from Google images
The news quoted below appeared today in one of my medical news feeds called STAT. It is remarkable, a great step forward, though only a step. It isn’t an ACTION but an AIM and a goal for 2020, still years in the future. But in the past government officials have tried to bypass this demographic group as invisible, unapproachable, and best ignored as a waste of attention.
Federal initiative aims to tackle HIV risk in young men
Government officials want to add a new objective to their Healthy People 2020 goals: Tackling HIV among young people. Young gay and bisexual men accounted for 80 percent of new HIV diagnoses among 13 to 24-year-olds in 2014. HHS wants to target that group by working to reduce behaviors that put those individuals at risk of contracting HIV. The proposed new goal: Cutting risky behaviors by 13 percent among young gay and bisexual men by 2020. Think that’s a lofty goal, or that it doesn’t go far enough? The agency wants to hear the public’s thoughts. You can share your comments on the issue here. Or if this link won’t work, try using this url. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/proposed-objective/hiv-24
The boys in the groups called Smash Street Boys, Cinematheque, Show Me Your Life — which are online — learn video and photography, produce materials like public service vids, maintain art studios, do workshops, participate in panels, mentor youngsters, and taught survival strategies. Some of them are not yet in their teens. They urge leaving the streets and support each other in enduring the protocols of free clinics to get the necessary drugs. I’ve been listening to the conversation for a decade, though never knowing individuals, and I’ve posted about it on this blog. These boys are helping each other. Often they continue into young adulthood and develop skill-based careers.
I can identify a number of cultural behaviors that put young gay and bisexual men at risk. Here are examples.
School requirements and practices are tilted to females, even in pre-school where boys are late developing necessary skills and, when they reach puberty, more inclined to be restlessly disruptive.
The breakdown of the family so that boys must be raised by single mothers with few resources. They can be burdened with the necessity of earning money for food or just thrown out of the family as an impediment to finding a replacement adult male.
Economic shifts have off-shored many jobs and eliminated entry points such as apprenticeships.
The assumption is that college and professions are the only honorable occupations, though there’s a constant need for plumbers. electricians, HVAC, and line maintainers, while college has become economically untenable.
A reduced and professionalized military with high health entry standards.
Medical care is seen as “unmanly” and boys don’t get info they need.
Male bodies are designed to be in constant movement, but are now always sitting, watching, passive.
Sports that promote elitism, bullying, violent opposition, and actual damage, plus smuggling in the idea of drugs.
Selling drugs is an easy cure for poverty. Low-level addiction, like glue-sniffing makes misery bearable but kills the brain.
Stigma due to poverty, poor appearance, race, ethnicity, and all the other nasty little semi-conscious and outright promoted put-downs, alongside a constant and hypersexual inflation of vanity for the sake of advertising: certain clothes, equipage, automobiles, drinking — a glossy barrage everywhere that blinds people at every level.
In response to the above, subculture endorsement of aggression, violence, gang membership, the norming of minor crime, defiance of cultural authorities wearing suits or uniforms.
A level of incarceration unprecedented in any other nation and a true incubator of HIV constantly being released back into the community.
Unproven suspicions such as the mental and sexual effects of exotic molecules devised for ag uses and as dangerous as lead. Many are based on estrogens.
One public health philosophy is that sick societies produce sick people. But that’s only from a lofty philosophical point of view. Then there’s the idea of “poor choices”, as a doctor’s office clerk offered to me as the reason Native American lives tend to be a decade shorter than white lives. She meant drinking. I meant NOT HAVING ANY CHOICES. Even the boys of the Sixties when I was teaching on the Blackfeet rez were sometimes suicidal. Most of them found jobs, had families, worked hard, contributed to the community — and still I’m sitting in the back pew at their funeral mass.
At least we’re not in Africa, but globalization and the internet means that we are all everywhere. “Show Me Your Life” sends out free small handheld camera/smartphones so they are in constant communication with boys all over the world. One bold African boy, pre-adolescent, perched on a rooftop and relayed images of atrocity. He died from a machete attack. We all mourned, still do. One answer to learning how to “see” such lives is handheld. Now we see cops who are shooters.
Right now my small town and me myself are having a hard time feeling as though there’s any future worth working towards. The “serious” media is so contradictory and the options are so confusing that it’s a temptation to just fling caution to the winds and take comfort where ever we can. Cynicism, lies, unkept promises all prevail as well as bad behavior at the highest levels that used to be punished in grade school (name-calling, interrupting, vulgar language). Evidently there’s only one noble prince left and he’s in England.
Our society punishes the vulnerable. When gay boys have tried to explain themselves they have not only been attacked by straight people but also by other gay people who demand secrecy and hiding as the only safety as well as part of their identity. They may include transgression as being “them”, become dependent on the rejection by larger society as a signal of worthiness, rooted in defiance. Friendly straights seem dangerous, either scheming or just stupid. Sometimes they are both.
I’m an old straight woman, ordained to ministry though not serving a congregation, and even I am indignant about my treatment in medical terms, which I’ve blogged about. Corporate pharma drug lords must see a cure for AIDS as a profit-killer — something like ending the diabetes bonanza. The dynamics of older low-pay women as order-keepers in clinics, even at the middle-class level, is ugly. For wary teenaged boys it creates panic, so emotional that armed-guards are necessary.
Stirring up the waters attracts sharks. Some of them are old and have made bad choices all their lives, which somehow does not seem to cause them to lose elections, die or retire. They will try to kill this initiative.