What does the Asian Pacific Islander National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day mean to me?

What does the Asian Pacific Islander National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day mean to me?

I have never heard of the Banyan Tree Project nor National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which falls next month on May 19. Each year A&PI Awareness day is sponsored by Banyan Tree Project. National Asian Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day goal is too highlight the negative stigma, lack of communication and general awareness of HIV/AIDS in the API community. The theme for 2012 is “Saving face can’t make you safe. Talk about HIV–for me, for you, for everyone.” An idea that is very important to highlight in our community.
Growing up as a Queer Chinese Asian American; I have seen the hush, hush of just talking about the queer community. It’s something you don’t acknowledge nor talk about subject. Heck, I didn’t even know that there are community groups out there dedicating themselves to informing and educating the Asian Pacific Islander Queer community. Over the years, I have to learn to embrace myself, my community and all those that are a part of it. It was recently that I became even deeper part of the queer community and making myself part of the local API group, Asian Pacific Islander Pride, which had made me aware locally of the Asian Pacific Islander community and events. This is step one of many steps in my life to make myself a more engaging part of the API community. I’m proud for simply reaching out and help to increase awareness, decrease negative stereotypes and providing information that helps keep people informed.
Just like the other National HIV/AIDS Awareness Days, it is very important to embrace awareness into the ethnic groups of all backgrounds as those are the ones who generally are looked over and forgotten. I am glad that we, the Queer Asian community, are standing up and putting a voice to bring education and awareness to help make HIV/AIDS less of an impact while ending the stigma of being Queer in API community. The motto this year is for you to make our issue, your issue. Go and simply Speak Up! Get yourself involved in an organization, like Asian Pacific Pride, that you feel strongly with. It’s all starts with YOU.
What does A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day mean to you?

How Breast Milk Can Transmit HIV and Why We Should Inform Women

As one of the last fluids we think about when we think about HIV, I thought it might be helpful for us to learn a little more about the 4th fluid that transmits HIV. Since blood, semen and vaginal secretions have gotten all the attention, why not take a moment and learn a little more about how breast milk can transmit HIV.

What a brief review of the research shows:

  • Infant feeding is estimated to be responsible for anywhere from 5-20% of mother to child transmission. If a child is born HIV-negative to a positive mother who is not on antiretroviral treatment, the risk associated with prolonged breastfeeding is estimated at 10-20%.
  • HIV RNA is found in breast milk and the risk of transmission is directly related to the viral load in the mother’s milk.  Some mothers may have a specific gene (SDF1 3’A allele) that causes increased viral replication in breast milk and therefore increases transmission risk.
  • Although breastfeeding from an HIV-positive mother poses a risk of HIV transmission to the infant, there is also evidence that it provides better health outcomes for the child than formula feeding (protective against other infectious diseases)
  • The World Health Organization promotes alternative (formula feeding) only when it is  “affordable, feasible, acceptable, sustainable and safe.” When ARVs are widely available and breastfeeding is a social norm, they recommend that HIV-positive mothers breastfeed until 12 months of age.
  • Women who are on antiretroviral treatment while breastfeeding have a lower risk of transmitting HIV to their infant. (about 3.5% in one study in Kenya)
  • Exclusive breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of late HIV transmission as compared to mixed feeding. Mixed feeding practices (breast milk plus other liquids or solids) and prolonged breastfeeding (more than 6 months) are associated with increased risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is hard. Barriers include low milk production, lack of control over the feeding situation, and both perceived and enacted stigma.
  • Infants can develop resistance to HIV medications independent their mother’s resistance – that is, the mother is not necessarily passing on a resistant virus, but if the infant becomes infected while breastfeeding and the mother is on ARV, the infant is being exposed to small amounts of the drugs through breast milk and may therefore develop resistance to them.

The more we can inform women about the risks and benefits associated with breastfeeding, as well as things that can reduce the risk, the better able they will be to make the best decision for themselves and their infants.

Some of the articles/abstracts, if you want to read more in-depth:

WHO Guidelines:

A systematic review of a number of publications on HIV and breastfeeding:

How genetics may impact transmission rates:

Drug resistance:

Large Breastfeeding study in Kenya:

Difficulties of exclusive breastfeeding:

Viral load:

If anyone is still reading,

To kill HIV in breast milk, flash-heating breast milk can inactivate HIV without destroying too many of the vitamins or immunoglobulin in the milk that make it beneficial to the baby. The WHO recommends it as an option to reduce vertical HIV transmission in resource-poor regions. Of course, to do this the mother has to express the milk first, then heat it, then feed it via bottle – so it’s kind of a compromise between breastfeeding, which could transmit HIV, and bottle feeding formula, which has other nutritional/gastrointestinal risks.

What do you think? How has this changed how you think about HIV? Has it changed any of your thoughts?

World AIDS Day 2011!

World AIDS Day, observed December 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. HIV/AIDS has been a global epidemic for more than 27 years. Most of today’s youth have never known a world without it. As CHATpdx (a coalition of organizations that are working to Curb HIV/AIDS Transmission among youth in Portland) we having been working to change how youth view and are impacted by HIV.

From November 28th-December 2nd we will collect people’s own stories using photographs of their own “Facing AIDS” statements. During our youth drop, CHAT(room), on November 28th from 3-7pm at Pivot (209 SW 4th Ave) in Portland, we will ask young people to create their own message and take a photo for us to post on the AIDS.gov website as well as create a video for the CHATpdx facebook page (www.facebook.com/chatpdx). Youth will also have an opportunity to be tested for HIV for free and receive their results in 20 minutes. Later this evening we will print out photos of everyone’s messages and do a street outreach, distributing copies of the photos to people walking around our drop in space.

For more information about CHATpdx or its programs, please visit our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/chatpdx) or contact Ernesto at edominguez@cascadeaids.org.

Don’t be silly, Wrap up that Willie!

Condoms are GRRREAT! When used correctly they help protect you from a whole host of bacterial and viral infections (they’ll also keep you from getting preggers if that’s one of your concerns).

But I’m not going to talk about statistics or the basics of how to use a condom (here’s some videos on the basics if you wanna brush up). For right now, I’m going to talk more about how condoms can increase your pleasure during sex – yeah, that’s right, I said INCREASE your pleasure.

First, there are tons of different types of condoms. Big ones, snugger ones, ones with spirals, bumps, ridges, pleasure pockets, and bends. Ones that make you tingle, ones that are thinner and some that are thicker. Plus, all sorts of flavors (fyi, flavored condoms should only be used for oral sex because they can cause problems for the va-jay-jay and the bum). All those condom “extras” aren’t just there for show; they can increase different sensations and make sex feel better (and last longer!). But, hey, don’t take my word for it; conduct your own research experiment to figure out what you like. And for extra fun you can learn how to put on a condom with your mouth. It helps incorporate condoms into sex play and is also a pretty neat party trick. It’s a good idea to practice this beforehand so that you don’t damage the condom with your teeth. I’m sure your partner will have no problem letting you practice, but if so, then revert to the old banana standby. Different folks like different strokes so this might not be for you. Half the fun is finding out what you like!

Now, let’s talk lube! Lube ain’t just for anal sex. Lube and condoms are like peas and carrots; they complement each other very nicely no matter where you’re sticking your dingy.

Is lube a new venture for you?  No worries, I’ll walk you through it. Put a drop of water based or silicone based lube on the erect penis before putting on the latex or polyurethane condom (trust me on this) and then as much as you like on the outside of the condom or directly on the vagina or rumpus. Reapply lube as needed while you’re doing the deed (dry sex causes too much friction which can cause the condom to break). People always ask me what the best lube is, and while I hear lots of great things about silicone based (my favorite being, “you can slip n’ slide on gravel with that stuff!”) the fact is that it’s really a personal choice. So depending on what you’re into it may vary.  Here’s a list of different lube pros and cons to help get you started.

That’s all for now, but check back soon for our next installment of Hotflash!

In the meantime, if you have questions or wanna talk about more fun ways to reduce your risk then give the Oregon AIDS/STD Hotline a call at 800.777.2437 or chat with them live online at www.oregonaidshotline.com. The Hotline Volunteers are super nice, nonjudgmental, and ready to answer all your burning questions! We’re here Monday-Friday 9am-6pm and Saturday 12pm-6pm (pacific).

Why Gender Neutral Bathrooms Should Matter To You.

 

“…when they willfully ignore the concerns of LGBT people,

they not only limit opportunities for these individuals, but

also stifle our community as a whole. In the end, it is the

community that loses, as dynamic, intelligent, and highly

skilled people move on to places that value and respect them.”

–National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Recently I have been thinking quite a bit about the value of gender neutral bathrooms. As a cis-gender gay man (who on occasion may like to dress a little more feminine) I have never had to think about the bathroom I needed to use. In all honesty If you had asked me a year ago if I thought gender neutral bathrooms were an important issue for the queer community I would have said “no.” I understood that this was an issue that trans* folks and gender non-conforming folks were dealing with, but I would not have put this issue above the dozens of other issues the queer community was working on.

Some public places (such as facilities targeted to the transgender or LGBT communities, and a few universities and offices) provide individual bathrooms that are not gender-specified, specifically in order to respond to the concerns of gender-variant people; but this remains very rare and often controversial. Various courts have ruled on whether transgender people have the right to use the bathroom of their gender of identity, but again these rulings are not identical.

Transgender advocacy groups in the United States and elsewhere have taken up the cause of gender neutral toilets. They see de-gendered toilets as a solution to eliminate harassment and other inconveniences for trans* people in using conventional toilets. In 2005 there were 5 American cities, including San Francisco and New York, with regulations for public restroom access based on person’s perceived gender identity rather than their birth sex, but again this does not take into account a person’s identity and not just perceived identity. Various TV shows like Ally McBeal  depict gender neutral bathrooms, but this did not come without controversy.

It wasn’t until I got into a pretty heated discussion with a friend that I realized that this is actually a really big issue that actually seems pretty easy to fix. The discussion came up when I walked into the “women’s” restroom at a conference and once inside didn’t want to make an issue of things so I just used the bathroom like I normally would. When I came out my friend asked if I felt safe using the bathroom or if I was afraid anyone would call security on me. I replied that I didn’t actually think about it and just wanted to use the bathroom. Out of convenience I used the bathroom I had already entered.

My friend (Trans* identified f2m) told me that they had to think about those two things (among others) every single time they use a public bathroom. That using the restroom was more difficult than just finding where they are located and choosing one, unlike how it might be for me. My friend would in most cases plan their bathroom usage based on where they were. For example, they would use their home bathroom before traveling somewhere or find a single occupancy bathroom and always be aware of where the nearest handicapped bathroom is (these bathrooms tend to be gender neutral so that anyone in a wheelchair etc can use the bathroom).

I can’t imagine always having to plan my next bathroom usage, there are plenty of other things I have to worry about in a day to add something like this to the list. It’s really kind of ignorant of me to have never thought about this while being part of the Queer community, especially with how engaged I am in this work. Over the past year I have thought a lot more critically about gender neutral bathrooms and have come to this conclusion. I believe every human being (regardless of gender identity, or sexual orientation) should have access to bathrooms that are safe, clean and meet their needs or privacy.

“Bathrooms segregated by sex are potentially unsafe and

intimidating places for a variety of people.”-University of Chicago

I understand the valid concerns of a female bodied person saying “I don’t feel safe using the bathroom with a man in the same room” or “I need privacy and need a closed bathroom.” I think having single occupancy bathrooms that are open to anyone is a simple solution to this problem. I don’t think it is imperative that all bathrooms are gender neutral, but that any place that has public bathrooms should also have a gender neutral option. At the risk of making a few people uncomfortable, we have a simple solution to make many trans* and gender non-conforming folks comfortable using bathrooms, wherever they may be.

A great resource, safe2pee.org, helps you find accessible bathrooms for you to use by entering your address. If you know of any bathrooms that aren’t added to this list, please add them so that others who need access to these bathrooms can find them. Interesting anecdote: I also found an iPhone app that uses geo-location software to find the nearest public restroom to your location. It doesn’t however tell you where gender neutral bathrooms are which I think would make the app even more fantastic. (Any iPhone app developers want to make some quick cash and develop it?)

I am interested to know what you think. Why should bathrooms be gendered or gender neutral? What are the implications that you see? Would you feel comfortable with having only gender neutral bathrooms?

Film Friday- Questions (not) to ask a Trans person

Greetings CHATmosphere! This week I am in Washington DC with a group of about 120 activists talking about sexual and reproductive rights. While here we had a great conversation about some of the questions LGBT folks are asked and how inappropriate they can be. At the extreme level of these horrible questions are the ones that sometimes get asked of Transgender folks. Language is a great way of communicating and asking questions is a great way to learn things you do not know, but when the questions are inappropriate it can also be a really easy way to be pretty offensive. Even if that is not the way you are asking, it is important to know how your questions can be taken. Below is a video of some of the questions Trans people are asked. It is pretty humorous and points to some great points about being aware of how we ask questions. Make sure that any question you are asking about someone’s identity is a question that you would feel comfortable answering yourself. Have you heard any of these questions? Have you ever been asked them or ever asked anyone questions like this? Let me know! -Ernesto

What’s in a name?

Some of you have asked, “why the name CHATmosphere Ernesto?” We’ll I’ll tell you why. A few months ago we came to our facebook page with challenge. We wanted our “fans” to submit their own ideas of what we should name our blog. Much to our surprise many people wrote in with ideas like:

CHATter Box    CHATblog    Not your parents blog    Sex-ish      Body-talk      sexCHAT Off the Curb

And of course CHATmosphere. After a few rounds of choosing favorites, (done by an anonymous panel of experts, or sort of experts actually) they arrived at the final conclusion that CHATmosphere would be the best name to call our blog.

Mitchell is a 21 year old student at Portland State University studying English and Philosophy with an end goal of becoming a superhero. Here is what our good friend Mitchell S. had to say about why he submitted CHATmosphere as a name for our blog.

How did you first hear about CHATpdx?:

CHATpdx utilizes social media via Facebook and Twitter etc. to grab the attention of youth around the city.

So inevitably, they found me on Facebook which isn’t all that hard of thing to do.

Why “CHATmosphere”?

Discussion of safe sex, youth sex, sex in general should be inviting and comfortable. CHATmosphere is a place that’s safe for youth to drop in and CHAT; it’s an atmosphere of community, advice and involvement.

What does HIV mean to you?

HIV—knowledge of it—is a reality of a sexually active life

Why HIV is still an important issue for youth?

Knowledge is power: knowledge of prevention, knowledge of your status, knowledge of support, all of these things empower youth to take control of their own sexual lives and assert what’s important.

For the winning entry Mitchell got a giftcard to Trader Joes. Keep a look out for more contests in the future. With any luck you might be our next winner.