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Come ON, Women!

Posted by EarthMother, Jun 2 2009, 08:19 PM

Come ON, Women!

When I first read the results of our latest poll question (What do you think is the most important issue for women regarding HIV?), I was incredulous!

“Finding a mate” ?!?!? Seriously??? Granted, I am somewhat defiantly, but very happily, single and cannot, at the age of 53, even stomach the thought of living with anyone but a cat. But I wonder at the prioritizing skills of any woman who would put finding a mate before finding a doctor she can trust, medication she can take without feeling like shit, the means to pay for her own health care, or any other survival tool that would keep her healthy and strong enough to sustain the work and challenges of a relationship.

Next up was a woman wondering if she’d be able to have more babies now that she’s HIV-positive. Again, I am not, nor did I ever want to be, a parent. Watching my sister and her husband do it the right way on the one hand and, on the other, witnessing countless scenes in grocery stores and train stops of people who should never have been allowed to reproduce, I have never understood that irrational compulsion to bring a child into a world that is already overburdened – and that’s not even considering the additional toll that HIV would exact on a pregnant woman’s body and the energy and resources of that woman after she gave birth. Oh, yeah, the joy, the joy. Sorry, but I can’t imagine a more miserable thing than to come home after a long day at work, head pounding, wanting nothing more than to collapse into a bubble bath and a comfy bed only to be confronted by “Mommy! Mommy!” and demands for food, attention, and a bedtime story. Add a few side effects to that picture and I cannot for a nanosecond grasp why any HIV-positive woman would willingly subject herself to that. I’m not saying that HIV-positive people shouldn't be parents – I’m sure that being positive gives them a depth and breadth of skills (see my interview with Evany Turk in the July/August issue) they wouldn’t have otherwise, but for the issue of having children to be the second and third most important on the list of issues that HIV-positive women have to deal with leaves me flabbergasted!

Last on the list is “emotional support.” And why would that be more important for women than it might be for men? Because we’re more “emotional?” Because our emotions are more likely to affect our health? Because we’re weaker and therefore need more support? Uh-huh. I have long believed that one of the greatest and most damaging injustices within our society is that men have been conditioned to disconnect from their emotional centers, many not allowed to display their emotions, positive or negative, for fear of judgment or ridicule. The fact that many gay men have freed themselves from that constraint and that HIV started out decimating that population is, I suppose, a catalyst for women to acknowledge their own need for support and understanding. But again, I don’t believe one’s gender, or even one’s serostatus, to be the determining factor of that need. We ALL need emotional support – it’s a HUMAN need.

I suppose I should be grateful that “appearance issues” weren’t included on that list (I really would’ve hit the roof then!), though from knowing HIV-positive women for the last 18 years, I’ve been gratified to see that despite buffalo humps, rashes, and various swellings, they are more concerned with how they ARE than how they LOOK.

As it is, I guess maybe I should be OK with the thought that the millions of HIV-positive women out there are more concerned with finding a mate or having babies than they are about the day-to-day challenges of living with this disease. As Enid pointed out, they’re concerned about living and mates and babies are a part of that. OK, girls, that’s fair - we must each find our own definition of what “living” means – I’ll shut up now and go home to my cat, my bubble bath and the glorious sound of silence, where I can eat what I want (within diabetic limits, that is), watch what I want on TV (General Hospital or Bears football – there’s the need for both), and concentrate on taking care of myself. That’s job enough…


  Enid, Jun 2 2009, 10:50 PM

As I told Sue (EarthMother) when I heard her hit the roof (which you did, Sue), some people might worry more about finding a partner than finding the best health care because they trust their doctor, so they focus on their dream of finding love. It also points to the staggering stigma surrounding HIV. You can go out and find a doctor, but where are you going to find someone with the state of HIV today? Even finding a doctor is not easy. The stigma attached to HIV is a huge problem affecting everything, including health care. Besides, maybe this woman already has great health care, so that is no longer an issue for her.

As for "the means to pay for her own health care," it seems to me that for many women (more so than for men), having a partner in itself is a way of having greater financial resources. That's unfortunate, but a reality of how we all, male or female, have been raised and conditioned. It's also usually a fact of life - two individuals, two incomes (in the majority of cases, I would think).

In terms of children, I have long thought of pregnancy for HIV-positive women as a human right. I am always thrilled when a positive woman has a baby. I have never wanted to have a child myself, but I can see that it's very important to many women and men, including gay men. On the other hand, I do get that "unnecessary children" thing. I feel sorry for the people who didn't know what they were getting into, but had children just because they thought they were supposed to. I understand though, and sympathize with, this particular woman's desire to provide a sibling for her child. Read Positively Aware and keep up with medical and social developments! That's what the "aware" is about!

I want to add something about the "looks" effect. They're rare today with newer HIV medications! Those side effects should be a thing of the past, although many the individuals who were on the older medications are still struggling with them.

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