Undetectable = Un-transmittable, Getting Over the Stigma of HIV

Recently I was asked if I was still single would date I someone who was HIV positive but undetectable. My answer was a resounding yes. If the chemistry were there and I loved that person I would date them if they were undetectable or detectable. I don’t usually write articles about HIV/AIDS, I leave that to our columnist Danial Ashely Williams, since he is HIV positive he has a perspective that I don’t. In this case maybe as someone who is HIV negative, I should share my perspective on dating someone who is HIV positive. All though there is no real cure yet, drug advancements have come so far that with daily treatment HIV can become undetectable in the body and undetectable means un-transmittable, that means you can’t pass on the virus through sex. NOW, don’t get me wrong I’m not saying not use a condom, that is a personal choice. I’m just saying HIV can’t be transmitted to a sexual partner if it’s undetectable in the system. That being said, what do we have to do as a community to make the stigma of HIV undetectable and un-transmittable?

The AIDS epidemic during the 80’s and early 90’s wiped out whole communities. Major Cities like New York, San Fransisco, L.A., and Chicago were not the only places devastated by the virus. The gay community in smaller cities in the mid-west were all but wiped out. Calumet City IL for example. Cal City had a thriving LGBTQ community. Now there’s just a gay bar or two left and the community has never fully recovered. All around the globe, gay or not the world lost potential artists, entertainers, scientists, doctors and people lost loved ones. What if we lost the person who could have actually cured this disease.

Now with the advancements in drug therapy the healing has started, at least for the people who are HIV positive. They have a new lease on life and yes of course the potential that they MIGHT develop AIDS will alway be in the back of their minds, but at least now they have hope. They have the hope that they will live a long normal life and the hope that they will maybe date, fall in love, Netflix and chill on a Sunday afternoon with someone. In the 80’s and early 90’s hope was a luxury that a lot of gay men couldn’t afford.

Life returns to semi-normal if you don’t count the expense of the drug costs and the daily doses of medications, these are things that become routine. Now that HIV positive gay men are living longer what do they hope for now. Obviously I can’t speak for all of them or really any of them, but I imagine that some of them want a heathy dating life. Some may want to find a boyfriend settle down get married get that house with a white picket fence, maybe have a couple of kids and a dog. Live the “American Dream,” but I bet for SOME HIV positive men it’s hard for them to even try.

How many times has someone who’s undetectable started to get close with THAT guy? That crush from the office or the guy who stands next to you in line at Starbucks every morning. That guy you’re finally making a real connection with. The innocent flirting and the unmistakeable chemistry, not being able to concentrate because THAT guy is on your mind all the time. He’s sending all the right singles and admits that he feels the same way. You go on the date you’ve been waiting to go on with THAT guy. The flirting gets to that next level and you finally gather up the courage and tell him you’re HIV positive but undetectable, he pretends not to be taken aback, but you see it in his eyes. You finish your date on a positive note yet he declines the offer to come back to your place claiming he has an early day tomorrow. The next day you don’t hear from him, then three days go by then five. You don’t see him at Starbucks anymore. He doesn’t return your texts, but you knew all along he wouldn’t. You’ve been ghosted, and it fucking hurts like a symptom of the disease you don’t even have.

Look I get it, people get scared. HIV/AIDS has wrecked havoc on a community struggling for acceptance and just when it was starting to happen gay men started dying. The Reagan Administration did nothing at the time to address the epidemic and wouldn’t even utter the word “AIDS.” Lack of response or even acknowledgement from the Reagan White House only made the sigma of HIV/AIDS worse. Like a lot of people I lived through that time. As a teenager in the 1980’s who was growing up in a town so small we only had one traffic light, I automatically thought being gay was a death sentence. I fought my sexual identity until I couldn’t anymore. It was a fight with myself I’m glad I lost. Now there’s another fight happening, the fight to rid this community of the stigma of HIV.

In plain simple terms everyone can understand, if someone’s viral load is undetectable in their bloodstream then they are NOT able to transfer HIV to sexual partners. If you are one of those gay guys that have an issue with HIV positive guys get the fuck over it. They are just as much a part of the LGBTQ community as anyone else and just like our trans brothers and sisters or that kid who has been shunned by his family for coming out or any other person in this beautiful and tough community that we live in all HIV positive individuals need support from us all. HIV positive individuals also need the encouragement that we give everyone else in this community to live their truth.

The best weapon we had during the hight of the AIDS epidemic was education. People had to educate themselves that they couldn’t get AIDS from a toilet seat or drinking out of the same glass or even a kiss. Education is essential. I dated someone once who had cerebral palsy, I read up on what it was and how and what to expect and how to deal with certain things IF they came up, which they didn’t. If you get asked out by a guy who is HIV positive and he’s undetectable educate yourself on what that is and what to expect. Do it for yourself especially if you like him. But, even after everything that I’ve said if you still have an issue and you don’t want to go out with a person who has HIV, don’t ghost them. Have the courage to admit that you just don’t have any courage, it’s the least they deserve. Besides people living with HIV are forced to be brave everyday even when they don’t want to be, they deserve friends and lovers that are as brave as they are.

50 Years After Stonewall, PRIDE Riots On

50 years after Stonewall, it’s the PRIDE of our lives.

Chicago Gay PRIDE Parade

PRIDE. Pride is a word that can mean different things to different people. You can take pride in your work, your home, your family, and yourself. For a lot of people taking pride in themselves can be the toughest. Sometimes it seems that despite the progress that the LGBTQ community has made, especially over the last 10 years, finding pride in oneself can be elusive and inconsistent. For many people self esteem comes in waves, sometimes you’re riding high on the biggest wave of the ocean, everything is going your way, other times you keep falling off the surf board and retreat to land thinking that you’ll never have the self confidence to try again. For others there are challenging times for sure, but they always seem to land on their feet and walk through life with a never ending confident stride.


Left: View along Sixth Avenue as hundreds of people march toward Central Park, June 26, 1975. Right: A couple kiss on Sixth Avenue, June 26, 1975. Allan Tannenbaum / Getty Images




People who are LGBTQ face a unique set challenges that can effect our self esteem. Issues ranging from acceptance of family and friends to discrimination. Health and mental health issues not to mention the disproportionate suicide rates among trans and queer youth. Homeless rates among LGBTQ youth are also disproportionate. Depending on who you are the reality of coming out as LGBTQ can be one of the single most stressful times in a persons life. So, if you are able to navigate any of these challenges in life you are brave.

Take coming out for example, we don’t come out just once, we come out all the time. We come out when we meet new people or start a new job and talk with our new co-workers the conversation will most certainly turn to ones spouse or partner. That happened to me recently. I started a new job and had two days of on boarding with another new employee, we were sequestered in a small office belonging to the human resource manager. The HR manager is an older man probably in his late 60’s and uses terms like “golly gee,” “heck,” and “swell.” As we were going over the companies benefits package I mentioned the low insurance rate compared to what my spouse was paying for both of us to be insured. He asked me what my wife did for a living. Of course I polity corrected him and said that my husband is the director of social services for a long term care facility. It seemed that the awkward silence lasted longer than what it actually did, but the on boarding resumed like nothing happened.

The New York City Pride March reaches a police line, 1971. Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

There’s always that fear, the fear of the person that you’re interacting with might get insulting or maybe even violent. I didn’t know either of the people that I was in that small office with, so when I “came out” there was a certain amount of awkwardness. Those awkward moments will continue to happen for the rest of my life. Even though we’ve made progress those of us who are LGBTQ will always be living with a certain amount of uncertainty. This uncertainty straight cis gendered people will never have. Straight people never have to think twice when they share with others who they love. They will never have to worry about getting fired from a new job or any job because of their sexuality. They will never have to worry about discrimination. Those of us in the LGBTQ community who are living our truth live with these harsh facts everyday of our lives.

This year is the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, arguably the start of the modern day gay rights movement. The riots led to the start of the first gay pride parades and festivals around the country. To get where we are now the patrons of The Stonewall Inn exploded into a violent protest after the police raided the bar. At the time raids of gay bars were common practice, but finally the people had enough. The riots became so violent that the police hid in The Stonewall Inn, afraid to leave for 45 minutes. The LGBTQ community has been clawing its way up ever since. Those early protesters were not just brave, they were fearless in finding the courage to fight the New York City Police because they were sick of being treated like their lives, their loves, and their dreams didn’t matter. Just this year The City of New York issued a formal apology to the city’s LGBTQ community for the way that community was abused at the hands of the people who were there to serve and protect all citizens.

The cis gendered straight white guys that are organizing “straight pride” events because they feel threatened that their little world is becoming too diverse, those toxic people want nothing more than to feel better about themselves by taking away our power to feel good about ourselves and undermining the achievements of our community and individuals. Don’t let them.

If you’re LGBTQ and still in the closet, if you’re not ready to come out, that doesn’t mean that you are not brave. Just coming to terms with who you are is one of the bravest things you can do, don’t ever feel pressured to come out. If you’re out always remember, just like those first protesters who took on the police during The Stonewall Riots your lives, loves, and dreams do matter.

So, on the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots think of the sacrifices and hardships queer people had to live through everyday, think of those who succumbed to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s and early 90’s. Know that with people like Harvey Milk, Martha P. Johnson, Jim Obergefell, just to name a few we wouldn’t be where we are today. So, honor those who came before and know that they would want you to honor yourself, live bravely, love passionately, don’t be afraid of getting your heart broke, dream big and don’t ever let the world dictate what your truth is. And as always dance like no one is watching.

Happy PRIDE!

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 29, 2019 in Washington Park at the Guy Forman amphitheater from 1-9pm.

A Brief History of Gay Superheroes and Other Musings

Batwoman by artist J.H. Williams.

Last month The CW, the television network responsible for “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” and other live action superhero shows announced that a “Batwoman” series was in the works staring Australian model, actor, VJ, recording artist Ruby Rose as the title character Kate Kane/Batwoman. For those of you who have never heard of the character the original Batwoman was created in 1956 as a romantic foil for Batman amid concerns that a hot rich guy in his early 30’s who dresses up in a bat costume and who had adopted as his ward and crime fighting partner an orphaned circus trapeze artist who he dressed in a mask, a cape, and tight green short shorts might just be a homosexual. Go figure. The Batwoman character only lasted until the early 1960’s when DC Comics took the Batman in a darker and grittier direction. In a true sense of irony DC Comics brought back Batwoman in 2006, only this time as an ass kicking superhero who just happens to be a lesbian and is also Jewish. The Jewish part will become relevant shortly.

Detective Comics #233 (July 1956) Batwoman’s first appearance.

I read a lot of comic books growing up, actually I still do. When I was a kid comics like “The Uncanny X-Men” were a metaphor on the treatment of people who happened to be different. The title started out as creators Stan Lee & Jack Kirby tackled racism by using the metaphor of teenagers who were born with special powers into a world that hates and fears them. By the time I got around to reading “The Uncanny X-Men” it seemed to me that maybe the metaphor had shifted to how the LGBT community was treated, especially in the in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. The X-Men and other books would go on to show how bad humanity could be. The book also showed how noble people could be by going high when ignorent people filled with hate go low. Lessons that we can still learn from today.

Northstar by John Byrne

But the actual debut of a gay character especially a major character was years off. Writer/artist John Byrne who created the Canadian super hero team Alpha Flight always meant for their member Northstar to be gay, but he couldn’t come out and say it in print so there were lots of hints dropped. Northstar didn’t end up coming out until “Alpha Flight” No. 106 that hit the comic shops in 1992. Byrne also created Captain Maggie Sawyer of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit for the Superman comics that he went to write and draw in the 1980’s. Again, it was heavily hinted at that she was a lesbian by drawing her in a way to show it in her mannerisms but not actually coming out and saying it until the mid-1990’s. Gays in comics had always been a hot button topic since 1954 when the book “Seduction of the Innocent” by Fredric Wertham, M.D was released. In his book Dr. Wertham would argue that comic books had a negative effect on children and by exposing America’s youth to the medium was the cause of sexual perversion and juvenile delinquency. This book became a best seller and it energized Congress to start an inquiry into the comic book industry. Thankfully over the years Congress has moved on.

Now we have out and proud gay superhero’s in comics. DC not only has Batwoman in her own comic but the Superheroes Midnigher and Apollo. The X-Men’s Iceman who has been around since the early 1960’s just “came out” in the last couple of years. The previously mentioned Northstar’s same sex marriage was published in “Astonishing X-Men” No. 51. Now we finally have an out and proud superhero getting her own show and it’s not a lame character like the Pied Piper from The Flash comics. Batwoman kicks serious ass in the comics and from what I’ve read the show is not going to be that much different. So you would think that comic book nerds both gay and straight are excited. But wait not so fast, there’s dumb fuckery afoot.

Captain Maggie Sawyer by artist Tom Grummett from Adventures of Superman #498

So apparently hyper masculine nerds are pissed because the actor cast to play Batwoman, Ruby Rose who is a real life lesbian is not “gay enough” to play a lesbian superhero and she’s not Jewish. After a backlash of angry Tweets with the hashtag #RecastBatwoman towards her Ruby Rose deleted her Twitter account and stating in her last Tweet “When women and minorities join forces we are unstoppable.” Let’s break this down to common sense. Ruby Rose is an actor cast to play a part. Acting is when you play a part in a TV show, movie, or play. You are pretending to be something you are not. As a Jew I have no issues with a non-Jew playing a Jew. It’s called acting. Actor John Hillerman, who played the British character Jonathan Higgins in the 80’s TV show “Magnum P.I.” (not the 2018 reboot) was born and raised in Texas and is not really British. It’s called acting. Sir Patrick Stewert who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek the Next Generation” is actually British and not really from France were Picard grew up. It’s called acting. Eric Stonestreet who won a Prime Time Emmy for his portrayal the gay character Cameron Tucker and on the TV show “Modern Family” is not really gay. Again, it’s called acting. Although Gal Gadot gave the definitive performance as Wonder Woman, should this “logic” have been used in the casting the part of Wonder Woman? Instead of casting Gal Gadot who is Jewish and from Israel as Wonder Woman then maybe Warner Brothers Studios should have tracked down an actual daughter of the Greek God Zeus and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons or depending on which Wonder Woman origin you prefer maybe they should have tracked down an actress who was formed out of clay and brought to life by the Greek Gods. Sounds kind of ridiculous doesn’t it? Don’t stop to think about it, it’s ridiculous.

I needed a gay superhero when I was growing up and so did a lot of other kids. I needed someone to tell me that I could be a good guy and that I wasn’t a bad guy just because I was gay. Batwoman is coming whether you like it or not. I’m guessing if even after reading this you have an issue with a lesbian superhero swinging over the streets of Gotham City maybe Batwoman isn’t the superhero for you, maybe a gay supervillian is more your speed, may I recommend Milo Yiannopoulos?

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.

Why I am Walking in this year’s 9th Annual Vincennes AIDS Walk

“Earlier this year Daniel Ashley Williams lost a dear friend from complications due to AIDS. On March 17, 2018 Danial walked in the Vincennes AIDS Walk to bring awareness to the fact that people are still living with HIV/AIDS and that they can still die from it and to honor the memory of his friend” 

Why I am Walking in this year’s 9th Annual Vincennes AIDS Walk.

Daniel Ashley Williams

My reason for participating in the walk this year is one of sadness but also remembrance and hope. In early January 2018 a friend of mine, someone who I have known for several years passed away. Although he was HIV positive, he refused to take medications. He was healthy for a long time until he got Shingles last fall and was sick or didn’t feel well from then on. His husband took care of him as he got worse and unable to walk. He went into the hospital and after five days his husband lovingly put his head on his chest and held his hand, told him he knew he loved him and that he loves him. Then he was gone at the young age of 36.

He wanted a cure. But after the AIDS coalition disbanded he feared that would not come to pass in the coming future. He felt the political climate had changed against the LGBT community.

He loved being a husband. Married only for four years of their twelve year relationship. He served in the Navy. He was smart and adventures. He will always be missed by his husband, his beloved dogs, and friends.  He will not be forgotten.

AIDS Walk is my way of honoring his memory. I walk for myself being positive since 2009, and I walk because it’s the year 2018 no one should die of a condition related to AIDS. Because I take HIV medications and my viral load is suppress, effectively I have no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to a HIV-negative partners. Take responsibility and protect yourself get tested. HIV/AIDS is treatable and preventable.

Changing meds

Daniel Ashley Williams

On average a person living with HIV will visit their doctor and have Labs drawn every three months. This is done to determine not only the effectiveness of the antiretroviral drug combination on the HIV virus itself but also how they’re affecting your body. This is an important process in the treatment for people who are living HIV.

Some of the labs performed from the blood and urine collected:  A CD4 count measures how many CD4 cells are in your blood. The higher your CD4 cell count, the healthier your immune system.  CD4 Percentage: This measures how many of your white blood cells are actually CD4 cells. This measurement is more stable than CD4 counts over a long period of time Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Screening: These screening tests check for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Not only are Labs important but taking your daily regiment religiously is most important to ones health.

Four months or so now I have been taking Tivicay plus Descovy. Before that I was taking Tivicay plus Truvada. Which I had switch to from Complera and before that many many years on Atripla. Atripla was the first antiretroviral drug I was put on and I never liked it had  many unpleasant side effects that made me feel sick to my stomach, have bad dreams, and feel hung over every morning. Back when I was diagnosed HIV positive, I didn’t start meds right away. At the time guidelines recommended treatment using thresholds based on a person’s CD4 count. Now, current guidelines recommended by The World Health Organization recommends treatment be given to people with HIV as soon as possible following diagnosis.

I switched to Descovy because it’s supposed to be less harmful on my kidneys. It seems to be working fine. After seeing the doctor after being on the new medicine she agreed it was working and felt like it was a good move to change meds. I still have a undetectable viral load.

While talking to a friend, who is also HIV positive, we discussed the fact that Descovy had replaced Truvada. Then he asked why I was mutating? I had to explain to him that it was the newer version of Truvada and switching meds address’ long-term health needs such as lower bone and kidney toxicity risks. I feel like more information on the medicine that we take needs to be available to people living with HIV, especially as more of us live longer fuller lives.

At my last appointment I was made aware that Matthew 25 has a patient portal . This allows me to login and see; upcoming appointments, Recent lab orders, Medications, diagnoses and more
“Matthew 25 Patient Portal is a HealthCare Support Portal facilitates better communication with your physician’s office by providing convenient 24 x 7 access.” This also eliminates the paper version I used to get at the end of every visit. They even have a handy app.

 

I’ve Never Been a Rainbow Guy…Seriously.

Limited edition PRIDE Dr. Marten’s.

To be clear I’ve never been a “rainbow guy.” You know the guy I’m talking about the “rainbow guy,” we’ve all seen him. The older middle aged guy, he was in his 20’s or 30’s in the 1970’s or ’80s. They have the rainbow bumper sticker on their Honda Accord or the “ball chain” necklace with the five rings in the PRIDE colors hanging from it. Or maybe the polo shirt with the PRIDE flag embroidered on it in the place where an alligator should go. Some of us including yours truly have given those guys a sideways glance or an eye roll. I can hear one of my more judgmental friends saying, “Look at that old poof with the rainbow bumpersticker, like she needs to advertise.” So you can imagine the good natured ribbing I’ve been taking from my friends because I purchased a pair of limited addition Dr. Marten rainbow colored eight eye boots released for PRIDE 2017. My husband was appalled. “Rainbow Dr. Marten’s, those are hideous.” he said with disgust. Dr. Marten’s are to me what Manolo Blahniks were to “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw always in style and always fabulous. Yet when I got the e-mail urging me to buy them even my first thought was these might be too much, even for me.

The Rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker who passed away eariler this year was meant to be a symbol of not only the diversity of the LGBT community but of our strength and our beauty and it still is. You go into any “gayborhood” around the country and there’s the PRIDE flag in its various forms. From the rainbow pylons that line North Halsted in Boystown to simple PRIDE flags that adorn proud LGBT owned businesses in Indianapolis. There are even some PRIDE flags hanging from homes right here in Michigan City and Northwest Indiana. So when did it become a joke to show your PRIDE or even wear the rainbow? I mean I bought a pair of rainbow colored Dr. Marten’s because I’m proud of who I am, my marriage and my community. It’s not like I wore a t-shirt with a silhouette of a baseball player that says “catcher” to a child’s birthday party. Don’t laugh I’ve seen it happen. Then there’s the haters. Years ago when I was a bartender one of the wait staff who worked with me told me that she used to love the rainbow, until the gays “stole it.” For the record we stole the rainbow about as much as Neil Armstrong stole the moon after he planted the American flag on it. The moon as well as the rainbow still belongs to everyone, we were just the ones that got to it first.

As much as President Donald Trump is attempting to dismantle Presidents Obama’s legacy piece by piece he is also trying to limit our visibility and silence us. A man with five children (that we know of) from three different marriages who said that he prefers “traditional” marriage is trying to put us back in the closet and he’s doing it by cutting funding to HIV/AIDS treatment programs. He’s doing it when he tweeted that the military will no longer allow transgender soldiers to serve in any capacity in the military and he’s doing it when he caters to the Evangelical base. Evangelical’s who would rip our marriages and families away from us without a thought for our happiness, our rights or the rights of our children. The same Evangelicals who would expose LGBT youth to harmful conversion therapy and claim pro-life but turn a blind eye to the high amount of gay and transgender teenagers and young adults who commit suicide or deny services homeless LGBT youth in their “Christian” shelters. These are Donald Trump’s supporters and these are the same people that would like to see us go away yet they don’t seem to mind when the chief executive grabs the occasional pussy.

I refuse to let the Trump administration erase our legacy and I refuse be invisible so I bought the damn boots. Wearing them is just one of the little things I can do to fight back against the hypocrisy of this administration. Maybe in the end I became the middle age “rainbow guy” who I used to roll my eyes at. In retrospect maybe the “rainbow guy” had a point, maybe that rainbow bumpersticker or the ball chain necklace was just his way of not being invisible. Come to think of it we would not have the legacy that we have now if it was not for “the rainbow guy.”

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake, August 7, 2017.

A portion of the proceeds from the rainbow Dr. Marten’s go to The Trevor Project to stop bullying. You can get your own pair at drmartens.com

 

 

 

 

 

HIV Testing & Reflections on LGBT Pride Month

As I say good-bye to June 2017 I wanted to take a minute to reflect on what the month has meant to me. For many reasons June is my favorite month of the year and as just about everyone knows June is LGBT Pride Month with celebrations across the US in every major city. I also celebrate my birth on June 25th, that’s another reason the month is extra special to me. The Supreme Court ruled that gay Americans had the right to marry in every state June 26th which issued a great shift in our society and in LGBT culture. There are also two HIV Awareness Days: HIV Long-Term Survivors Day and National HIV Testing Day.

Daniel Ashley Williams, Photo: Facebook

June 5th is HIV Long-Term Survivors Day. An awareness day to celebrate and honor the Long-Term Survivors of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to raise awareness about the needs, issues and journeys of HIV Long-Term Survivors (HLTS).

Why June 5th?

A year after scientists identified AIDS they discovered the cause: HIV. On June 5, 1981, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first warning about a rare form of pneumonia among a small group of young gay men in Los Angeles, which was later determined to be AIDS-related.

Why June 27th?

HIV testing is important for both treatment and prevention efforts. Yet, 13% of those infected with HIV are unaware they are infected. June 27th is National HIV Testing Day (NHTD) and it was first observed on June 27, 1995 and that day is meant to encourage everyone to learn their HIV status. The CDC recommends that everyone ages 15 to 65 have a screening test for HIV. People with risky behaviors should be tested regularly. A question I was asked by several college students at the Vincennes Aids Walk in April was “what is an HIV test, do they have to take blood?” There are different type of HIV testing.

There are three main types of HIV tests:
ANTIBODY TESTS

Most HIV tests are antibody tests. Antibody tests check for HIV antibodies in blood or fluids from your mouth. This is usually done by swabbing the inside of a persons cheek. HIV antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that the body produces in response to HIV infection. It can take 3 to 12 weeks for your body to make enough antibodies for an antibody test to detect HIV infection and the results are ready in 30 minutes or less.

COMBINATION TESTS (ANTIBODY/ANTIGEN TESTS)
Combination tests can detect both HIV antibodies and HIV antigens, a part of the virus, in your blood. A combination test can detect HIV infection earlier than a HIV antibody test can. It can take 2 to 6 weeks for your body to make enough antigens and antibodies for a combination test to detect HIV infection. This HIV testing is done a lab.

NUCLEIC ACID TESTS (NATS)
Nucleic Acid Tests (NATs) look for HIV in the blood and can detect HIV infection about 7 to 28 days after you have been infected with HIV. This test is very expensive and not routinely used for HIV screening.

The window period is the time between when a person gets HIV and when a test can accurately detect the HIV infection. This is based on the level of virus in your body and antibodies to the virus that become detectable over time. In most people, HIV can be detected as early as 2-3 weeks after transmission. In others it can take up to 3 months after somebody acquired HIV for tests to show a positive result. Testing is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not.

Please don’t wait until next Just to get tested, if you are sexually active you should get tested every 90 days, you owe it to yourself and to your sexual partners.

 

POZiversary, Yeah It’s a Thing

Daniel Ashley Williams, Photo: Facebook

POZiversary is the act of celebrating the anniversary of one’s HIV diagnosis. Despite all the progress that has been made in the treatment of HIV and despite the fact that HIV is completely manageable for most people, receiving a positive diagnosis remains a challenge. HIV is not the death sentence it once was in the 80’s and 90’s but the sigma is still there and those newly diagnosed can get scared and that’s okay. Still, why would anyone want to celebrate or even acknowledge the day that they received a positive diagnoses?

It’s been 9 years since I found out that I was HIV Positive. When I found out I was positive there were so many fears. There was the fear of telling my boyfriend, there was the fear of the stigma of HIV/AIDS and there was the fear of the unknown. Later on after telling my then boyfriend about my diagnosis he was tested. We found out that his CD4 counts were lower and that he had HIV longer than me and in fact infected me. I was lulled into a false sense of security because we were in a monogamous relationship.

When I was infected in college all I knew about HIV/AIDS or thought I knew was that it can be transmitted sexually and that gay men were at a higher risk for infection. It’s a common misconception that gay men in relationships are at less risk of HIV and they tend to get tested less frequently then single gay men. There is also a high frequency of gay men in relationships or with their main sexual partner(s) that do not use condoms.

HIV can be transmitted between sexual partners and if condoms are not used there maybe a false sense of security. It’s assumed that everyone in the relationship or the sexual encounter knows his own HIV status and everyone should know their HIV status whether they are in a relationship or not. I recommend getting tested every three months.

After a positive diagnosis the health department will show up at your door and it can be a very scary thing to have a person from the government come knocking on your door asking a great many personal questions that you may not feel like anwsering. I mean who really wants to talk with complete strangers about their sex life? “How many sex partners have you had?” “How many times have you been tested for HIV and when was it?” “Do you have a phone number for any of the people you have had sex with?” It’s the Health Departments job to contact the people that have had sexual contact with a person that is HIV positive and it’s their job to get those people tested, but the health department will not disclose how they received that contact information. This is so you keep your privacy and there is no telling how someone may react so it keeps you safe as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the estimated Lifetime Risk of HIV Diagnosis in Indiana is 1 in 183. Overall, an American has a 1 in 99 chance of being diagnosed with HIV at some point in his or her life. But that lifetime risk is greater for people living in the South than in other regions of the country. Linking people to care within 3 months after an HIV diagnosis improves their health and reduces the risk of transmission. In 2014, the majority of states with the lowest levels of linkage to care were in the South. According to the CDC in 2015, 39,513 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States. More than 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and about 1 in 8 don’t know it. Make the informed decisions about your health and get tested.

I’m not proud to be HIV positive but I’m proud that I can be open about my status and stand up to the faces of adversity. There are many reasons why a person cannot be open about their status, yet I am one of those people who can and that is why I celebrate my “POZiversary.” It’s like celebrating LGBT PRIDE every year. You are not only celebrating who you are you are celebrating your life and the lives of the people in your community, you are also educating and living by example. You are showing someone else the way out of darkness and ignorance you are shining the light on misconception and sigma. You are showing people who might be afraid, whether they are afraid of their sexuality or their HIV status that there is still light and life at the end of the tunnel, least that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to educate and maybe if I do it right I can give that young kid in college who was just like me, who just got told that he was HIV positive hope, maybe I can let them know that it will be okay. Life will be different but it will be okay. So that’s why I celebrate my POZiversary.

Matthew 25 AIDS Services, INC. is a non-profit healthcare clinic that specializes in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. They are only one of two comprehensive HIV/AIDS Service clinics in Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky. 

 

They Can Turn Off the Lights but They Can’t Turn Off Our PRIDE

It’s June and it’s Gay PRIDE month and more then ever we need our PRIDE. For the first time in eight years there will be no PRIDE celebrations in the White House, don’t expect the people’s house to be lit up in rainbow colors or Vice President Mike Pence to be running the halls carrying a PRIDE Flag the way former Vice President Joe Biden did. The only things that are running in The White House this year are the PRIDE Colors, running like they were hit with bleach spray and all we are left with is bland and angry white. Transgender protections have been rolled back. HIV/AIDS funding is being cut. Violence and harassment of all marginalized communities is on the rise. Even on a local level I experienced a disrespect from my employer in regards to my sexuality and my marriage. That disrespect from someone I trusted led me to leave my job, a final straw that not just broke the camels back but left him paralyzed and angry.

This blog was originally going to be the story of what happened to me and what led up to me leaving the employ of a well known local attorney. After two weeks of writer’s bloc and apathy, after two weeks of not knowing what to do with my newly unemployed self and not knowing where to start I’m continuing with the work I’m most proud of, this web-site and our own LGBT Community right here in Michigan City and Northwest Indiana.   “The Beacon” and our sister page OUT in Michigan City & NWIN on Facebook have been a little lite on content these last few weeks, for that I am sorry, I was licking my wounds so to speak. I had put my all into a job and a boss that who was so disorganized, so socially awkward that I thought I could “fix” him. I just thought that maybe he didn’t have the right kind of help in the past, maybe wasn’t the right kind of help. Who knows? I do know this, there are just some things that can’t be fixed. The end came when he not only insulted me, a proud gay man but worse he insulted the integrity of my marriage and made light of my husband.

So I’m done moping, I’m done morning for a job I liked but the baggage that came with it made it not even worth it, especially at the end. It’s PRIDE month and it’s time for us to shout, fight, and let Northwest Indiana, the Statehouse, the Governor’s Mansion and the nation, especially the Trump administration know that we are still here.

President Trump can keep the colored lights turned off, he can refuse to acknowledge PRIDE month. He can refuse to issue the LGBT PRIDE proclamations that have been issued in the month of June for the last eight years, and he can cow tow to Mike Pence and the religious right all we wants but WE ARE STILL HERE. OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD and WE WILL BE RESPECTED and WE WILL NOT BE IGNORED and WE WILL RISE again and again so long as our lives, our marriages, and our families are being disrespected by an administration that lives in darkness and lies. I encourage you all to go to PRIDE events. Little ones, big ones. Hold them in your back yard or your living room. Invite friends over. Go to the PRIDE events in the park or in the streets of Chicago or Indianapolis. BE PROUD and BE LOUD because the fight is not over and it’s not going to be over until we say it is.

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake on this June 1, 2017 Gay PRIDE month. Be Proud.

 

 

Editor’s Note: Thanks Daniel!

Daniel Ashley Williams (Left) and Wally Paynter (right) Photo: Facebook

We here at “The Beacon” wish to acknowledge the hard work and dedication to our own Daniel Ashley Williams. Daniel has put himself out there time after time and week after week sharing his experiences as an HIV positive man living in the Mid-West. Even though we mostly cover the LGBT community in Northwest Indiana and Daniel lives in the Southern part of the state, he was the first person that I thought to participate in our publication.

Because Daniel chooses to share his life though his column “Positive Perspective” and because of his tireless efforts to change peoples perceptions on what it is to live with HIV Daniel was asked to be the honorary chair of the Vincennes AIDS walk on Saturday April 22, 2017.

Thank you Daniel for your openness and thank you for sharing your life with us. We look forward to the things that you have to say and we love helping you say those things.

-John Martin Livelsberger, Publisher of The Beacon by OUT in Michigan City