Tag Archives: HIV Awareness

World AID’s Day and in case you didn’t realize, it’s still an issue.

So, here I am again, another year later, trying to figure out what to write that’s different…that will make people pay attention to something that I’m still not sure why it’s so important to me.

I mean, it should be important to everyone. Finding a cure, helping those already infected and figuring out how to educate people so that new infections slow and finally stop…that should be a priority for everyone who considers themselves to be a decent human being. This is a disease that doesn’t discriminate. If you aren’t safe, if you don’t take every precaution, you are at risk. It doesn’t care who you are, if you are straight or a member of the LGTBQ community. It’s doesn’t care about gender or race or monetary status. If you share needles, if you don’t use a condom, if you don’t take the available medications, if you don’t get tested so that you know your status then you are taking your life into your hands. And the lives of anyone you are making a part of these at-risk activities.

For a long time, my interest and concern was more global than personal. I didn’t know anyone who was HIV positive but I do now. Friends I talk to almost every day and so now my heart is invested and maybe that’s more than enough reason to speak my bit whenever I get a chance. So here’s a link to a place that will help you find help in your Canadian community, but of course a quick Google search will find you help in just about any country in the world.

You want a few statistics? 37 million people are HIV positive world-wide. Almost 2 million of those are children under 15 who were most likely infected in the womb, during childbirth or from breastfeeding. Most people who are HIV positive come from low to middle-income countries, particularly in the third world. Only about 60% of people who are HIV positive know their status. That means there are a whopping 14 million people out there who don’t have a clue and that’s more than a little scary.

Another happier statistic? There are about 18 million people who are accessing antiretroviral therapy drugs that will hopefully give them a chance at a better life.

I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, especially on HIV and it’s treatment or prevention. But I know that studies are showing that PrEP and Pep are saving people’s lives and I know that it’s a step in the right direction.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who will help you if you are looking to stay negative and there’s a lot who will help you if you are HIV positive. But you have to look for that help so please, do what’s best for you and get whatever help it is that you need.

I could post a lot of links but each country has its own resources and I think if you are reading this post, you know how to use a computer enough to go looking.

The last thing I know is that if you are HIV positive, I am your friend, your advocate and your shoulder to cry on. I would hug the stuffing out of you if I met you and would love to sit down and hear your story.

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So, you have a few questions about AIDS Walk 2016…

I know what you’re thinking. She just blogged, like a couple of days ago? What could she possibly have to say already? It’s usually month between blogs posts, unlike real life, where I never shut the hell up!

But, I just announced the other day that for the first time I’m participating in the 25th Annual AIDS Walk and Superhero run in Edmonton and I’d like to talk a little bit about that.

Every year I do a post on December 1st for World AIDS Day and I always try to explain why it’s so important to me to bring awareness to those around me. I probably do a terrible job at putting into words why I feel so strongly about it, but my feelings about the whole situation grow stronger every year and I’m finding myself looking for other ways to show my support for people who are HIV positive. I had no idea that Edmonton did such an amazing event every year, let alone for the last 25 years!

I get a lot of questions these days. Why do I write books where the two main characters are both men? Why do I attend Pride (and take my kid with me)? Why do you worry about things that have nothing to do with you? Why are you being so weird? Are you gay? Are you HIV positive?

You wouldn’t believe the things people feel free to ask you when they are hiding behind a computer keyboard and have no fear of any consequences (or any manners either) and while I’m under absolutely no obligation to answer any of them (as far as I’m concerned anyway) I’m willing to answer some.

Why do I write m/m romance books? Because it makes me happy. It lets me show my support for the LGBTQ community in a unique way that also lets me express myself creatively. I’m insanely proud of being published and I will never regret finally giving in and submitting my first manuscript to my publisher.

Why do I attend Pride? Once again, it lets me show my support for a community that has shown me nothing but kindness and understanding and I truly believe equality is everyone’s right and going to Pride lets me see how it could be in a world where discrimination and bigotry wasn’t tolerated. Why take my kid? Because I want her to grow up in a better world. Someone once said “be the change you want to see in the world.”and so taking my daughter and educating her is one of the ways that I’m doing that.

Plus, Pride is a whole lot of fun. Being surrounded by people celebrating who they are is one sure way to find a bunch of joy for yourself.

Am I gay? Nope, definitely not. However, I don’t have to be gay to know that there are terrible things happening to people for no logical reason what-so-ever and be outraged by it.

Am I HIV positive? Also no, but I’ve never had cancer or diabetes or MS either and still managed to find a way to support the people who are living with those diseases and the people who love them.

Why am I being so weird? Honestly, I guess weird depends on your point of view. I think I’m perfectly normal and you wanna know a secret? A big one?

I’m kind of selfish because in finally letting myself express my feelings about so many things I’ve always believed in but been too scared to say makes me feel better about myself.

Being good and kind and doing the right thing makes me feel good about myself, even if every once in a while, someone manages to push a button or two resulting in a long rant on my blog about why I do what I do.

And for the last question…why do I worry about things that have nothing to do with me? Because I believe we are all stuck living on this great big world of ours and I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to be the best human beings they possibly can. And I think too many people don’t realise they aren’t as unaffected by what goes on around them as they think they are.

So, there you go. It’s just me trying to be a better person and make the world a better place for my kid in the ways that I can.

So, that being said, if you wanna support me then click here on the clicky thing and take a look: “clicky thing”

BTW, a little side note to my handsome and wonderful nephew. I know the walk is on your birthday and I promise to make it up to you with the dinner and dessert of your choice whenever you want it. I hope knowing that your Aunty is doing something to help people will help you forgive me for missing your big day.

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Filed under AIDS Walk Edmonton, I'm so excited!, Pride, This is important., World Aids Day

It’s World AIDS Day Once Again.

So, I looked back on my post from last year on this day. Not much has changed, I’m even working on the same story, although its almost done now.

I tried to explain to someone today why I feel the need to write about this issue and I had a hard time finding the words. I think back to the 80’s when the epidemic seemed to sweep through the western world like a brush fire. It was everywhere, on the news, in the papers but the first time I heard of it, it was being called “gay cancer”. I was horrified by the term and something told me that it wasn’t right, but I was too young and foolish to go looking for the proper answers.

I was stupid back then. I wasn’t always safe. I was convinced in my early 20’s that no one I knew or could possibly meet would ever be infected. I didn’t hang out with IV drug users and to my knowledge, I’d never actually met anyone who was gay. I was living with a false sense of security that makes me cringe with embarrassment when I think about it. I was on the pill so I didn’t need to worry about being pregnant, right? Sigh, like I said, stupid.

If my daughter were to behave like that, I would beat her over the head with medical books until she realized the error of her ways. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hoping that she will learn from my mistakes. I showed her pictures of the AIDS Quilt Memorial today for the first time. She was shocked at how big it was and once she realized what it was, she got a little teary-eyed. She also love the idea of the quilt and thought it was an amazing way to remember someone you loved and lost to this terrible disease. If you’ve never seen it, check it out here!

I remember seeing the Ryan White story back in 1989 and thinking that if only the governments of the world had moved sooner and taken the precautions that were necessary, then maybe that little boy wouldn’t have gotten sick. So many people died because of the fear and arrogance of government officials who decided that a disease seemed to target gay men wasn’t something they needed to worry about. You can read more about Ryan’s story here.

I didn’t realize how bad it was until “And the Band Played On” came out in 1993. It was based on a book by Randy Shilts and as I watched it, I grew horrified at how the gay community had been treated and how all the trusted institutions allowed it to run rampant. People were scared…too scared to talk, so many gay men still in hiding from the discrimination they faced on a daily basis. So the disease kept spreading because it’s hard to help people who haven’t yet figure out how to help themselves. I recommend this movie to anyone who wasn’t around to see the way this whole thing unfolded. You can find the book here and the movie is available on Amazon as well.

The good thing about HIV now, is that it’s not the death sentence it used to be. First of all, it’s preventable. PReP is a medication that seems to be stopping the transmission of the disease and while it’s not a cure, it’s a great start. You can find more information about it here.

And there is Antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people who are already infected. By taking their meds and living a healthy lifestyle, people who are HIV positive are living almost normal life-spans. There are many who think that a cure is not only possible, but probable and coming a lot sooner than most people think. I hope they are right.

Unfortunately, the stigma that is attached to being HIV+ is still going strong and I’m amazed at the misinformation that people still have in this day and age. You can’t get infected by hugging or kissing or touching and I can promise you, that you’ve probably met someone who is HIV positive and you don’t even know it.

So, go and check out the World Aids Day site and get informed here. Because I’m Canadian, I’m spreading the word in my own country and so you crazy Canuks can check out this site.

And for everyone’s sake, get tested….knowing your status is the most important first move you can make. Something like 60 percent of the people in the world who are HIV positive have no idea. That means they aren’t getting the treatment they need and they are spreading the disease unknowingly. Scary thought isn’t it?

I guess I still didn’t find the words to explain WHY this is so important to me. I wish I knew. I just know that for a very long time, it’s something that caught my attention and I want to do anything I can to spread the word about HIV awareness and to help end the stigma attached to it. I’ve always been known for sticking my nose into things, so maybe this is a good way for me to use that “unique” skill set that I have.

And I guess I care because people are still dying and it’s something we all should care about.

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Some thoughts on December 1st….World Aids Day, Writing stress and a fic rec!

So, the first thought on my mind? It’s World AIDS Day today so let’s do our part to spread awareness not only about the disease itself but also about the people who are working to stop it.

Here is the link to the World Aids Day Page

Number one on your list of things that you can do  to protect yourself is know your status. Get tested. 25 percent of HIV positive people in Canada don’t know that they are infected. It’s your responsibility to take care of yourself and to do your part to protect the people you may become intimate with.

The second thing you can do is be safe. First and foremost, use a condom. Unless you are in a committed, monogamous relationship, then there should always be a condom involved when you have sex. People are not always truthful, ladies and gents. They can claim to be negative all they want, but unless you were standing right there when they were tested, is it really worth the chance?

Not to mention the other reasons to be safe…STD’s and pregnancy. Do you know how many men are paying child support to women who didn’t realize that things like drinking and medicines can play havoc with their birth control pills? And you can’t tell just by looking at most people what kind of nasty bugs might be lurking around in their bloodstreams.

And ladies, if you are planning a night out, tuck a few of those little foil squares into your purse or jacket pockets so that there is no excuse for him to not suit up if you happen to find “Mr. Right Now” at your local watering hole.

HIV is a disease that doesn’t discriminate…men and women, gay or straight…we are all equally vulnerable so please, protect yourselves.

I don’t know enough about PrEP to be for or against it yet, but I have included the link so you can look it up yourself.

Here are some facts about HIV in Canada

Spread the word, not the disease.

The second thing on my mind today is my Shifter story. I was looking back at some old blog posts and I have been struggling with this for so long. I still believe in this story so it’s frustrating that it’s taking me so long to get it out. I think because it’s so important to me, I keep getting hung up on getting it perfect and when it feels like it’s not, then it makes me stuck, like I’m wading through waist-deep mud.

I also have another story that’s started, but part of the problem is that when I’m working on it, I feel guilty about the Shifter story, like I’m neglecting a child or something.

Sigh, why did I ever decide I want to be a writer? Lol, kidding…mostly. It’s been an amazing journey so far, even with all the stress and angst that comes along with it.

I really did want to get this story submitted this year, but unless a miracle happens, that’s not in the cards. Ah well, it’s something for my New Year’s resolutions list then isn’t it?

Now for my fic rec….

A Still, Small Voice by D.W. Marchwell is a delightful story about a man who comes to realize that the people who really love you stand by you and treat you with respect. This story had an added smile for me because it take’s place in the city I grew up in and so I could picture all the places the main characters visited as I read the story. Give Noah and Oscar a chance and I bet you will be as smitten with them as I was. Check it out here at Dreamspinner Press.

As always, I’m here at Dreamspinner and also on Amazon.

And as a treat, here’s a beautiful photograph by my photographer friend Anthony Aceto!

 

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Filed under Monday Rants, This is important.

Pride history, NHTD and all the news that is the news and a fic rec.

So, I’m trying to get better at blogging more so here I go.

First things first. South of me, in the US it’s National HIV Testing Day. It’s one of many ideas put into place to encourage everyone to know their status. I would like to point out that this is something that everyone should be aware of, not just the members of the gay community.

I know too many straight men and women who still think after 30 years of horror and education that they can’t get infected because they aren’t gay. It’s a stupid and arrogant way of thinking and it terrifies me that my daughter is growing up in a world where this kind of thinking still exists.

If you’re sexually active, it’s your responsibility to make sure you know your status and seriously people, it takes so little time to find out. There is a wealth of information out there on the internet about where to get checked and where to find help if the worst outcome is revealed. Show yourself and the people you care about some respect.

A couple more things while I’m on my soapbox. 45 years ago, on June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Riots broke out in NYC. People pushed too far finally pushed back and it was the very violent beginning of a whole community of people finally standing up for themselves. Today Pride is a time for celebrating how far we’ve come with equal rights, remembering those people who have fought for the rights of the LGTBQ community in the past and thinking about how far there still is to go. This weekend there are huge Pride events going on in NYC as well as many other cities across the country. In Toronto they are celebrating with World Pride and I wish I was there! If you’ve never been to Pride, go and check it out for yourself. It’s an amazing journey and if you let yourself see all the joy and love there, it will make you a different person. You can check out more on the Stonewall Riots here: http://www.thestonewallinnnyc.com/StonewallInnNYC/HISTORY.html

And if you’re still wondering why the issue of equality is important to me, I’d like to draw your attention to another, darker anniversary this week. On June 24th 1973, 32 members of the gay community lost their lives in the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans. While the best suspect was a patron who’d been thrown out earlier in the night, no one was ever charged and authorities made it perfectly clear that no one was really interested in solving the case. After all, no one important died. Yes, that was the attitude. It’s horrific and I’d like to think that it would be so different today but there is places where it wouldn’t be. Check out this article here for more information: http://www.back2stonewall.com/2014/06/june-24th-1973-orleans-upstairs-lounge-arson-attack-kills-32-people.html

So,I’m done with my soapbox now. If you’re still reading then here’s some more news that’s just all about me!

On July 1st my novel, All the Things I Didn’t See is being released in Italian by Dreamspinner Press. I am so excited about this! It’s already out in Spanish and I love that this is opening up my story to a whole new audience. I’m getting some amazing feedback already and I’m in a little bit of shock over the whole thing. If you’re interested, you can pre-order it here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5234 I love the translated title Tutto quello che non vedevo. I wanna hear someone say it in Italian….

Other than that, my shifter story is coming along and I’m very happy about it. My inspiration seems to have found me again and I can’t wait to get this finished.

Now, for a fic rec…

This time I’m reccing The Colors of Romance by Ashavan Doyon. It’s a wonderful story about a young man who’s decided that love isn’t for him…only to have his world turned upside down by a secret admirer. I loved the romance of this story and the determination of the secret admirer to make Theo happy. If you’re looking for a story that will keep you guessing and make you smile you need to check this out. It’s available here at Dreamspinner: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4670 I encourage you to buy it there if you can because we authors get the most royalties from our publishers. Of course it’s available at Amazon and ARE as well.

And of course, you can get all my books at Dreamspinner here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_454

They are available at Amazon and ARE as well.

And here’s a photograph taken by a friend of mine. His sunsets are amazing and they always take me to another place….
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Filed under Friday Ramblings, I'm so excited!, This is important.

A little remembering…and a fic rec.

The story I’m reccing is called “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” by T.A. Webb. It tells the story of Auntie Social, a drag queen who has made raising money for HIV and AIDS research her top priority in life. It’s a free download on Amazon right now and it’s most definitely worth the read. Check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Lets-Hear-Boy-ebook/dp/B00BXVLPJA/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1369677475&sr=1-6&keywords=ta+webb

After reading it, I did a lot of thinking. The story takes us back to the early 80’s when HIV and AIDS was discovered and the absolutely terrifying backlash the LGBT community faced. Gay cancer was one of the nicer things it was called and so many people were convinced that God had called it down upon the Sodomites to wipe them from existence.

It’s ridiculous of course. AIDS is just a disease…a horrible, terrible disease…but God really had nothing to do with it. Anyone can get it and no one is immune. Great strides have been taken and there’s hope on the horizon, I think, but it’s going to plague humanity for a long time.

One of the things that struck me after reading the story was that the whole awful situation back then was made so much worse by the fact that the gay community was mostly still forced into hiding. It occurred to me that so many of the lives that this disease has taken might have been saved if only people hadn’t been so afraid.

The governments who were afraid to admit that this was a problem that affected more than just the gay community. The men and women who were infected and died alone because they were afraid to tell their friends and loved ones what had happened to them. The members of the gay community who unwittingly made things worse with the lifestyle they were forced to live because they were so afraid of how they would be treated that they hid away in bathhouses and the back rooms of clubs.

And that’s what this post is about. The people we’ve lost. When I think of all the people who might have done something amazing if only they’d not had the chance snatched away from them it makes my head spin. They died before ever being given the chance to reach their full potential and the immense scope of that loss weighs me down sometimes.

The loss of those a little more ordinary is crushing as well. Mothers and fathers whose children never got to know them or who never got to be born. Or worse, moms and dads who no longer have children to parent. Friends whose deaths left gaping holes in the people who loved them and counted on them to make their lives better.

This was an epidemic born out of fear that has grown to a global pandemic and I wonder how many have died or will die that could have been saved with a little open-minded thinking and some courage on the part of the world’s leaders.

I remember the first time I saw the movie “And the Band Played On” in 1993. I was 24 years old and I remember being horrified by the stupidity of so many people involved. The meaning of the name of the movie escaped me until I watched it again recently.

I could be wrong but the first thing I think of when I hear the movie title is the sinking of the Titanic. The tragedy of the Titanic and the lives lost were the result of sheer arrogance. The people in charge were so sure that they were right, they didn’t bother to take the most basic of precautions. And as the ship sank, the band played on because there was nothing else they could do to save themselves.

And so it went. The government denied there was a problem and so refused to issue any warnings or take any precautions. So the disease spread and more people died.

This is one of those things that almost overwhelms me with feelings and I have so much to say, but can’t seem to find the words to express myself in the way that I want. The thrum of anger and sadness and frustration runs under my skin when I allow myself to think about it too much.

I don’t know anyone who is HIV positive. At least, not that I’m aware of. It’s another one of those issues that’s personal for me because it should be seen as personal for everyone. It can happen to anyone.

One in five people who are HIV positive are unaware they are infected.

Every 9.5 minutes someone in the US is infected.

More than one million people in the US are HIV positive.

50,000 people are infected every year.

Since 1981 619,000 people have died in the US alone as a result of contracting HIV. The loss of life is staggering.

27% of new infections in 2009 were from heterosexual contact.

61% of new infections in 2009 were in MSM (men who have sex with men)

Injection drug user’s made up the rest of the new infections in 2009.

Sobering statistics indeed from http://www.aids.gov/.

I think somewhere along the way people fell under the impression that the crisis is over. We became complacent and because of that, it somehow seem less important to find ways to educate people so that we could stop the spread of this killer.

It’s still so important. As long as people are dying from HIV related infections, we are losing something that can’t be replaced.

Somewhere along the way, the focus of this post changed direction a little for me. I started writing about fear, but now I want to talk about hope.

Most importantly, keep yourself safe…always. You are the only one who can every single time.

If you need help, look for it. I know that’s easier said than done, but please don’t let fear kill you.

Do what you can to help others. Support HIV initiatives, get involved in fundraising and awareness campaigns. Let people know that this issue hadn’t gone away or gotten better.

In Canada, go here to offer your support and to educate yourself. http://www.cdnaids.ca/welcome

So, this is my Monday Rant. I’m trying to spend less time focusing on making things better for me and spend more time focusing on making things better for others. I have a feeling that it will help me more in the long run.

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