I just finished reading Keith R. Greenâs piece âWhatâs Goinâ On?â in the July/August issue. In his piece, he tells us about interviewing someone from a church for a position in the research project to study the feasibility of pre-exposure prophylaxis. His piece really strikes a chord with me, as I was a prevention specialist here in Arizona. I approached some church leaders about how we may work together to support our collective efforts in prevention and consistently, when it came to addressing HIV prevention with gays, I was met with judgmental comments such as those of the person Green interviewed. I was both angry and saddened that church members would take such a position against those who live, worship, and pray with them. One even writes inflammatory pieces against gays and then says, âI donât hate gays, I only write what God tells me to.â That just doesnât cut it for me. Sounds to me like he wants others to believe his hatred for gays doesnât exist because his God wouldnât allow that; and yet, his God does hate gays. His behavior does nothing to fight HIV and only sows seeds of hurt and sorrow.
Currently, I am incarcerated at California Menâs Colony State Prison. Someone slipped the November/December 2008 and the awesome March/April 2009 issues of Positively Aware into my cell.
I came into prison HIV-negative and currently still am. However, I have been with at least six HIV-positive guys for over two dozen times. Prison officials will not allow condoms because they believe it promotes homosexual sex within the prison. As if that isnât already happening!
When I first came to prison, I used to ask what, if any, disease did one have. But nowadays, so many come into prison HIV-positive or with hep C too, it is impossible to find a clean partner. And how lonely it is never to settle with a companion by oneâs side. Believe me, I know how loneliness brings forth the perverse, the absurd, the illicit.
In the real world, HIV funding is being cut; health centers are closing. So imagine how much worse it is for HIV-positive prisoners. We canât live, not properly or to the fullest, and we canât die; all we can do is sit and laugh about it. From the land where the clocks have no hands.
Michael Lanning, San Luis Obispo, CA
Positively Aware will treat all communications (letters, faxes, e-mail, etc.) as letters to the editor unless otherwise instructed. We reserve the right to edit for length, style, or clarity. Please advise if we can use your name and city.
5537 North Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Fax: (773) 989â9494
I have been receiving your publication since being diagnosed with AIDS in 1997. Thanks to your kindness, I have learned so much. I went on disability then and, over the years, have learned to live on $500 a month!
Thank you so much for all your advice and keeping us all informed.
Name Withheld By Request
Via the Internet
I was saddened by your less than careful use of words in your response to âSwallow or Spitâ in the September/October 2009 issue of Positively Aware. I work in a jail and spend a lot of time clearing up misconceptions about HIV, often simply from poor word usage or misunderstanding. Your statements âSwallowing sperm is not the real issueâ and âThere is a slight potential of contracting HIV by exposing your oral mucous membranes to HIV-infected spermâ and âThe level of HIV virions is greater in sperm and vaginal secretions than in blood,â are misleading and had several inmates coming to me accusingly saying, âI thought you said HIV was not in sperm.â I did and still do. Sperm does not contain HIV. As Iâm sure you are aware, every sperm cell is an individual cell and they cannot become infected with HIV. HIV cells and HIV-infected T-cells reside in semen, which is made up of numerous things, including sperm cells. This is all the more disconcerting because your statements on their face seem correct. (Although you may want to rephrase âThere is a slight potential of contracting HIV by exposing your oral mucous membranes to HIV-infected spermâ in light of Enid Vazquezâ update âOral Sex and HIVâ on page 13 of the same issue.) As you state, âAny type of oral sex can be potentially hazardous.â But the hazard is from taking semen, not sperm, into the mouth.
While I agree with your overall response to âSwallow or Spit,â I felt I had to chastise you for your lackadaisical word choice. There is enough confusion out there. Letâs not add to it.
Robert Quinn-OâConnor, Communicable Disease Coordinator, Franklin County Sheriffâs Office, Greenfield, MA
Dear Mr. Quinn-OâConnor,
Thank you for pointing out the difference between sperm and semen and the fact that sperm does not contain HIV. In defense of Mr. Myers, however, we would say that he followed our guidelines for writing for our mostly-lay audience, who most likely does not think of that difference.
We commonly donât demand a distinction between sperm and semen since no one outside of laboratory settings could be dealing with the physical substance of sperm separate from semen. Just as plasma is contained within the blood thatâs drawn for blood work and is indeed the actual substance thatâs tested, no one says, âplasma testâ or could separate the blood from the plasma themselves.
We are impressed that your students would make such a distinction and salute you for educating them to that degree.âSue Saltmarsh