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Monday, January 31, 2011

Ten Issues To Address If You Don't Want To Talk About HIV

Although HIV has been around for 30 years there are many of us who find it difficult to talk about the disease. A few of us still refuse to address the issue at all. I decided to make a list of issues that if discussed would reduce the infection rate without mentioning the words “HIV” or “AIDS”. Now you may find it difficult to address all of these issues but if you could address one it would really make a difference in the incidence of HIV.

The word domestic means home, local and or familiar which is why this topic is sometimes so difficult to discuss. No one wants to admit that they are being abused by someone they love. The abuse can be physical, emotional, financial, sexual, racial and/or religious. Often the victim is made to feel that it is their fault that the abuse occurred and not just the abuser; friends, family and even the person’s faith leader can often make the victim feel like there is something that they did or didn’t do to cause the abuse. I can’t speak for all faiths but I need to say that many in the Christian faith stress a wife being submissive to her husband. The problem is that many people do not have a clear understanding of the word “submission” or what it means “to submit” including a lot of Christian leaders. Now I am not a bible scholar but I have not found any scripture that justifies a person abusing their spouse. In other words “submit does not equal hit.”

I know I did not have to use the word three times but if you think about it sex is being used in just about everything we experience. It’s not just the movies and music, its getting you to buy that car and/or washing machine to even what social groups you should join. The truth is that we have not done a great job of talking about sex. Talking about sex is not just saying “don’t have sex” or “keep your legs closed”; it’s discussing the physical and emotional aspects of sex. We have done a poor job of discussing abstinence. We tell young people to abstain from sex but once that person becomes an adult and decides to continue to abstain from sex we tell them that something is wrong with them. Of course we need to address the issue of sexual orientation which also includes a discussion on how to respectfully agree or disagree with a person’s sexual orientation.

When a person is violated sexually it can be devastating. People often keep it a secret because of the shame they feel. Reporting a sexual assault can at times add to the person’s shame because of how the judicial system often treats them. When a child is molested or sexually assaulted they often not only feel shame and that some how deserved it but may have been threatened that if they tell they or a family member may be harmed. There is also the possibility that the victim of molestation has the potential of becoming a perpetrator. Many victims suffer in silence.

Rape or sexual assault is not an act of sex it is an act of violence. But we don’t often associate rape with genocide. The legal definition of genocide is found in the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Art. 2, written in 1948, which defines genocide as: “Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
1. Killing members of the group
2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

Rape as a war crime can be traced back in the Tokyo War Crime Trials. Rape specifically was identified as a crime of war for the first time in the Tokyo trials after World War II. In the Tokyo trials, commanders were held responsible for rapes committed by solders under their command.
Rape and sexual atrocity work as tools of genocide for many reasons:

Physical death
Submission and terror
Ethnic cleansing
Self hate
Community breakdown
Rape “dilutes” the race of the next generation

You may not know what either of these terms mean and why they should be discussed in relationship to HIV. Polygamy is a form of marriage where a person has more than one spouse. The show “Big Love” is about a man who has three wives. There are three forms of polygamy; 1) Polygyny where a man has more than one wife 2) Polyandry where a woman has more than one husband 3) Group marriage is a marriage that includes multiple husbands and wives.
Polyamory is the practice, desire and/or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the consent and knowledge of everyone involved.

You may be more familiar with the term bigamy which is the act and/or condition of any person marrying another person while still being legally married to another person. In most cases the first and the second spouse are not aware of each other.
Bigamy is illegal in most western countries but that does not mean that it is not practiced.

People may participate in these types of relationships due to spiritual, cultural and/or financial reasons. We have failed to recognize that these types of relationships exit more than we think.

I know that abortion is a politically charged topic but with more people thinking that this is a viable option we have to discuss it. This topic should be addressed before a pregnancy occurs. There are many reasons why people choose abortion. People often feel that there are no alternatives.

Infanticide is the homicide of an infant. The act is committed most often because of the sex of the child. It also committed by a person who may be dealing with rage, substance abuse and/or mental health issues. Abortion and infanticide affect people emotionally long after the event takes place. It often has an effect on what types of relationships they choose to participate in.

This procedure involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs "whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reason. The term is almost always used to describe traditional or religious procedures on a minor, which requires the parents' consent because of the age of the girl.
This procedure is usually done on girls aged four to eight but can take place at any age from infancy to adolescence. Most of the persons performing the procedure have no training relating to sterilization, anesthetics, proper use of medical instruments and what to do if complications arise. Shock from excessive bleeding can often lead to death. The failure to use sterilized medical instruments can lead to infections.

There are other serious long term health effects that can occur. This includes urinary and reproductive tract infections, caused by obstructed flow of urine and menstrual blood, various forms of scarring and infertility.

Sexual mutilation often takes place when there is civil war or conflict and the victim is also being sexually assaulted. If the victim is female her breast may be partially or completely removed. This is done so she can’t provide nourishment for her children. If the victim is male their testicles are either damaged or removed.

We often think that prostitution is just either the person standing on the corner on the seedy side of town or the high class person whose customers include politicians and/or celebrities. Let’s look at the definition of prostitution: The act of engaging in sexual intercourse or other sex acts in exchange for money or other goods/services. That covers a lot of things that we may not think that people would exchange for sex. Do you know that there many people who are exchanging sex for food, clothes, housing and/or employment. Most people who participate in prostitution or survival sex don’t stand on a street corner.

People who may need assistance with addressing mental illness/health issues often don’t because of the social stigma. The issue is that when it is not addressed it affects housing, medical, martial, family, legal and financial status. I don’t want to get into the causes, diagnosis and/or type of treatment because very person’s situation is different. I do believe that we should be strongly encouraging people to seek assistance. The bible has clear examples of people who struggled with mental illness. This means that not only is mental illness a medical/emotional issue it is also a spiritual issue.

I know when we think about addiction able we often have an image of alcoholics and/or addicts on the street. But there are people who work every day and have an addiction to not just drugs or alcohol but also food, sex and or people. Addiction to pornography is more prevalent than what you might believe. In fact pornography is “the church’s crack/cocaine.” Because we don’t want to talk about sex in the church we definitely don’t want to address this type of addiction. There is often stigma that those who are addicted have to deal with and that often affects their decision to get help. Recovery from addiction is not easy and people often relapse. Relapse is a part of the recovery process.

Okay I know I said ten issues, but I want to add human trafficking which is inter related to some of the other issues. Human trafficking, is the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor, a modern-day form of slavery. Human trafficking is now the fastest growing criminal industry. Internally it is tied with the illegal arms trade as the second largest criminal activity following the drug trade. Human trafficking usually involves women and children.

Human trafficking is different from people smuggling. Smuggling occurs when a person voluntarily requests or hires an individual, known as a smuggler, to covertly transport them from one location to another. This usually involves transportation from one country to another, where they would be legally denied at the border. There is usually no deception involved in the (illegal) agreement. After the person arrives at their destination, the smuggled person is usually free to find their own way.

Human trafficking can take place in several different forms;

Bonded labor, or debt bondage, is probably the least known form of labor trafficking today, and yet it is the most widely used method of enslaving people. Victims become bonded laborers when their labor is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan or service in which its terms and conditions have not been defined or in which the value of the victims’ services as reasonably assessed is not applied toward the liquidation of the debt. The value of their work is greater than the original sum of money "borrowed”.

Forced labor is a situation in which victims are forced to work against their own will, under the threat of violence or some other form of punishment, their freedom is restricted and a degree of ownership is exerted. Men are at risk of being trafficked for unskilled work, which globally generates $31 billion according to the International Labor Organization Forms of forced labor can include domestic servitude; agricultural labor; sweatshop factory labor; janitorial, food service and other service industry labor; and begging.

Sex trafficking victims are generally found in dire circumstances and easily targeted by traffickers. Individuals, who are vulnerable to traffickers include homeless individuals, runaway teens, displaced homemakers, refugees, and drug addicts. While it may seem like trafficked people are the most vulnerable and powerless minorities in a region, victims are consistently exploited from any ethnic and social background.

Traffickers, also known as pimps or madams, exploit vulnerabilities and lack of opportunities, while offering promises of marriage, employment, education, and/or an overall better life. However, in the end, traffickers force the victims to become prostitutes or work in the sex industry. Various types of ‘jobs’ in the sex industry include prostitution, dancing in strip clubs, performing in pornographic film and other forms of involuntary servitude.

While human trafficking does not require travel or transport from one location to another, one form of sex trafficking involves international agents and brokers who arrange travel and job placements for women from one country to another. Women are lured to accompany traffickers based on promises of lucrative opportunities unachievable in their native country. However, once they reach their destination, the women discover that they have been deceived and learn the true nature of the work that they will be expected to do. Most have been deceived regarding the financial arrangements and conditions of their employment and find themselves in coercive or abusive situations from which escape is dangerous. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 1,229 human trafficking incidents in the United States from January 2007- September 2008. Of these, 83 percent were sex trafficking cases.

Child labor is a form of work that is likely to be hazardous to the health and/or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development of children and can interfere with their education. The International Labor Organization estimates worldwide that there are 246 million exploited children aged between 5 and 17 involved in debt bondage, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, pornography, the illegal drug trade, the illegal arms trade and other illicit activities around the world.

I know that after reading this you may feel overwhelmed. Addressing these topics is necessary in the prevention of HIV. If we can prevent one person from becoming HIV positive by addressing these topics then this post has served its purpose.