HIV has always hit where it hurts the social conscious most. It runs parallel, like no other health condition, to the ills of society and our personal lives. My association with it has been an odd one – an issue that circles back into my consciousness at regular intervals.
I first knew of it when I was studying nursing and the school did a great job defusing the bomb – it was an illness that was more likely to cause us to do harm to our patients than they would likely do harm to us. I was involved in the first research for HIV nursing policy for the NYC Health & Hospitals Corp. Barrier nursing and move right along… so I never had a morbid fear of it, just respect. Then I had a boyfriend in New York who had a crack addict brother and in those days (late 80s) they were still sorting out the dangers of tears and saliva so I decided to get tested. The lab personnel back in Jamaica wanted to know why someone like me would want to get tested…apparently this still happens in some places even today. Next, I took on the HIV education of our surgeons in training at the request of their consultant. Then I left it behind a while …until med school. Before entering, I went to a convent to pray about the rightness of my decision to take up medicine rather belatedly. Kneeling in front of a statue of Mary (the Catholic representation of the ancient goddess archetype), I got this message, clear as day, “The generative force of the universe has been bastardised”. I knew it referred to HIV, STIs & abortion, but what was I supposed to do with this knowledge? I still don’t know. Then …the day…as a senior student helping out a nurse suffering from ‘short-staffedness’, I stuck myself with an IV needle while trying to canalise an obtunded patient with AIDS. I had forgotten one part of my universal precautions and recapped a needle. I remembered the rest; bleed, wash with soap, get on therapy within 2 hours, draw baseline blood, report to consultant. Fear and the ART nearly killed me, inflamed kidneys, dizziness, nausea, starlights in my abdomen, yeast…at day 11 (the earliest theoretical day seroconversion could occur), having talked to 3 mentors and returned to the convent, I made my peace with God and discontinued the therapy I should have been on for 1 month. I tested at 3 mons., 6 months and the year. Negative. To date, Jamaica has had no conversions from needle injuries. I left it behind again and then almost by luck of the draw, got invited to the Chicago Midwest Caribbean Assoc.’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to present the Jamaican situation. I thought I’d seen and heard it all… but not like this.
First of all, I recalled Carolyn Myss’s book, Anatomy of the Spirit …HIV is a disease of victim mentality…is her thesis. There it was, the population that day was a range of full Caucasian to full Negro and everything in between and we were American Negro or Caribbean immigrant any and everything. A minor representation of American Caucasian in positions of power matched and superceded, in this forum, by non-Caucasion people in power and no Australoids or Mongoloids. Mongoloids present a paradox. One group, the Asians, were not present because their social structure is strong enough to preclude high rates of HIV and another group, the Native Americans was absent because it is so marginalised that it was not represented at all. Therefore, a near exact ethnic map of maginalisation was manifest. The main speaker of the day made the essential connection. To live with, beside or inspite of HIV, you have to take the chains off your brain. All ignorance, intolerance, prejudice and judgementalism has to die first…which led me to the real eye-opener.
The degree of interracial, interethnic, international interaction; tolerance; candour and live-and-let-live is something I’ve never seen the like of before. Personal horror stories are the norm, rites of passage are inescapable, ‘overcomings’ are astounding. There was mild and gentle side by side with militant and wild, each had its role and place. The interpersonal discomforts were acknowledged by some and put aside by all in the name of the cause. Everyone had sacrificed time and money to be there.
I saw and heard who had been cheated on, who born with it, who had had wild sex, who had come from the gutter and jail to the pastorship and married heterosexually on the way, after having a years long same sex relationship…all the dirty laundry of our real lives was on parade with forgiveness and acceptance. Previous rape, incest, abuse and addiction of the challenged was the common path. An entire generation has now grown up with HIV/AIDS and our national experiences are as similar as the details of these experiences can be stunningly different. Women are getting the short end of the stick everywhere, but IV needles will never play a part in one country. The more Negroid the population in the Americas the more HIV, but where any ethnic or racial group live in marginalized circumstances, rates are comparable with the exception of the Australian Australoids…they are blessedly and paradoxically marginalised enough that they have no extra exposure and virtually aren’t represented in any forum.
…So is this what HIV is here to teach us…? That we are more/better than the physical manifestation of our beings? …And what a comment that we needed such a lesson… Furthermore, suffice it to say, when I get a new diagnosis to deal with, should they need it, I automatically give them 3 months sick leave for medication adjustment time.
As the Midwest Caribbean Assoc points the way to the next stage of the HIV challenge, this is how I symbolize the transition and some interesting connections I made:
CLICK HERE: A WOMAN WHO KNOWS SEXUAL STYLE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WESTERN SOCIETY’S MORES OR EDUCATION & THAT ALL THAT MATTERS IS THAT SEX DOES NOT HURT SELF OR OTHER. TODAY THAT MUST INCLUDE CELIBACY & THE CONDOM.
WE MOVE ON TO EVERGREEN REGENERATION & LOOSED FROM HIV