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Posts Tagged ‘HIV/AIDS

Why I’m an activist (and why you should be too)

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Press launch for Body Shop/UNAIDS Be An Activist campaign

With Boris Johnson at the campaign's launch at City Hall

I can’t quite describe how it feels to be standing six feet from Annie Lennox, as you have your photo taken by one of the world’s top fashion and portrait photographers.

The fact that I was doing it for an amazing cause made the whole experience even more special.

This year, The Body Shop has teamed up with UNAIDS and photographer Rankin for a global World AIDS Day campaign called Be An Activist. It showcases activists of all ages and races, from all walks of life, from popstars and CEOs, to your average man on the street, like me.

In a world where treatments are improving and AIDS is becoming less of a killer, sadly, people are becoming more complacent. Ignorance is high. Lack of education is a constant problem, and as a result, infections continue to rise.

This is why I’m so honoured and passionate to be a part of a campaign which reinvigorates the message that HIV is always out there, and it doesn’t discriminate.

Arm yourselves with the knowledge to protect yourself and make safer decisions, and let’s end the stigma surrounding HIV — and hopefully one day, eradicate the virus itself.

Below is a transcript (and a shaky video!) of the keynote I delivered (along with my best mate Emma) at the campaign’s press launch on 29th November 2010.

World AIDS Day is on December 1st, and I urge you all to stand with me and wear your red ribbon with pride.

I am proud to be an activist. Join me, and be an activist too.

————————————————

Every morning, I wake up, and the first thing I do after throwing the alarm clock across the room, is go to the bathroom, where I carefully place two bits of plastic onto my eyeballs so I can see properly.

Yes, I’m short sighted. Shocking, isn’t it? I mean, you wouldn’t know unless I told you. But yep, I genuinely can’t see my hand in front of my face without my lenses.

Being short sighted isn’t my fault; it’s just something that happened to me.

An hour later, before I leave the house for work, I tip four small tablets into my hand and knock them back with a glass of milk. To help my immune system cope with the effects of the HIV virus.

So there’s two things you wouldn’t guess from just looking at me. But only one of those things has the potential to change the way I’m perceived by other people.

We’ve been brought up to believe HIV is ‘unclean’ and that the people who carry the virus are somehow lesser beings, to be feared and ostracised. But I’m not, I’m innocent, I’m just like you.

I’m the person who gave you his seat on the tube. The guy who smiled at you when you bumped into him because you were walking along engrossed in your phone. I work with you, I cross the road with you. I’m not locked away in some dark corner of a hospital, gaunt, dying and covered in lesions. Every day, you come into contact with HIV+ people — you just don’t know it. And we’re not evil, we were just unlucky.

I hope one day, World AIDS Day is a day to reflect on the past and feel grateful that we live in a world free of stigma, a world where people can go about their lives without feeling they have to hide their status. I hope it becomes a time to remember those who lost their lives to the disease, and to thank those who developed treatments, and maybe one day even a cure.

Being an activist doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon. It doesn’t mean you have to march in a parade with a banner. You don’t have to stand behind a lectern at City Hall and deliver a speech. It can be something as simple as pinning a red ribbon to your jacket as you make your way to work. It’s an act of compassion towards a fellow human being. It says, “I’m with you on this’. Because after all, ten thousand voices whispering can be a whole lot louder than one person shouting.

I’m so proud to be a part of this campaign, to stand alongside such inspiring people and finally put a face to HIV. I hope that by sharing my story, I can empower people to take control of their health, get tested regularly and protect themselves from this virus.

I’m not ashamed of who I am, and I’m not afraid to be honest. And I will carry on holding my head up and fighting on behalf of those who live in fear so that we can finally end stigma once and for all.

My name is Kristian Johns, I’m HIV positive. And I refuse to hide, because I shouldn’t have to.

———————————————–

The exhibition at City Hall runs until December 7th 2010

Full pictures from the campaign

Shots from the press launch day

Written by guy_interrupted

November 29, 2010 at 6:10 pm

What everyone should know about HIV

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Image: AIDS awareness ribbon

Do you have all the facts?

I often get contacted by people on Facebook or Twitter asking me about HIV, either because they’re curious or believe they’ve put themselves at risk and need some reassurance.

I’ve always been very open about my status, and I’m glad people feel they can ask me instead of sitting there stewing. But it’s become increasingly obvious to me recently just how many people there are out there who know almost nothing about HIV. I’m not judging anyone, just making an observation.

You may remember a while back I wrote a post called ‘Why we should never stop being scared of AIDS’, and I stand by that sentiment. You should be damn scared of AIDS — it may be a manageable condition nowadays, but it sure ain’t fun — but there’s a difference between those who fear it because they’re ignorant, and those who have the facts, protect themselves and still have fun.

So I’m going to give you the basics. I’m not a doctor, so this isn’t written with the education of someone with a medical degree. I hope I’ve managed to slim down the technical side of things without compromising accuracy, but I’m quite happy to be corrected if you want to leave a comment.

This blog has had over half a million visits in the past year. If I can make just one of those visitors think twice about taking risks, then I may well have saved a life.

So here we go:

The science bit:

HIV’s a clever little bugger. When it enters your body, it targets your white blood cells. There are many different types of white cell, and they don’t just live in the bloodstream. But in very simple terms, they’re your immune system — the more of them you’ve got, the healthier you are.

HIV latches on to the white blood cell and empties its DNA into it. In doing so, it effectively turns the cell into a factory for producing more HIV — when the white blood cell reproduces, so does the virus.  Sneaky, huh?

But it gets sneakier. When HIV copies its DNA to human DNA it makes a small ‘mistake’ and mutates ever so slightly. This is why it’s so hard to find a cure — because by the time we develop one, it’s irrelevant because of how much the virus has changed.

If you imagine the yearly mutation of the flu virus to be the size of an A4 piece of paper, HIV’s equivalent could arguably be a couple of football pitches.

How do I know if I’ve got it?

Well, the simple answer is — you can’t. Not without a test. Once you’re exposed to the virus, your body will try to produce antibodies to fight off the infection. It’s the presence of these antibodies that the doctors look for when they test you for HIV, but it can take anywhere between thirty and ninety days before there are enough of them to detect in a test.

Some people will develop flu-like symptoms a couple of months after infection. Others may not show any symptoms at all. My experience was pretty traumatic. I was so weak I couldn’t even move, I barely ate. I lost nearly two stone and I had a blotchy red rash all over my body.

Attractive, huh? Thinking twice yet about barebacking?

PEP

It stands for post-exposure prophylaxis — and it could save your life. It’s basically a course of HIV medication that you take for a month after you’ve been exposed to the virus, and it could cut the risk of you developing HIV by around 80%.

But you need to be quick — you’ve got about a 72 hour window after exposure to get the treatment (the HPA in the UK say ideally within one hour and not beyond 72 hours). You can get it from Accident and Emergency or through selected GUM clinics. Have a Google and you can usually find where to get it in your area.

Accidents happen, condoms split or get forgotten in the drunken, drug-fucked heat of the moment. Nobody at a clinic is going to judge you, they just want to help. But make no mistake; this is not some magic ‘morning after pill’ — the side effects can be gruesome, and can include heavy vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, insomnia and dizziness — but it’s better than the alternative. It might be a second chance at an HIV-free life.

So don’t blow it — and take a bit more care next time.

So what should I classify as safe sex?

There are certain activities which can be said to be lower risk than others. Oral sex, for instance, is a lot lower risk than penetrative sex. But the actual risk is dependent on a number of factors.

For instance, if you have oral sex with someone who’s got a high viral load and is highly infectious, that’s obviously going to be a greater risk than if, like me, they’re undetectable (I’ll explain what that means in a second).

On the flipside, they could be undetectable, but if you’ve nicked your gums when you dashed to the bathroom to brush the taste of vodka from your mouth before you got down to it, then the risk goes back up.

And whether you’re male, female, top or bottom, barebacking’s a no-no. Just stick a bloody condom on. You may think you can’t catch it from a passive partner, but you can, and you probably will. If you rupture something while you’re banging happily away up there, you’ll be absorbing the virus straight through the head of your dick.

Nice.

So should I avoid sex with someone who’s positive?

Sex with a positive person — as long as it’s safe — shouldn’t be something to be frightened of. If they’re kind enough to tell you beforehand, you should assume they are in control of their health, and are at the right stage of their treatment, and therefore won’t do anything they feel will put you at risk.

However, you always have a choice, and it’s your decision whether you have sex with them or not. Don’t just go with the flow’ while silently freaking out.

I’ve been turned down by countless guys because of my status, but the one thing I always say is: “I’m not the first positive guy you’ve slept with — I’m just the first one who’s told you.”

So why should I get tested?

Well, apart from the obvious peace of mind, there’s another thing to consider. So here’s science lesson number two:

There are two indicators of how an HIV+ person’s body is coping with the virus:

  • CD4/T-cells: It’s a little complicated, but they’re pretty much the same thing. T cells are a type of white blood cell, and CD4 is the protein on a T cell’s surface that the HIV binds to. For this reason they’re sometimes known as CD4+ T cells. A healthy person can have a count of anything between 500-1500 per drop of blood.
  • Viral load: This is the number of copies of HIV per drop of blood and can vary wildly. At my worst, it was over half a million. Now I’m on drug therapy, it’s below 50 — or in clinical terms ‘undetectable’

So therefore, high CD4+low viral load = good news. When the CD4 drops below, say 250, this usually indicates the immune system has suffered damage, and then it’s usually time to consider drug therapy.

So if you don’t get tested, you won’t know if you’ve got HIV, and if you’ve got it, how the hell can you know how your body is coping with the virus? The longer the virus goes unchecked, the more it’ll have the chance to damage your immune system — and that’s where the trouble starts.

Also, the higher the viral load, the more infectious you are to partners — even if you’re indulging in relatively low risk sex.

You may not need to go on meds straightaway. I didn’t start taking them until I’d been positive for six years (I was diagnosed eight years ago). In fact, my CD4 was still around the 1000 mark, it was just that the virus was multiplying exponentially, and it was time to bring it under control — I looked awful, I was about two stone underweight, I was ill all the time, eczema, night sweats, diarrhoea, the lot. I was quite glad, actually.

In a nutshell

Well if I haven’t hammered the point home enough already, I’ll just say it one more time:

Go. Get. Tested.

And if you feel you don’t know enough about HIV, make it your mission to learn about it. You can find out a lot about HIV from websites like AIDSmap, or from charities like GMFA or Terence Higgins Trust.

You may think it’s one of those things that just happens to other people — like a house fire or car accident. But it’s not. It’s real and it’s on your doorstep.

Knowledge is power as they say. And the more people who take control of their health, the better. There is no cure, but with the right care you can live a long and happy life.

I’d like to think of myself as living proof that having HIV and having a fucking great life aren’t mutually exclusive, but if I hadn’t got myself tested, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here now, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience all the amazing things life has sent my way.

Thanks for reading.

Guy, Interrupted

Written by guy_interrupted

October 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Why we should never stop being scared of AIDS

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Image: AIDS awareness poster

The "Don't Die of Ignorance" campaign of the 1980s

As an HIV/AIDS activist, one of the questions I wrestle with daily is this:

At what point does educating people about HIV start to dilute the fear of the virus itself?

Sorry to get all controversial on you, but bareback sex feels good — that’s why people do it.

It’s no good brushing it under the carpet in the hope that people will conveniently forget this small point, because it’s a simple fact of life; your dick is packed with nerves that respond favourably to something warm and wet. And no, I don’t mean apple pie.

Well, I’ll tell you what doesn’t feel good: The fact that I couldn’t snog the face off of my gorgeous, HIV negative (now ex) boyfriend when we went to bed at night, because there was usually blood in the sink after I spat my toothpaste out. Nope, that’s pretty depressing, actually.

Or what about the fact that I can’t drink alcohol any more because of the damage the years of medication has done to my liver? Tonic water, anyone? Just me? Oh, okay then.

I’ll tell you what else doesn’t feel good: that despite still being relatively young and in my prime (I’m 31), I’m usually so exhausted by the end of the week that I sleep for half of Saturday and tend not to move past the sofa for the rest of it.

And did I ever tell you about how I got this scar on the side of my face? No? Well that was from last November, when I changed my medication, had a massive allergic reaction to it and was found hours away from a coma at the bottom of my stairs by my mother, who came round to check I was OK after nobody had heard from me for four days.

This, ladies and gents, is the reality of HIV.

In July 2008, I wrote for the Pride Blog, and I talked about HIV and the “Tombstone Generation”. For people like me, growing up in the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was without a doubt regarded as a killer. We were bombarded with images of falling tombstones and icebergs, and ominous voices telling us: “don’t die of ignorance.”

Before this period, the message was even closer to home. Paul Burston, author of “The Gay Divorcee” recently told PinkNews: “”For those of us who are 40-plus…we didn’t need ‘icebergs’, we saw friends die in hospital.”

I guess if you were sexually active in the 80s, going to a funeral every week in the 90s would have put the whole barebacking issue into perspective.

Fast forward to 2010 and things have changed dramatically. Take me for instance. I have a great job, I earn a good salary. I don’t live on benefits. My boss is very understanding about taking time off for hospital appointments, and treating the virus means simply taking five pills in the morning. It’s just become a part of my daily routine, like putting my contact lenses in so I can see properly.

Yes, HIV is now very much a ‘manageable condition’ — rather like diabetes.

In the developed world at least, we’re so fortunate to have treatment and care available to us, and I can’t put into words the respect and gratitude I have for the men and women who dedicate their lives to finding new treatments, vaccines, and hopefully one day — a cure.

But with all these advances in medical science, we’ve ended up with AIDS no longer being the killer it used to be. So it’s only natural we worry about it less.

It’s also invisible — you can’t see it, so it becomes easier to bury your head in the sand and forget about it, as opposed to, say, a dirty great weeping sore on the end of your cock.

It feels like lately, AIDS awareness campaigns have taken a very softly-softly approach, concentrating on a gentle “use a condom” message.

This is all well and good, but what about showing people the harsh realities of HIV? The anti-smoking lobbyists have got it right, with a slew of increasingly more graphic ad campaigns, and images of rotting teeth and blackened lungs gracing every fag packet.

Should we take our lead from the anti-smoking groups and start including similar on the DVD cases of bareback porn? Or would that ruin our fun too much? I mean, who wants to think about AIDS when you whack a porno on in the background while you’re sticking it to/getting banged senseless by some cute guy who thinks you’re hotter than molten lava?

If you were around in the mid 90s, you’ll vividly remember the image of Leah Betts in her hospital bed, which was circulated to the press in 1995. Her mother released the photo in the hope that people would see it and think twice about taking Ecstasy.

What would make you think twice about barebacking? An advert asking you very nicely to use a condom, thank-you-very-much, or being slapped round the face with the image of someone in the last hours of their painful life, covered in KS lesions, getting water through a drip and pissing it from a catheter?

Now ask yourself this: Is a few seconds spent having a giddy, bareback orgasm worth that?

Written by guy_interrupted

June 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

Why I’ll never stop wanting to be a superhero

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Marvel heroes

Friday nights at the local bar were always bedlam during happy hour...

Everyone…everyone at some point in their adult life has wanted to have super powers.

Come on — admit it.

Are you seriously trying to tell me you’ve never fantasised about using the power of thought to scatter those slow-walking commuters like skittles as they shuffle through Bank station at 8:30 on a Monday morning?

Tell me you haven’t,  just for a split second, imagined casually nudging the air with your fingers at the arrogant cyclist who just jumped the lights while you were trying to cross and sending him flying onto his sweaty, pedestrian-startling backside?

Not even a little bit?

OK, maybe I have anger issues, but superheroes rock. Superheroes are HOT. They never get sick, they can dispatch six or more bad guys simultaneously with ease. They don’t feel pain and they heal instantly. What’s not to love about them?

When I was a kid, I’d spend all my spare cash on growing my library of Spider-Man, Iron Man, Fantastic Four and X Men comics. I’d happily lose myself for a whole afternoon in that hyper-real world of bright colours, loud explosions and ass-kickings on every page.

I’ve never grown out of this — OK, maybe the ass-kicking bit — but at the ripe old age of 31, I’m not ashamed to admit I still have fantasies of waking up one day with the power of telekenisis or something.

Yes, I know now that my interest didn’t just end with the storylines and the cool drawings. The baby-homo in me was attracted to their perfect, lycra-wrapped torsos. They were like a schoolboy’s version of Tom of Finland — jaw-droppingly erotic, but safe in the sense that Ma and Pa stayed blissfully unaware that their son was appreciating the artwork on a whole different level.

But as well as the obvious sexual element, superheroes appeal to anyone who’s ever felt different. As a young gay man, I walked around feeling like I was somehow separate from the world. An outsider who didn’t understand why.

When you feel you have to protect something about yourself, it’s only natural you gravitate towards characters with a secret as well, their solitude resonates with you and in some way, makes you feel like you’re not alone.

And to see someone whose secret doesn’t make them weak — in fact, quite the opposite — should be comforting to anyone who’s hiding and feeling vulnerable.

I love that look they get in their eyes right before they unleash hell on the bad guy.  That cool appraisal of their opponent and the faint, knowing smile that says: “You have NO idea, do you….?”

Then BAM!

Who wouldn’t want to have that unbridled confidence? That feeling of invincibility?

For us homos, the first experiments with the scene, and the wonderful, terrifying feeling you get when you step inside your first gay club isn’t a million miles from the feeling Spider-Man must get he hears the crowd cheering him on. The feeling that finally you’re no longer an outsider — that you belong somewhere.

Is this why gay boys like our tight t shirts? After so long spent hiding, feeling different, scared and alone, do we subconsciously pick this childhood image of strength to make us feel protected in the outside world as we walk along with our pecs and biceps rippling under a thin layer of fabric?

When I was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 23, I went on a mission to prove I was superhuman. I partied from Thursday to Monday, stayed up for days on end, threw pills powders and booze into every orifice I could find and generally tried to push my body to its absolute limits. I wanted to prove I could withstand anything and that I was stronger than this thing that had invaded me: “You’ll see, body of mine! I can take this!”

It didn’t work. HIV was my Kryptonite, and pretty soon I realised if I carried on, I’d end up going to that great Batcave in the sky sooner rather than later.

And then there’s the other crappy part: No matter how many times a superhero saves the world, he or she is always alone. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, all of them have to sacrifice love and relationships to protect their secrets, and the lives of those they love.

And no matter how many wounds they heal from, their hearts can still break.

So when you think about it, are we really all that different from superheroes? OK, so we can’t fly or shoot lasers from our eyes, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses. We all love and get hurt and we all feel alone at times.

And anyway, who needs powers? I’ve seen human beings do some pretty amazing stuff in my time.

What about our armed forces in Iraq, who risk their lives daily in the name of peace?

Or the New York firemen, who saved hundreds of people from the burning wreckage of the Twin Towers in 2001, or the doctors and nurses who treated the victims of the London 7/7 bombings in 2005?

What about the single mother who works night and day to provide a home and food for her children and never takes a break?

Or how about the man who spent his life raising awareness of HIV, in the hope he could spare others from hearing the words: “It’s positive”?

Are we so different from the characters in the comics?

I’ll never look good in lycra, and I’ll never be able to read minds or hurl boulders (although I really wish I could), but despite this, are we not all — in our own small way — real-life heroes?

Written by guy_interrupted

May 9, 2010 at 7:45 pm

On friendship, death, and honouring a promise

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Clint Walters

In memory of Clint Walters - 1979 -2010

“I am HIV positive”

In 1997, at the age of 17, my friend, Clint Walters, spoke these words to a nation after his own diagnosis, in an attempt to break down the barriers and stigma surrounding HIV, and to help others like himself.

On Friday 16th April 2010, we said a final farewell to him in a ceremony of laughter, tears and memories.

While some people may think it’s in bad taste to post a eulogy online, I have been urged to do so with the blessing of Clint’s mother, Wendy, and at the request of people who attended the funeral (and those who couldn’t) as a tribute to Clint’s life and work, and a reminder that the fight against HIV is never over.

The best way we can now honour Clint’s memory is to keep on fighting.

As the curtains closed on him in the crematorium, it seemed only fitting to give him a round of applause. Clint’s life was truly a life worthy of celebration. Here is my tribute to him as I delivered it on the day:

~~~~~

When someone you love is taken from you, it’s easy to put them on a pedestal they don’t actually belong on. It’s easy to forget all the bad stuff and paint a picture of them as some sort of saint.

The cantankerous gin-soaked grandmother who sat in a corner smoking and being miserable suddenly becomes Mother Theresa.

The estranged father you never saw eye to eye with becomes a picture perfect catalogue dad.

But the funny thing is, with Clint, he really does belong on that pedestal. In an age where anyone can become an instant celebrity, loved by millions, simply by joining a reality show and doing something controversial — Clint was different.

He was everything he’s been described as today. Not only a treasured son, brother and friend — but an icon and a trailblazer — who touched hundreds of thousands of lives.

So I’ve struggled to find an appropriate way to mourn the loss of a friend like Clint.

I could cry a river of tears. I could rage at the heavens about how unfair it is that his life was cut short. I could sit consumed with grief that I’ll never see him again.

Believe me, I’ve cried, and I’d be a fool to think there are no more tears to come, but today and in the coming weeks, I’ve chosen to let pride and gratitude be my strongest emotions.

When I read the papers and see a list of achievements as long as my arm, I sit back in amazement at how much this man achieved in thirty years, how many lives he touched, I can’t fail but to burst with pride.

I look at all Clint did, and I see not a life wasted, but a life lived to the full. And I’m so honoured that I can stand in front of you today and say this man was my friend.

He lived in the public eye as an HIV positive man, not because he wanted to be a celebrity, but because he wanted other people to see a person who had decided he would not live with HIV — that HIV would live with him, on his terms.

Clint was born on the 27th August 1979. I was born three days after in another part of the country. Twenty seven years later, we finally met, and straightaway I felt like he was my twin brother and at the same time, my complete and total opposite.

At one point we both had a number 1 crop and we looked like a photo negative of each other! Similar height and build, me with my dark hair and Celtic colouring, him with his blonde crop and permanently healthy sunbed tan.

We were so alike in our passion to use the fact that we were HIV positive and try and help others. But so different in so many ways. When we worked together on the planned Health Initiatives clinic, Clint would take a spiritual stance and look to the heavens for inspiration and guidance. Me, being the logical, methodical creature that I am, would look at a spreadsheet, a budget and a mission statement.

And boy, did we infuriate each other! As my best friend Richard, our perennial hen-pecked mediator will only be too happy to confirm.

I remember one time when I’d stayed up until about 2am proofreading the business plan for the HI clinic and putting together a presentation he was going to take to the Elton John Foundation (I think it was the EJF anyway). I was working as an editor at the time on thirty-five simultaneous projects, so my in tray was pretty full as you can probably imagine!

So I meet him for a lightning quick coffee the next day to run him through what I’d slaved over until the wee hours the night before. He bounds up to me all arms and legs and talking in that deep, sleepy voice of his. This was roughly how the conversation went:

-       Thanks for this, but I’m thinking we should probably shelve it for a while, till, like, November

-       Why on earth would you want to shelve it till November?

-       Because I’ve been to see a fortune teller!

-       ……..I’m sorry, what?

-       I said I’ve been to see a fortune teller!

-       …….I’m sorry, what?

-       Yeah, I went last night and she said something brilliant’s going to happen in November, so I’m thinking we should hold off till then!

And if we’d have been in a scene from a film, it would have cut to the street outside and all you’d have been able to hear was a deafening scream — WHAT????? echoing into the sky,  with a flock of birds scared into flight.

But there were other times when we were so in sync it was hilarious. When Clint called me and said he’d found a space on Oxford Street for the clinic, we could hardly speak we were so excited. I went with him to see it a few days later and honestly, we were like a newly married couple in our first home!

-       And the office is going to go there and the consultation rooms are going to be there….

-       (This is going to be the dining room!)

-       I really want the reception desk opposite the door so people see a smiling face when they walk in, but then again, I’m torn, because the couch I want to buy looks really comfortable and I want to create a welcoming atmosphere……

-       …..What do you think about knocking a wall down? Because I think we should knock that wall down, do you think we should knock that wall down? Yeah, I definitely think we should knock that wall down…..

-       And kitchen — yellow or blue?

I’m not the person here who’s known Clint the longest, or even the person in our immediate circle who was closest to him, so I wondered at first whether I was the best person for this job.

But then I realised — there wasn’t a lot you needed to know about Clint, what you saw was what you got — a truly genuine man — and within minutes of meeting him, you felt like you’d known him forever.

In the 90s — a time when HIV was still largely seen as a killer disease, people were almost expected to sit back and accept their fate, but Clint refused to cower. He took his HIV status, made it into a bat and broke through every barrier he came up against.

He was a man with an inexhaustible capacity for love and compassion. He affected — and I dare say saved — the lives of thousands of young people. Whether by arming them with the knowledge to make safer decisions about HIV infection, or through simply being the “someone” you needed when you find out you’re positive and you think you’re all alone.

And I wonder how many people can lay claim to that — in life or in death.

In most photos you see of Clint, he’s got one arm up, punching the air. It’s a fitting way for me personally to remember him, because it’s so representative of the way he lived his life, triumphant, defiant and strong.

He was the person who would still be standing long after everyone else had given up (and the person who’d still be dancing long after they’ve called time, switched the lights on and started sweeping up).

They say the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long — well, excuse my French, but I happen to think that’s a load of crap. You only have to look up on a clear night to see the light from a thousand stars than burned out aeons ago, still shining down.

And that’s how I see Clint. While nobody would argue he left us far too soon, His legacy of love has seared itself onto the hearts of you, me and everyone he helped in his life. In 2009, Clint spoke to POZ magazine about Health Initiatives and his plans for the future

He said: “It’s the new generation that needs to run the project and move it forward. Hopefully they can build upon what I’ve started and make it better.”

Well, we are the new generation. We each now carry him with us wherever we go, and in whatever we do.

So next time you put your arms around a friend who needs a hug, or take the hand of someone in pain, you’re honouring everything he stood for.  And that means that no matter how much time passes, Clint’s light will continue to burn – and boy, is it blinding.

Written by guy_interrupted

April 19, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Why hate crime should never be mistaken for ‘discussion’

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the 'Africa Have Your Say' forum homepage

Should a forum like this be allowed to exist? And if so, who's next in the firing line?

Question: When is free speech not free speech?

Answer: When it’s oppression.

Like a lot of you, I’ve been following the recent debate about homosexuality and the death penalty on BBC Africa’s ‘Have Your Say’ forum with a curious mix of disgust and fascination.

I would never call myself a political kind of guy, and much as I don’t want to launch into some long winded diatribe about what I deem to be right and wrong, I have to say my piece.

Seriously, BBC – what were you thinking? Since when did it become acceptable to debate whether genocide is a valid option because a few superstitious barbarian leaders are getting their knickers in a twist over the fact that sometimes boys like doing each other?

Perhaps even more sickening (and worrying) are some of the follow up comments on the forum:

“Totally agree. Ought to be imposed in the UK too, ASAP. Bring back some respectable family values. Why do we have to suffer ‘gay pride’ festivals?” asked Chris in Guildford.

Because of people like you, you insipid moron.

It’s ironic that as an intelligent, well rounded gay man, I can’t naturally have what I would imagine to be equally intelligent, well rounded kids, yet bigoted halfwits like you are able to breed freely.

People like you are the reason I march at Pride every year. Why I’m proud to stand up and be counted alongside my gay brethren. People like you are like fuel to me; the reason I refuse to be bowed or cower and hide who I am.

You don’t like gay people? Well stop having gay babies, then.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute.

The BBC (the people that brought you Nick Griffin on Question Time – enough said) wanted to provoke discussion ahead of the latest edition of ‘Africa Have Your Say’. By creating such a sensation and publishing it as a forum, they’ve ensured the subsequent outcry takes the issue at hand and cleaves it into the public consciousness like an axe blow to the temple.

So let me put this one out there:

What if I took every instance of the word ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual in that article and replaced it with ‘Jew’? Would the BBC be so quick to allow free discussion? If the internet had been around in Hitler’s time, would we not have seen something shockingly similar in a forum about the Jewish community?

If we go with this line of thinking, validating the execution of homosexuals technically means that we should also think of the Holocaust as a ‘necessary measure’.

There are better ways of raising awareness. As my (straight) friend Simon so eloquently put it: “The fact that the BBC hosted this as discussion, rather than a straight condemnation of such an abhorrent and evil ‘law’ sickens me.”

And to the people of Uganda – there are much, much bigger things in this world you need to worry about than men having sex with each other.

War and famine, for instance.

Perhaps President Yoweri Museveni should look a little closer to home to see where the real problem with his country lies…

Written by guy_interrupted

December 18, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Sex, drugs and sausage rolls: Hey, world, can I come and play?

with 2 comments

hello_worldSo….

This is my blog, then.

It’s strange. You suddenly think: “I’m going to start a blog!”. You get all excited, setting it up, choosing an avatar, coming up with a funky theme, title, colour scheme, etc.

Then you sit down and think: “Hmm…what am I actually going to write about?”

I’m going to try my hardest not to get all Sex and The City on your ass, but seeing as how my daily life involves working my butt off, writing, socialising and looking for a date, I suppose it’s inevitable you’ll end up drawing comparisons.

So let me set the record straight.

For starters I’m male (guy_interrupted should have given it away). I’ve just turned thirty. I work as an editor, writing and managing content for a couple of pretty big websites – a hard, but well paid job. I’m gay (in both senses of the word), single (my last boyfriend split with me a week before my birthday – cheapskate) and I seem to have a love life closely resembling a ride at Alton Towers (costly, often terrifying and sometimes leaving you feeling a bit sick afterward – not to mention the long periods of waiting around in between).

I’m neurotic and sarcastic, I like action films, rock music and going to the gym. I’m also rather addicted to my BlackBerry, which makes a nice, healthy change from crack.

Oh, and I’ve done a bit of modelling on the side. Which is tacky, but if someone wants to pay me to stand in front of a camera and look moody then I ain’t complainin’.

I’ve had my fair share of dramas in life, from violent relationships, bankruptcy (see previous – he stole all my money). An HIV diagnosis (seven years healthy and counting), earth shattering breakups, depression and drink and drug abuse. I refer you to paragraph seven – I wasn’t joking.

Yeah, I suppose you could say I’m glad to have left my twenties behind…

Thankfully for my mother’s sanity, I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off and I’m now a perfectly well-adjusted individual who’s glad he took a big ol’ bite of life’s apple (even if it loosened a couple of teeth) because it’s given me a good outlook on things – and plenty of material to put on this blog.

The male Carrie Bradshaw I am not – in fact most people would compare me to Miranda in terms of my dry humour and slightly cynical outlook. I’m not ginger, but I do have an enormous crush on the guy who played her husband.

So I guess you could say this is my therapy. My diary. A place where I get to share my thoughts and feelings on everything that goes on in my washing machine of a brain.

I’ll let you decide whether you want to keep turning the pages….

Written by guy_interrupted

September 11, 2009 at 11:05 am

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