As you probably know, this year I pursue an masters degree in Medical Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Amsterdam. My thesis project examines some aspects of the sexual health of Dutch Caribbean men who live in the Netherlands and have sex with other men. In the context of this research project, I want to talk with gay and bisexual guys (and everything in between) from the Dutch Caribbean about attitudes towards sex and safe sex practices. If you would like to talk to me, or know someone who might, please let me know. It will be anonymous and won’t take much of your time. Please also feel free to share this message on Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks so much for your help!
A few friends and I spend a nice Friday evening making signs for the women march that took place in cities all over the world on Saturday, including the one I live in, Amsterdam. I was surprised by the large turn out. This is the first time I have seen such a world wide backlash agains a US president. Despite there being a lot of criticism of white women’s intention, I think that the protest yesterday, at least in Amsterdam, was diverse (perhaps not enough), and well intended. Most of the people holding signs protesting for ALL women and not just white women were actually white women. What disappointed me was the lack of men in my own circle of friends that did not attend the protest. In the end this protest was not just agains the misogyny, sexism, racism and anti-immigration stance of Donal Trump, but it was agains the type of rhetoric that we have been hearing in many European countries such as The Netherlands, France and Austria to name a few. At some point, we, those who do not agree with these far-right nationalist views have to take a stand. We have to come out for what we believe in. And we cannot do this alone. We need our allies. As a person of color, I stress that we should be mindful of including our white allies in this resistance. People of all colors, genders, and social strata in between should stand together. Together we are stronger.
Gay black men are hardest hit by HIV in the American South. TONIC post a short video about some of the hardships that gay black HIV positive men face in Mississippi.
Find TONIC’s video description here:
TONIC (VICE’s new health channel) travels to Jackson, Mississippi, one of the hardest hit Southern cities, to investigate why black gay men are getting diagnosed and falling to a disease that can be managed. We’ll discuss issues tied to systematic racial discrimination, such as low income and poverty, lack of access to adequate health care, limited HIV testing and education and stigma attached to the virus. We’ll meet heroic social workers and researchers struggling to bring HIV+ the care they need, as well as HIV+ men who are speaking out about their disease in hopes of changing the stigmas attached to it.
HIV diagnoses in the United States have generally plummeted since the 1980’s, and treatment strategies are now so effective that some are beginning to talk about the end of the AIDS epidemic. However, for gay black men in America, the chances of getting HIV in a lifetime are still one in two. In some Southern states, the rates of infection for black men who have sex with men rival rates in underdeveloped countries like Botswana. Once diagnosed with HIV, these men are unable to access the medicine, clinical resources and psychological support they need to keep life threatening AIDS diagnoses at bay.
Sadly, I keep reading stories like the one published on World AIDS Day on Quartz. Its a story about an increase of HIV infection rates in China. Again we see that this is mainly due to a 400% increase of infection among men who have sex with men. Not only are infection rates increase, but so are the deaths caused by AIDS.
I often get the impression that many people do not see the disease as a threat any more. They often have the idea that through modern drug therapies, HIV has become a chronic disease and is no longer deadly if well managed. Yet they forget that people are still dying from these disease world wide. This is why I was happy to see the attention given to this disease this year on World AIDS Day (1st of December). I volunteer for the Man tot Man unit of the GGD Amsterdam, and was at this years Love Dance which is a event meant as a closing of the World AIDS Day commemorations and events.
The GGD Amsterdam was at this party to offer free anonymous HIV testing. And I was happy to see people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientation getting tested. Even though its a small group, at least it promotes awareness of this epidemic and that the fight has not yet been won.
Why do we Aruban’s tend to stand in the way of progress? For the small country that Aruba is, it has been presented with many opportunities for progress. Thankfully some of these have been taken advantage of, and as a result the people of Aruba enjoy a relatively high standard of living.
But every so often Aruba and its leaders tend to hesitate and not pull through in terms of progressive policies. Its green energy policy which has been stagnant and with the opening of the new refinery will now even take a step back. Its sister island Curaçao is marching ahead in this field to take the title of greenest Caribbean country. Also in terms of LGBTIQ rights, which have not even been given the opportunity to get started, is set to be stopped in its tracks.
Time and time again the open minded, liberal Aruban at home and abroad has to stand and look on as our country takes yet another wrong turn. As one who lives abroad myself, I often feel guilt for not contributing to the cause. How can we progress when there is brain drain? When the country’s talent leaves never to come back.
This is why I was so happy when in the last years the Aruban member of parliament Desirée de Sousa-Croes took up the fight to advance LGBT rights in Aruba. She is trying to pass a bill in the Aruban parliament which will finally legalize registered partnerships in Aruba. But to hear the Aruban prime minister stating his party’s essentially anti LGBTIQ stand in this matter and not show support for his own party member, is yet another disappointment. It makes me question if this government is still the right one to lead our country.
I do not want to get ahead of the facts, since the Aruban parliament still has to vote on this issue. But the recent events do show that the ruling party does not fight for the minorities or the environment. Like the old natural bridge, which collapsed in 2005 the year that I left and has always been a symbol for me that Aruba will never be the same again. The decisions that are taken (or not taken) these days remind me of the reasons I decided not to go back.