Being single…

I always hear a lot of guys talking about how upset they are that they are single. How horrible it is to not have a boyfriend, or significant other. There is this sense that something is missing, and that we are not complete when we don’t have a partner.  A lot of times, people equate being single with it just being a phase, and that you will come out of it soon (sound familiar?).

I know for me, for a long time, having a boyfriend was one of those goals in life I aspired to, so I could escape being lonely.  It wasn’t the fact that I was trying to escape being alone, its that I realized that I was trying to avoid being with myself because, I didn’t see myself as adequate.  My adequacy depended on the affections of another.  In order for me to figure out what makes me adequate, I had to learn how to be content with myself, and in order for that to happen, I needed to be single.  What being single means to me, is having the space to connect with yourself, and figuring out what makes you happy.  It’s also discovering ways to enjoy life, that doesn’t require a significant other.

So before we berate ourselves, and ask “What’s wrong with me?” or  “Why can’t I find a boyfriend?”, lets take some time and ask, “What are some good things about me?” or “What are some things that I’m passionate about?”. Besides asking yourself these questions, its important to acknowledge the love you already have in your life, be it from Family members, or friends, and of course the love you have for yourself!  I’m not saying that it will be easy, but you’ll soon find out that being alone, doesn’t mean that you’re lonely :) .

The faces of HIV Stigma

With HIV nowadays (at least here in North America), it is not a death sentence. People who are positive, who are on treatment and taking care of themselves, are able to live full lives, while keeping undetectable levels of the virus in the blood.  Unfortunately though, the biggest hurdle that most poz people face is not the feeling of impending death, but encountering stigma.  What happens when there is rampant stigma around being HIV positive?   It’s hard to put into words what HIV stigma means (besides providing a definition) in order for people to fully understand it.  I came across this article that illustrates 9 examples of negative impacts (no pun intended), that can result from HIV stigma.  It talks about real life examples of people’s stories, which I found more powerful in getting the message across.  There needs to be  more posts like this, because the only weapon we have against this kind of discrimination, is education.  Give the article a read right here!

The Truvada Controversy

In an earlier blog post, I spoke about PREP (Pre exposure Prophylaxis), a HIV prevention method which requires you to take a pill on a daily basis to add an extra layer of protection from contracting HIV.  If you haven’t read my previous blog post, the link is right here (scroll down to the post “PILL PREVENTION”).  The pill that is being used right now for PREP, is called Truvada and there is a lot of controversy surrounding it.  There have been studies published saying that it is effective in preventing HIV, but a lot of critics of this type of prevention are saying that it is reckless to promote it, because then people will stop using condoms and then more people will get infected.  Advocates for Prep are saying that it is better that more people have access to it, because despite people promoting the use of condoms, people are still getting infected, and its responsible to allow access to other forms of prevention, such as Prep to keep infection rates lower.  Watch the video below which talks about Truvada debate, and draw your own conclusions.

What happens when you get tested?

Thirty years ago this week, the first commercial HIV blood test was approved (read more about it here).  Before that, HIV was an unknown. No one knew how it was spread or how to treat it.  Since then, there has been so much advancement in not only HIV treatment, but in testing as well.  Before it was a slower process which took 2 clinic visits over 2 weeks.  Sometimes you also had to wait 6 months to make sure you had an accurate test result.  Tests now can detect HIV in the blood just a few days after exposure.  This especially helpful, so you can find out early and get treated, and prevent transmitting it to someone else. There is also a test available called the rapid test, which can give you your result in just a few minutes.  If you want to know what happens when you go for an HIV test today, here is a video that was developed last year, which shows you what a rapid test is, and what can happen on a typical testing appointment    Check it out below!

Black Dog named Depression

I saw this video and thought it was a great way to illustrate what depression is.  I know for a lot of South Asians, talking about mental health issues such as depression, isn’t something that happens too often.  There is stigma around seeking help for mental health conditions because there is a fear around being perceived as “crazy”.  I wanted to bring this up, because for a lot of  South Asian guys who like guys, due to some of our circumstances, our mental health isn’t always addressed in the best way.  For example, if you are gay and feel you can’t tell anyone, or Bi and married, this type of isolation can be a big factor that could lead to things such as depression.  The depression then can affect all other aspects of our life, and then we aren’t helping ourselves or anyone.  I know for some, having mental health issues is like coming out of another closet, and its an added challenge for those who are dealing with their sexuality or gender identity.  If you feel you might be facing some of these kinds of challenges, give the video a watch, and/or give this article a read, which will give you a better understanding of what depression is and the importance of addressing mental health issues.  I also want to say that, there are millions of people who suffer from mental illness; some because of a chemical imbalance or hereditary factors, and/or others because of traumatic events.  Remember you are not alone in this, and you have nothing to be ashamed of.

South Asians and Sexuality: The Importance of Space

I came across this article titled, “Some people are Gaysian – Get over it!” (From the UK – hence the Asian).  It spoke about the importance of having South Asian specific LGBT programming and support services.  Yes, there are a ton of main stream LGBT support spaces available to the public, and they offer invaluable services to queer folks.  But more often than not, its a very North American (Read: White) way of looking at LGBT issues and this can pose as a challenge for those who perhaps didn’t have the typical white North American experience, or are new comers who don’t identify with and/or understand the language surrounding sexuality.  When someone is looking for support services, the main thing people look for is a place where they can feel heard, and understood.  Coming from a South Asian background, our experiences are quite unique when it comes to family, relationships, and our ideas of shame, which makes it more challenging for those South Asians who struggle with their sexual and/or gender Identity.  Sometimes, the concept of “Coming out”, isn’t even something they identify with – and that’s ok.  This is why spaces like Dosti or campaigns like Brown N Proud , are important, because people can come into the space and say, “When I tell my story, or hear someone else’s, I feel like I’m not alone.”

Safer sex for everyone!

Today I came across this post today that talks about 7 ways to have safer sex and what I really liked about it, is that not only did it talk about just condoms listed as a method, but also strategies and methods that kept in mind the health and well-being of an HIV positive person, as well as one who is negative.  Sometimes when we come across safer sex messaging, often it’s only framed for someone who is negative, which doesn’t involve the positive person, and then it just comes out looking like, “How to protect yourself from someone who is HIV+”.  It can have a vilifying feel to it for the person who is positive as it paints them as someone to “watch out for”.   Keep in mind that, if you’re negative and have anxiety around HIV, there are some positive people who have just as much anxiety around transmitting it, on top of worrying about such things as HIV stigma.   So lets take care of each other and learn about different methods which empower both positive and negative people, in making choices around safer sex practices.  Give it a read here!

Valentines dinner for 3?

  • Open relationship? Planning a threesome? Playing separately?
    This can be a particularly tricky, espeicially if you are in a relationship and want to start the dialogue.  Here are some quick rules that I came up with while exploring these areas. This isn’t a complete list, but things that I’ve learned along the way.
  • - If you’re planning on going to a club, bathhouse, sex party, or wherever, discuss beforehand what you guys want to do and make agreements!  For example,  if you are going together, maybe you want to play together only (or you want to play separately), whatever the case, it’s very important to discuss before-hand what will be happening and making an agreement, and sticking to it. 

  • - When you guys arrive at your location, always check in with each other to make sure the other is comfortable. For example,  IF you guys decide to wander off by yourselves, it’s good to discuss about checking in, and when to meet back.

  • - When deciding on hooking up/groping/dancing/making out with someone, make sure you remember what the agreement was before you left your house. For example, if you both decided at the beginning of the evening that you will only play together, and you like one person, and your partner doesn’t, remember to honor your agreement, politely move on, and find someone else.   Maybe have a secret word between you 2, to say whether you like someone or not.  

  • - If you are not comfortable about something,  at any point, SAY SO(maybe use that secret code word again)!  Maybe you agreed to something before you left the house, and now you’re not sure if you’re comfortable.   Communicate this to your partner!  You can always renegotiate.  Your comfort and you taking care of one another is the top priority!
  • Communication is very important when it comes to this
    NEVER ASSUME!
    ALWAYS CHECK!
    SPEAK UP!

“high” school

When heading out to the bar, or a house party, sometimes people use substances (drugs) as part of the going out experiences. The reasons could be because it helps them become less nervous and makes it easier to socialize, to dance, enjoy music  – whatever is that you do to have a good time. A substance that a lot of people use and are most familiar with is Alcohol or maybe even marijuana, but you also may have heard and have been curious about other substances such as cocaine or party drugs such as  MDMA, K, or GHB.  If you have tried, or curious about trying,  its very important to be informed so you can enjoy yourself, and stay safe :) Check out this link which may answer some questions you may have been curious about when it comes to drugs – from safe usage to Addiction. click the link here

 

The focus isn’t his status

Thankfully, having a positive HIV status is no longer a death sentence.  The concern, unfortunately, today is stigma.  In order to help combat stigma, education about what it means to be HIV positive today, and what that means for transmission is extremely crucial.  I came across this article that listed 5 examples of which a guys’ status doesn’t matter.  After reading the comments, some people saw this article as irresponsible, saying it promotes “unsafe” sex.  When I read it, I saw it as another way to show people, that if you meet and hook up with a poz guy, the focus shouldn’t only be on him. Due to lots of advancements in treatment and research, there are things you can do to prevent transmission, and that the responsibility rests on BOTH people involved, and not just the poz person.  If anything, I saw this article as another way of battling stigma, by educating and informing people, to bring the focus back ones own status, rather than relying on the other person and their status.

“Can you guess what HIV status really does matter? Yours. To stay negative, or keep your HIV virus to yourself, the power is in your hands.”  Read it Here