Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Medical People Have an Overwhelming Obsession With AIDs

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.   

Dear readers, I come to you with wonderful news! It seems I am immortal!

Yes, I have found the key to eternal life, I am immune to 99% of everything, so long as I protect my one Achilles heel, there is no health complaint I can face, no injury I can suffer, nothing can strike me down!

And even my Achilles heel is pretty easy to avoid – see the only thing that can kill me is an illness I can catch with my penis. That’s a pretty damn specific weakness.

I know this is so because I have been repeatedly assured so by various doctors and recently had it confirmed by Beloved.

See, he has an ear infection (which he blamed on me) so painfully made his way down to the doctor who decided to do the directed medicine thing and asked him… about AIDS.

Beloved thanked him for his concern but his ear was really hurting and he didn’t actually have AIDS so can we deal with the actual medical condition he was suffering from, thank you so much. No, really he was polite. The third time the nice doctor man mentioned AIDS Beloved’s ear inflamed temper became much less…  flexible and he came home in a towering rage.

And I’ve been there. In my ongoing battle to try and stop my horrible chronically dry skin from peeling off in huge chunks and leaving me looking like an extra on the Walking Dead, I’ve ambled down to the doc and tried to discover if I have eczema, dermatitis or leprosy or something aaand… AIDS.

Is AIDS causing me to look like I need to carry a bell around with me? No. I’m not there to talk about AIDS. Fix my skin! I dodged his question about when was the last time I took a HIV test so many times he started to get accusatory. Personally I didn’t want to be told that my last check – years ago – made me a terribad gay and instead wanted him to address the fact my skin was falling off in nasty, dry, flaky chunks.


It’s not the first time either, to an extent that, while I’m determined not to crawl back into the closet for any reason, I’m tempted to do so when visiting the doctor’s office. In fact, I think if I was stabbed multiple times tomorrow, rushed to the ER only semi-coherent and we had one of those scenes where I’m being wheeled through the corridors with doctors chanting medical babble around me (I watch TV, I know they happen :P) they’d actually be saying “Do you have a HIV test? When was the last time he had a HIV test!” “Nurse! Did he say he was sexually active?” “Sparky, stay with us Sparky, I need to give you a condescending lecture about condoms, stay awake!”

So I can only assume from these experiences that I am immortal. That the reason medical professionals around me obsess about AIDS (and, occasionally, other STDS) is because only sexually transmitted diseases can bring me down. My penis is my weakness!

Or, I could conclude that people, even medical people, have an overwhelming obsession with AIDs when it comes to gay men.

One of these options is more likely –  but I prefer the immortal one.

The thing is, I’d quite like to see the NHS make a point of offering GBLTQ focused health care, especially since study after study has shown that we’re underserved and often failed by the people who are meant to keep body and soul together (and stop my skin falling off). But being aware of our health issues means actually studying what those issues are, rather than hitting the same note.

As a gay man, yes that includes AIDS and other STDs, of course it does

But we also have vastly disproportionate addiction levels. Smoking, alcohol, substance abuse are all through the charts.
We also have a many times higher eating disorder rate than straight men.
We much more likely to be homeless with the attendant health risks.
We have an IMMENSELY higher rate of mental illness, depression, PTSD, self-harm, suicide.
We’re often victims of violence

These are just a few – and there’s doubtless more I’m not even aware of because any study into our health has the problem of both a closeted population and too many people asking these questions because they have an agenda. By all means find these out, tell me about them – hey I’ve been hearing rumblings about meningitis which I know nothing about and is probably a continent away but I’d really appreciate some clarification if nothing else than because the idea of a potentially lethal contagious disease spreading among gay men makes me REALLY FREAKING NERVOUS for obvious reasons.

And that’s just as a gay man. I can’t imagine what my bisexual siblings may have to put up with, or the fuckeries that have lesbians happily committing murder in their minds in the doctor’s office. And as for trans people – I have yet to meet one trans person who doesn’t know of at least one doctor they would happily strap to an altar and sacrifice their souls to any dark god that happens to be passing. And, given what they have to tolerate, I’d hold the knife for them AND wear the silly robe.

We want personalised health care, we need personalised health care and I would be overjoyed if the medical profession paid attention to issues that disproportionately affected us and health care considerations we may especially need. But that doesn’t replace actually listening to us, nor does it mean treating the stereotype rather than the person.