When December 1st rolled around, otherwise known as World AIDS Day, I didn’t think too much about it. Granted that I’ve been involved in one shape or form in HIV/AIDS prevention among the queer Asian men’s community for over 10 years, first in LA doing some work with APAIT or Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team and in SF doing research for APIWC or Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center, and have done some collaborative work with APICHA or Asian Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS in New York, but I’ve been out of that loop for some time, and so I do what I usually do–stopped for a moment, reflected on my friends who’ve become HIV+ and friends who’ve passed on, then moved on with my life.
I bring this up because tonight, a friend of mine from Singapore told me he just tested HIV+ and was contemplating suicide. Part of me put on my unofficial HIV counselor cap and encouraged him to seek services within Singapore, like Action for AIDS. Part of me, on the other hand, after I had done everything I could and got him on the phone with a counselor, had to stop, think, and sigh, “Goddamn, another one of my friends.”
As much as I want to say that it doesn’t affect me anymore when I hear someone disclose his seropositive status, it gets me angry, even after over 10 years of doing this. I think of my Asian friends who’ve died “unexpectedly,” in their families’ homes, alone and in shame. I think of the few friends who are living full and vibrant lives for over 5, 10, and 20 years living with HIV, who are able to see their getting HIV as an unfortunate event in their lives and have used it for activism, to live their lives, and to live unashamed. I think of the many times I’ve had to stand up and argue with people who don’t understand how HIV affects Asian communities, especially with other Asians. I’ve been thinking about my friend in Singapore, who’s petrified now that he has to sign in through a national registry and have his privacy invaded even more, and if and how he’s going to tell those closest to him, and how he has to put aside his dream of living in the US, especially now that Bush has restricted immigration rights for those who are HIV+ even more.
I guess that’s why I’m still compelled to fight and to promote HIV prevention among my friends, and in my own personal life. I’m blessed that I am HIV-, and I have every intention to stay that way. I guess it’s also true that if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.