30 November 2007

A Day Without Art

The first day of December is a day of remembrance. “World AIDS Day” is also “A Day Without Art”. Back in 1989, many artists chose to honor those lost to AIDS by not creating on December 1st. Theatres went dark. Galleries closed or shrouded the art. While some artists choose to show commemorative work on that day, others still choose not to create on December 1st. I am one of them.

Having gone to an art school, there was no way not to be touched by HIV/AIDS. While I have known many friends and acquaintances who were positive or had gone full-blown, I can’t say that one has died from it. But that’s only if I don’t count a suicide. I remember the pre-“cocktail” days when the loss of from AIDS was massive. There was a time when every obituary in the trades was a loss from that disease. Gratefully, that is now rare. But AIDS is still here. And, like most things from the 80s and 90s, it’s having a come back.

Condoms, people. Wear them. If not for fear of HIV, then what about Herpes, Chlamydia or even Syphilis, because that’s making a come back, too? I’m not about preaching abstinence. Sex is a fabulous part of life. I’m no saint, but I’ve not been able to master slutty. I am a natural born serial monogamist. Even my one-night stands turn into relationships. I’m so not one to judge, but I am one to question: Why wouldn’t you use a condom?

First of all, it takes away the question of who will sleep in the wet spot. Secondly, guys, it takes away the question of if she remembered to take her pill. Unless you’ve had a vasectomy, boys, a condom is the only way to be sure she won’t get pregnant...and even then you need to know how to use it right. Thirdly, there isn’t that much of a difference. Just find the condom you like best. I’m a Trojan fan. Don’t like the Durex, though.

We all would like to think we are bullet proof, or at least Teflon coated, but we aren’t. AIDS testing is no longer vogue, but it is prudent. And, for me, it is required. Until there is a committed relationship with all the proper paperwork, a raincoat is proper attire.

One boyfriend took my request as a bit of an insult. He asked me, “Why do you need a test? Do you think you might have slept with somebody wrong? I mean, I was in a relationship for seven years. I know I’m clean.”

I reminded him that his ex cheated on him, with at least one guy he knew of. Which goes to show that you might be monogamous, but that doesn’t mean your partner is. My point was that you never know until you know, and the only way to know is to be tested. It’s not about being “dirty” or sleeping with someone “wrong”. It’s not about judgment but knowledge. He saw my point and went willingly to the doctor. The swab up the urethra was a little surprising, but I reminded him what women go through for our annual pap. We both passed our tests with flying negatives, as we expected and, at the end of the day, he admitted his respect for my insistence.

To me, it’s not about expecting doom, but respecting yourself and those you love, or hope to one day. And, it’s a true test to see how much that person respects you. If he or she can’t commit to taking a test at your request, that can’t bode well for your future. And are you really willing to risk that?

Whether you choose to create on December 1st or not, please take a moment to think about how far we haven’t come in reducing HIV and AIDS. Then take a test. Or take someone to take their first test. Or buy a value pack of condoms and shag your lover senseless. However you chose to do December 1st, I wish you good health.

For information on free testing, visit: http://www.knowhivaids.org/

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