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Weeping Willow World (AIDS Day)

2 December 2014 Posted by No Comment

imagesToday we judged a theatre competition on HIV, or more aptly “AIDS”. I felt defeated. For a moment. Or two. I needed to remind myself that the actors spoke only of what they knew to be true. What they thought to be fact. What they had learnt. The key message remained HIV=AIDS=Death. Regressive. And this on the day that scientists announce the emergence of a milder form of HIV due to the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy. Simply, deterrent methodologies have been proven to fail.

Reality: Trainers rarely update their information on a daily basis. Understood. We’ve used old statistics too, sometimes. New studies on HIV, especially in our part of the world, are rare. Our best and only source for current Sri Lankan statistics is the National STD/AIDS Control Programme. They maintain an excellent online resource that allows you to gather Sri Lankan data on a quarterly basis. Therefore we know that HIV, albeit, marginally is on the increase. Over 59 this last quarter of 2014, and also the quarter before that , with 51 reported cases in the first quarter of this year. Last year’s numbers read on slightly differently. That’s fine. 50 something, a hundred and fifty something, at most 200 something for 2014. No harm. No foul. Our prevention messages of abstinence before marriage and being faithful to one partner are working. An estimated 3000 – including those who don’t know – is proof of the pudding.

We are a literate nation. We can read. We know that if we are not faithful to our ever loving one and only Kandy lamissi, there will be blood. We know that sex is not permitted outside marriage in Sri Lanka, even though there is a two year gap in the legal age of consent (I can have sex at 16) and marriage (get hitched at 18). Cool. Like the American kids in Hollywood (and also low budget films shot in back yard Illinois). We also know that wearing a condom is the most effective way to prevent sexually transmitted infections, including HIV… it’s just that… who wears a raincoat when taking shower, the point is to get wet.

If we walk into a pharmacy and buy a condom, the chances are good that we won’t get a second look. Condoms in some stores and images (2)supermarkets are finally being stocked in full view. Some even sell little canisters of water-based lubricants. Still, even if we don’t get stared at and judged by the boy (at least he understands, probably even envies me) or girl (a thick gooey clumpy pile of embarrassment and arousal) behind the sales counter,  I repeat and rinse, who wants to take a shower in a raincoat, the point is to get wet. Tell us that the raincoat is for random rainy days, and not for when taking a shower at home, and we’ll believe you, it’s just that sometimes we love standing in the rain, regardless.

The disassociation of pleasure with condoms is not limited to Sri Lanka. It’s just that over here we’re Superman. Invincible. It’ll never happen to me.  Perhaps its the same over there, and over there too. Perhaps we’re all just irreparable hedonists, so drunk on our senses that we forget that pleasure is in the brain and  not in the nerve endings of our Jonis Carolis.  Perhaps we just don’t care anymore. There are only so many messages, warning us of your impending doom, that we can take. AIDS=Death is old news now.

But be careful.

It doesn’t mean the gay AIDS-ridden (probably foreign) paedophile gets to cast his shadow on me. At best, don’t come near me before nine and after three each day. Your shadow is longest then. Position of the sun, you see. You see? Don’t you? I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to die. I want to live. Not like you. You’re going to die.

We have HIV positive clients we work with that are struggling to overcome the dependency that HIV has wrought in them. Told so often that they are sick, the thought of work, the thought of a policy in Sri Lanka that supports their right to work, the thought of getting out of bed in the morning…

We can rebuild them. We have the technology. Except these are not bionic arms and legs and ears, we just need to know the basics. And once we do, then, we will no longer feel afraid, just alive. Fear is ignorant. Fear does not help prevention. Fear breeds stigma and discrimination.

Tomorrow is December 3rd. I like that day, a lot. I like that World AIDS will once again be forgotten. I like that we can go back to our willful ignorance.

Marches and banners will get us nowhere. We need to teach them in our schools. We need to teach them in our homes. We need to teach them not to be afraid.





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