social media about risk for women on the strength of a post and article on transgender persons in Jamaica who were said to be HIV positive. In making the rounds on various platforms and literally examining the content over a host of presentations, a myriad of radio interviews, television appearances, hash-tagging and so on literally not a word came out on certain types lesbian sex as risky for HIV and or sexually transmitted diseases. A rather young bright young lady asked a potent question on Facebook as to why women seem missing or very low on the radar for prevention messaging saved and except for commercial sex workers and the emphasis that the rates had fallen in that category. The group she was in froze for a minute suggesting pause for thinking I assume and then the flood of answers/comments came mostly espousing words to the effect that she may be right in a sense. The omission if not invisibility of same gender loving women in HIV prevention especially in today’s world is telling yet again that the more things change the more they stay the same.
Trouble is the bureaucrats and board of governors of many of these HIV outfits are still mostly male or if women are there they are heterosexual and cannot speak to some issues directly from a space of real world experience along with an elitist chip on their shoulders (the males that is) despite some bragging that they have now employed more women in their midst but still have a gay male driven mindset by just mere observation in public policy/advocacy. They refuse to take ‘telling’ as country people would say from non elitists and experts while HIV infections dilly dally although it is known and accepted as a challenge in the gay community in terms of rates the lumping of transgender folks. The near total omission of bisexuals where they are only seen as a ‘bridge’ for infections and lesbians’ near total annihilation from the interventions altogether despite so called new women’s’ groups in operation still is too gay male and mainstreamed if not hetero-normatively focused. These new groups and advocacies if not added bureaucracies are more interested on the comfort of social media these days and really hardly do real work as one person puts it with ‘real people’ and issues, then it is no wonder the messages are flawed and overlook certain groups. Older outfits such as Womenforwomen, WFW seem all but dead publicly and offered not even a dribble in the department of HIV risk and women who have sex with women, hash-tagging and instagramming if you will are the latest crazes but while such platforms can work when you’re up against altered or bettered versions of individuals profiles including the very NGO republic hiding the actualities to give a near perfect of not falsified appearance then where it the truth to credibility to make the message more effective and lasting hence omission and oversight may be less.
Tribadism is one of the most risky of all, a point I have been driving at for some years now in previous posts, effectively it is sex between two women where the clitoris and indeed the vaginal openings are made to come together to create friction in a kind of X pattern formed by the participants. The act can be very intense for the parties and led to multiple orgasms often with no barriers such as a dam, cut opened condom or so on. The theory that hairs if not shaven can act as an intervening item to create openings on the skin or the labia minora. We know that cuts and exposure to blood of an infected person can facilitate passing of the infection and given the literal receptiveness of a vagina by virtue of its shape this is grounds for reference at least or stronger advocacy at best.
The practice in particular is now more evident at strip clubs than ever before with often dancers/strippers/performers who may not even be lesbians but the job may require some lesbian sex as management may demand same to make a profit as more male patrons and indeed other lesbians such as butch identified women like this kind of thing and tip heavily, the possibility however slight or low is still a risk no matter what, risk is risk. The typical message for women has to be amended even in the commercial sex work category in the face of a reduction in the prevalence rates. It is well accepted that high knowledge of condom use is out there but conversion to action is another matter but as to the specifics for other groups that is woefully lacking so the messages flies over those groups heads as it feels as if it is not for them to follow as they may not see themselves as at any risk at all. When are the programs people going to include in the narrative wider messages to boldly and specifically (if not in raw language) mention plasticizing bisexuals you too are to consider safer sex options and not just rely on the hetero-normative mainstreamed sanitized near nonsense anymore.
Lesbians and bisexuals aside specifically there are also other nuances often overlooked as the response also miss even sub group practices under the MSM umbrella. Cruisers alone is where I’ll zoom in as cruisers as it were not only include gay or bisexual men but also other men who either experiment, are exposed to gay sex of some sort by way of prison (substitutional sex/situational homosexuality), jail houses or correctional facilities but who when released back into general society over time may pursue sexual experiences via this route as it tends to attract more masculine types who avoid any hint of effeminacy and self identification as ‘gay’ a term seen in their eyes as a man wanting to become a woman and is too loaded psychologically for those men. These are often men who have ‘baby-mothers’, girlfriends and so on and in a type of behavioural bisexuality pattern. Condoms if there is any anal penetration to be had (as mostly oral and hand action are the preferred practices) are not an option as it can be seen as the one suggesting condom use may be HIV positive and or the engaging party is also positive which can lead to serious violent reactions in a blame game. Most men who I have interacted with in this arena simply avoid any mention of condoms just in case as the reaction from the other party is unpredictable. The more raunchy the sex the better it is for some men to include bare-backing, cream-pie action and so on; HIV prevention seems to totally overlook these psychologies when contemplating tailoring the response.
Omissions, oversights cannot continue as the norm not in this day and age alongside hetero-normative sanitized narratives must fast become a thing of the past (a call made some 8 years ago), if it is some expect to bring down infection rates. Risk is risk however small and despite the groups involved. Everywhere else is somehow able to address their prevalence rates save and except for some sub-groups yet here we are wasting time.
Peace & tolerance