Opinions are like butt holes. Everyone has one.
In a May 8th front page cover story by the newspaper the Ottawa Citizen, a quote was taken from my interview and referenced in a blog posting by American sex columnist Dan Savage. Savage hated my use of 'it takes two to tango' when discussing accountability for HIV transmission. Not being a regular reader of Dan Savage, his entry referencing the criminalization of HIV transmission, and the Steven Boone case in particular, went unnoticed. That is, until only recently, when a friend stumbled across Savage's simplistic and fear based diatribe about 'moral responsibility', that 17 year olds can't make informed choices for themselves, that misleading or lying about ones HIV status nullifies consent, and that the fetishization of HIV (or 'bug chasing') is proof of intent to purposefully infect another. These statements are all problematic. Savage would later weakly clarify that he dose not agree with the criminalization of HIV, except in cases when "monsters" lie about there status. (Charming huh? For the record, I've lied about being HIV+ before. Guess that makes me a monster.)
Accountability and responsibility are at the centre of the criminalization debate for many. What do you do about those that are knowingly failing to disclose they are HIV+ or lying about their status ("immoral piece[s] of shit" Savage calls them)? First, we know that it is a very small minority. The fact that laws already exist to deal with behaviour that is truly blame worthy, makes creating a law specific to HIV unnecessary. Furthermore, because HIV criminalization doesn't stop transmission, and in fact helps it spread, it's an ineffective law.The fact that the law around this issue is drafted so broadly in Canada that it is often misused further complicates the issue. However, Savage condones the law by saying that everyone taking responsibility for their own actions (which is a key public health message) isn't enough. He wants an eye for an eye.
Have you ever lied? There are a million reasons why someone may not disclose their HIV status. Fear of disinheritance, fear of violence, job loss, denial and depression, fear of losing confidentiality, to name only a few examples. For all his sex positivity, it's clear from his writings that on this issue, Dan Savage doesn't really GET what it means to be HIV+, or the difficulties and nuances of disclosure. Savage once declared that the HIV/AIDS crisis was over. Far from it Mr. Savage, because I now have to not only fight to survive and to thrive, but I have to battle for my very freedom.