I listened to Ms. Sandra Coye talk with Mose on the WuB for hours on Wednesday morning, and she was on point, her usual enlightening self, as she spoke on the Equal Opportunities Bill that has been presented to us by the LGBT and friends. Everyone who listens to Sandra’s lectures comes away with valuable lessons and lots of stuff to ruminate on. Wednesday was no different, choice morsel after choice morsel, and then …
Ms. Sandra threw a shot at the decision by government to decriminalize marijuana. Look, there is nothing worse than totally illegal marijuana, the state before it was decriminalized. Of course decriminalization comes up short: marijuana should be a legal drug. Marijuana, like rum, has its faults — some say rum has more faults — but completely outlawing marijuana can’t be the answer because we have been there, done that, and it was a complete disaster.
I won’t go into the background story, but just about the only good that came out of the US prohibiting drinking alcohol between 1919 and 1933 was that fantastic fortunes were made by some people. The rest of the alcohol Prohibition saga is about criminals and massive corruption of police and politicians.
I would ask Ms. Sandra the same thing I asked Neri Briceño and Louis Wade: what is your solution? I pray it isn’t more of the disastrous prohibition. My solution happens to be similar to that offered by many Belizeans. Legalize it, tax and control it, and do ALL in our power to keep children and youth away from it, and on top of that, educate, educate, educate.
Searching for something good in stigma
Hard as it apparently is for some to grasp, there is no wholly bad thing under the sun. It would seem that some are arguing that stigma, which the online dictionary says is “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”, has no saving grace.
We don’t have to research the great philosophers or ask our local clergy to find out/explain how it can be that there can be virtue in such a bad word, for the lesson is made clear even to the minds of children in the adage: every cloud has a silver lining.
The organization, See Change, speaking on the “Effect of Stigma”, says “Stigma can be used to exclude and marginalise people. The prejudice and fear caused by stigma may even prevent people from coming forward and seeking the help they need. Stigma can also stop people offering help or being supportive. Stigma often inhibits people from getting the jobs they are qualified to do and it can prevent people with mental health problems from playing an active role in their community.”
Before I start hibbing my two cents all over the place, let’s give space to Richard E. Vatz and what he has to say in his commentary in the Baltimore Sun, “Stigma Can Be a Good Thing.”
Vatz says: “The answer as to whether mental illness can be destigmatized is probably ‘no’, and part of that is due to the medicalization of behavior through the terminology of ‘mental illness.’ The answer as to whether mental illness should be stigmatized is probably: ‘yes, in some cases; no in others.’ Wherein mental problems are caused neurologically, brain disease should be viewed as all other diseases, but wherein problems are caused by individual choice, as in drug usage, people should be stigmatized to discourage their behavior.”
Stigma leads to fear, and that is not always a bad tool. Yes, in some situations stigma can have virtue in that it can help prevent people from doing things they shouldn’t do. On the matter of disability, we have to give a small space for stigma in the case where it stops a daredevil from jumping off a cliff for fear that he/she could end up, yes, disabled.
A little research on HIV/AIDS today
The Equal Opportunities Bill covers disabilities, and certain physical characteristics, but as far as I saw at first glance, it doesn’t cover mental health (maybe the psychiatrists told the LGBT to please confine unu blank). It does have an entire section on HIV/AIDS, and I prefer to prepare myself for commenting there.
Mental health and physical disabilities, very often one can’t do anything about those. HIV/AIDS is a contagious disease and, as with many other contagious diseases, we have some capacity to prevent contracting it. Indeed, we have greater personal control over HIV/AIDS than we have over many other contagious diseases.
Medical science has made a lot of advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, but there is still no cure for it. The website, www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics, says that anyone can get the disease, but certain groups are at particular risk. The website, speaking on observations made in the US, says that some factors are the status of one’s sex partners and their risk behaviors, and if you “live in a community where many people have HIV infection, the chances of having sex or sharing needles or other injection equipment with someone who has HIV are higher.”
One in every seven persons who have the disease doesn’t know that they have it, the website says. “Gay and bisexual men have the largest number of new diagnoses in the United States (and) Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV compared to other racial and ethnic groups … Also, transgender women who have sex with men …”
The website says having “anal or vaginal sex without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV” can be bad business, and “anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior. If you don’t have HIV, being a receptive partner (or bottom) for anal sex is the highest-risk sexual activity for getting HIV. If you do have HIV, being the insertive partner (or top) for anal sex is the highest-risk sexual activity for transmitting HIV.”
We don’t have to ask Dr. Zuniga; I am sure he would tell you that anal sex with anyone is anal sex and it is high risk, because the anus is definitely not a sexual organ.
The website says that, “HIV is not spread through sharing glasses or plates, food, holding hands, toilet seats, or other casual contact (and) you cannot get HIV through closed-mouth or ‘social’ kissing or saliva.”
Behavioral changes are huge in the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS, and the other tool in the fight against the disease is antiretroviral drugs. The website says the antiretroviral drugs “reduce the amount of virus in the body, often to levels undetectable by standard lab tests”, and keep “people with HIV healthy”, which works to prevent the spread of the virus to their sexual partners.
The young man the LGBT and Friends trotted out to explain the Bill said that people with HIV are living into their 80s and 90s, thanks to the new drugs. The website says there’s a once-a-day pill, PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) that “is a prescription medication to be taken in emergency situations to protect against HIV within 72 hours after possible exposure.”
My research says that if a person has advanced from HIV to full-blown AIDS, the antiretroviral drugs can bring down the virus load a little, but there is a lot of difficulty to treat the tuberculosis and other diseases that will have invaded the person’s body. The antiretroviral treatment consists of three or more drugs, sometimes combined in one pill, and there can be side effects, some serious.
I’m sure our medical people have a lot more information, but I am now more equipped to look at what they are proposing in the Bill. Hasta luego.