Archive for the ‘AIDS’ Category

A must read for HIV-positive travellers

Posted: July 11, 2010 by Jesse in AIDS, HIV
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So I am headed overseas in just under 6 weeks now… and it kind of got me thinking about the restrictions and bans that some countries have on HIV-positive people crossing their borders.  Now that I have my passport, and am going on my first international holiday as an adult, I am starting to get the drive to be looking at other international destinations.

I was already aware that some countries have bans, and that others have some restrictions and I was kind of glued to the news earlier in the year when the Unites States of America lifted their ban on HIV-positive people entering the country.  I thought I would jump online and do some investigating on what sort of restrictions were still in place and stumbled upon HIV travel, a fantastic resource for any HIV-positive traveller.

When I was diagnosed, I asked the clinic for any information brochures they had on HIV to help with my research and understanding of this disease.  One brochure they gave me was a resource on travelling with HIV that was published in 2008.

I was originally quite confused that the countries identified in the brochure as having entry bans are mostly different from the ones identified on the website listed above.  However after searching the ones identified in the brochure it became clear that whilst visiting these countries there are either no declaration of status required, no proof of test required and generally speaking you can be in the country for a designated amount of time before having to obtain a HIV test (usually for residency).

Some examples of this are:

Brunei

Whilst there is no mandatory testing for short-term stays, people who are known to be HIV positive are prohibited from entering.  If applying for a work and residence permit a HIV test is compulsory.  If HIV infection is detected, the person is immediately reported to authorities and expelled.

Armenia

There are no regulations regarding the entry of people with HIV/AIDS, however AIDS laws allow the deportation of HIV foreigners.

United Arab Emirates

Short-term stays are permitted however HIV medication cannot be imported. If applying for work and residence permit a HIV test will be required. This test must occur in the Emirates and residence will be denied if the result is positive. People with HIV may also be deported.

(Please note that airline passengers in transit through Dubai are not affected be these regulations).

It was fantastic to see that as at the 4th January 2010 there are no restrictions on HIV positive people entering the United States of America.  I have since decided that my next overseas vacation will be Canada, USA and Mexico. Where as previously I was disheartened to make this trip due to the restrictions/bans associated with traveling there as a HIV-positive person, it is now great to see that I will be able to make this trip and it is something I am really looking forward to!

There are a number of countries that have contradictory information regarding travelling as a HIV-positive person, so I recommend that if you are planning an overseas trip make sure you do some research to ensure you are not going to have any dramas upon arrival.  This is especially relevant to those who will require medication on their travels as some countries have restrictions on types and/or quantity of medication they allow to cross their borders.

As you will see if you visit the website (which I hope you do), the vast majority have limited restrictions to HIV positive travellers, and more often the restrictions or conditions are only relevant if seeking residency.

I did find Australia’s position on this topic rather interesting.

Australia

There are no restrictions for tourists, however HIV testing is still required for permanent visa applicants when the applicant is over the age of 15.  Permits of residency will only be granted to a HIV positive person who meets the following criteria

People with HIV may immigrate to Australia if one of the following criteria is met:

  • If he/she has a spouse (including a de facto spouse) who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • If he/she has a fiancé who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • If he/she has a long-term same-sex relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • If he/she is the dependent child of an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • Being a former Australian citizen
  • Being a refugee

People applying on one of the above grounds still have to satisfy the Australian authorities that they will not

  • Prejudice the access of Australian citizens to healthcare facilities
  • Be a risk to public health or safety
  • Constitute an undue cost to the Australian community.

Satisfying the first two criteria is not a problem for people with HIV, but they are sometimes refused permission to immigrate because of the cost of their health care.  Costs are assessed for each individual applicant, based on his/her life expectancy and on an estimate of the total cost of the medication and of the hospital and other medical care services the person might require.  It appears to the AFAO that this criterion is being enforced more harshly, and that more people with HIV are now being refused permission to immigrate because of the estimated costs of their healthcare, than was previously the case.

I find it of particular interest that Australian authorities will recognise same-sex relationships in this circumstance, but still deny recognition of same-sex relationships in an overall legal manner (marriage/civil union).  Don’t get me wrong, I think that it is fantastic that same-sex relationships are recognised in the situation outlined above, just a bit odd that we don’t have the legal recognition of this partnership for those that wish to… I may just save that for another post.

Please feel free to add your own sources of information or opinion on this topic. I understand there are many different views and opinions, all of which are valid and welcomed.

One year on…

Posted: July 4, 2010 by Jesse in AIDS, HIV
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At the time of starting this entry it was the one-year anniversary of getting my equivocal result and the rollercoaster ride began.

It was quite an interesting day.  I got through most of the day really well, and then, in the evening upon reflection started to feel pretty miserable about it all and kind of hit a wall.  I spoke with a few mates and they all offered incredibly strong words of support and it gave me the inspiration I have been looking for on what to write about in this entry… And that is going to be some words of thanks to a few people who have helped me on my journey thus far.

Jay

Jay and I started dating only a few weeks before this journey began.  I don’t know how I would have got through the first few months without his support.  I remember receiving the phone call from the doctors asking me to get in ASAP as there had been an error with my ‘all clear result’ given the week before.  I got straight on the phone to him whilst he was visiting a friend in Ipswich about 30-40 minutes away.  Amazingly (and probably very dangerously), he was there with me at the doctors in about 15 mins.

When the doctor gave me the news, Jay just held me whilst I cried and cried.  Given the short amount of time we had been together, I honestly thought that Jay would have wanted to get up and leave.  To this day, and always, I will be so thankful that Jay was there; I can’t imagine how difficult the situation would have been for him and yet he knew that all I really needed at that time was to be held.

And hold me he did.

Neither of us are the type to be all couple-y in public, yet he practically carried me to my car and sat with me for what must have been a half hour or so before going home to get some clothes and coming back to spend the night with me, where he continued to just hold me all night.  He was also with me the day I got the official HIV positive result and was again nothing but supportive and strong for me.

Due to Jay having recently done his sexual health tests and getting the all clear, and my getting an all-clear result the week prior to getting the phone call to come into the doctors Jay and I had made the decision to have unsafe sex during the course of that week. Yet upon me getting my result, he was totally focused on me, and my state of mind rather than being concerned for his own wellbeing.

Jay and I separated about 4 months later due to many reasons.  I remember it being a long day discussing our relationship – but ultimately he had his own issues he needed to resolve and I felt I needed the separation and time to deal with the HIV independently as well.  From that day to now, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that he will always hold a very special piece of my heart and he will always be on the list of my closest and dearest friends.  His standing by me through the early, and most difficult months is something that I will always love him for.  I just hope that Jay recognises what an amazing person he is and I know that I am a better person having met him, and having him touch my heart the way he has.  Thankfully Jay’s tests have come back all clear and he remains HIV negative.

Shona and Jennie

My crazy lesbian sisters!  Where would I be without that crazy pair! What a day it was when I told them of my situation.  Getting back from my meeting on the Gold Coast and taking them outside for a chat.  What a teary-eyed session that one turned out to be!  I am so thankful to have met this pair and feel a part of a family when I am so far from mine in Canberra – the support they have given me is out of this world – the way they listen and tolerate my ranting and raving is something I have never been able to do with my biological family and no actions or words will ever be enough to express my sincerest gratitude to this beautiful pair of girls.

Keir

Keir has always been like a big brother to me.  I know that if I ever need advice, a shoulder to cry on, or just someone that I know will listen without judgement – Keir is the man I turn to.  Keir and I have a very special relationship where no matter what the circumstance we have the others full support.  I know that no matter where I go in life, if I ever need help or advice, he has always and will always be there for me.

Kelly

Kelly, Kelly Kelly… where do I begin?  If it weren’t for her knowledge and support Hope In Vastitude would still be nothing more than an idea stuck somewhere in the back of my head.  She picked at my brain, guided me and unleashed a whole new side of me.

Not long before my diagnosis Kelly had her own health problems.  Working with Kel made my diagnosis much easier to deal with in the workplace, as I had someone who could relate to my circumstance with the barrage of doctors appointments and tests etc.  I am happy to report that things with her health have improved and Kel is doing great!  She has recently gone through a dramatic change since starting her own blog, Clear Blue Window.  Seeing this kind of change in a person is on the same wavelength that I am hoping to achieve with Hope In Vastitude.  To be able to help people accept the person they are, and whatever their circumstances were or are and move forward with their lives.  Thank you for all of your help with this blog, but most importantly, thank you for being you.  Don’t ever change from where you are now for anyone, as I love you, just the way you are.

Andrew

Andrew is my eldest brother.  Whilst we were close growing up, our relationship kind of ceased when I came out.  I guess he had to deal with it in his own way and I can now respect that.  When I made the trip down to Canberra to tell the family of my situation, we had made some progress with our relationship and I was probably more worried about telling him then the remainder of the family, because I was worried it would affect the progress we where making.  To my great surprise, upon returning to QLD I had the following email from him:

hi Jesse

hope you had a good trip back and are warmer

Your news came to a shock to us, we thought when you said you had news that it was good news.

i havnt stopped thinking about it, we had a look at your cd and it’s helped us understand whats happenning

we stand by your in your decision with pathology

and if your happy to let it be with the guy that you got it off , thats your call and i do understand in a way what your getting at

just thought id email you and let you know that we are a phone call away if you need anything at all or someone to talk to

we hope your patners results come back clear, let us know when you find out.

Andrew

I know it seems like a simple email, but it truly meant the world to me.  Whilst we don’t speak often, I know that I have my older brother and his partner Dot there should I ever need anything, and for that I will be forever grateful.  If you have a look at the presentation on the handy tools page you will understand what he is referring to.  The other significant point is that of all my immediate family, to this day, Andrew and Dot are the only ones to have taken the time to look at the presentation.

Steaphan

My cousin is a truly amazing human being.  He is quite possibly the most compassionate human being I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  He is a heterosexual guy that is a member of CAAH in Sydney.  I have asked him to supply a brief overview of this organisation:

Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) is a community organisation started in Sydney over 10 years ago. CAAH is a grassroots campaigning group, started by activists who wanted to stand against the blatant discrimination faced by all members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-gender, Transsexual, and Intersex (LGBTI) community.  CAAH has been campaigning for many years now on discrimination they face in fields such as LGBTI health, discrimination in human rights, discrimination in immigration, in law, and in education.  These last 2 years CAAH has been concentrating on the battle for Marriage Equality for LGBTI couples, fighting for their legal and equal right to Marriage.  In these many battles CAAH is the group behind all the major Rally’s in Sydney over the last few years. They also have recently moved a lot of their campaigning online (http://www.change.org/CAAH), launching online petitions over things such as granting a gay Bangladeshi couple refugee status, and recently an open enquiry into veronica baxters death.

CAAH also works amongst and supports a wider network of groups based in Sydney, such as Organisation Intersex International (oii) and the Sydney Beat Project.  CAAH has also been involved in Sydney’s Mardi Gras for many years, as well as most other Sydney LGBTI festivals and events such as IDAHO (International day against homophobia).

Currently as mentioned earlier, CAAH is fighting for Marriage equality, and has declared 2010 the National Year of Action, for Marriage Equality.

To be a full time student who is also so actively fighting for homosexual rights, across a range of topics is something I am so proud of him for.  I am so proud of him being a part of this organisation.  Keep up the fantastic work Steaphan.

Aunty Hugi

My aunty is such an amazing woman.  Following my diagnosis she came across a publication in Sydney called talkabout. She managed to pick up a few copies and gave them to me when we were both in Canberra visiting family.  She has been there for me 100% through everything, including me coming out and now my journey with HIV.  She is such a strong woman who I am so incredibly proud of being related to.  Like me, she seems to always put others needs before her own and like me, this seems to have bitten her on the behind on more than one occasion.  Yet she always seems to bounce right back and keep going strong.  I think of her and am immediately filled with such pride.  You keep going strong Hugi, and know, that I have always got your back and am so incredibly proud of the person you are.

Gee Gee

My awesome little ginger kitty!  It probably seems totally random for me to be thanking a cat, however my boy can always detect when I am having a down moment and just cuddle up with his daddy or become part of my shadow to ensure that daddy is always safe.  To be able to just cuddle up with him and have a cry – unload to him without being judged and to love and be loved unconditionally is such a special thing.  Thank you my little one!

There is one more person that I would like to thank and also leave nameless.  This person has been a rock for me in so many ways.  He has helped me gain a greater insight on HIV and life as a HIV positive person.  His positive attitude towards it and life in general is a true inspiration and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

I have sought the permission of those mentioned above to use their names and share with you the support they have given me, some of them have even requested to share their stories with you – stay tuned to Hope In Vastitude for their stories, as I feel it will be a great asset to this blog for you to see just how supportive those that are close to me have been in the hope that it will show you that those that truly love you, will continue to do so unconditionally.  There are many others that have been immensely supportive that I have chosen not to share for various reasons.  I could literally continue writing for days, however I feel I have met the purpose of what I am trying to get across.

I think about how different my life might be today if I never contracted HIV, and it really makes me wonder what I would be doing with myself.  My life really had no direction to it, I was just an average guy that hung out with mates, went to work and had no real passion about anything.  I look at my life now, and the direction I am now going.  Hope In Vastitude is really just the beginning of a whole new dimension to my story.  I have received referrals to various organisations and can see myself becoming an active member of the HIV positive community to raise awareness and educate on this topic.  My life now seems to have some kind of direction and I have developed a passion for something, which is a wonderful feeling, as I have never really experienced it before.

One last thank you, and that is to you – my readers and my followers.  I am truly blown away at just how many people are looking at Hope In Vastitude.  I can only hope that I am offering them some peace of mind.

Again, Thank you!

Bug Chaser…

Posted: June 29, 2010 by Jesse in AIDS, HIV
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I was having a chat with a guy online recently whose only interest was having sex with me, and whilst I would like to say it was because he found me totally irresistible, his reasons were unfortunately based on my HIV positive status.

This person indicated that he had never actually had sex, and he desires to be infected with HIV upon losing his virginity.  Needless to say I was totally shocked.  I would like to point out that at no point did I give him reason to believe that I would fulfill his request. I chatted to him for about an hour, trying to understand why he, or anyone for that matter, would not only want to become infected with HIV, but actively seek it…

The slang term for someone that actively seeks HIV is a bug chaser.   Breakdown: they are a group of people that actively seek unsafe sex with HIV positive partners with the intention of contracting HIV.  On the flip side, you have the Gift Givers.  A Gift Giver is a HIV positive person who will comply with the Bug Chaser’s attempts to contract this disease, or even seek unsafe sex with people that are HIV negative without disclosing their status,and may even deny their status if asked.  This is the reason I stress that protection should always be used with casual sex partners, and to get regular sexual health tests done.  These tests can often be done for free through your local sexual health centre.  They say hindsight is 20/20 don’t they!

I find it incredibly frightening that there seems to be so many people out there without accurate information on this disease.  People that actively seek it, and more frighteningly, people that are willing to infect others.  Lets get real people!  HIV is a serious illness, yet so many people make the assumption that because there is antiretroviral treatments available that we need not take HIV and AIDS seriously anymore.

I think that people actively seeking the disease are not looking at the long-term implications.  Here are just a few:

  • This is a disease for life – there is no cure, there is no second chance;
  • There is a higher risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections and diseases due to the weakened immune system;
  • There will be regular medical appointments to monitor and track the progression of the disease and determine when antiretroviral treatment should commence;
  • Once treatment begins – you will require treatment for the rest of your life;
  • If you want to travel, you will be unable to enter some countries that have a ban on HIV positive people obtaining visas and there are other countries that have a restricted access to persons with HIV. Whilst many HIV positive people do not declare that they are HIV positive upon entering these countries, there can be serious consequences for lying on declaration forms if their status is discovered and it can be proven that the person was previously aware of their status.

I am all for people having the freedom to make their own choices, but my concern is that these ‘bug chasers’ with their lack of sensitivity to this disease will then infect others.

I hope that these bug chasers and gift givers will one day realise the reality of this disease and re-assess their positions on actively seeking HIV or infecting innocent others.

Hope In Vastitude

Posted: June 27, 2010 by Jesse in AIDS, HIV
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In 4 days it will be one year since I was given my equivocal result and my life changed forever.

What a year it has been!

From the time I was diagnosed I knew I wanted to provide some kind of support for people newly diagnosed with this disease as well as their friends and families.

I hope that sharing my experiences, research and opinions with people will provide some  sort of assistance and support in their own journeys.

Why Hope In Vastitude?

From my own experience following my diagnosis I had feelings of fear, solitude and helplessness. All of these feelings are completely normal and it takes time, personal growth, and support to understand or accept these feelings.

Hope represents these feelings, and it is my hope that through this blog I can provide some answers or at least steer people in the right direction to finding these answers.

Vastitude represents the enormity of this disease, the expanse of the unknown, and the enormous amount of support available, should you know where to find it.

So stay tuned to this blog, add it to your favourites.