Having moved from government (where the predominant culture is African) to a Northern Suburb private practice (predominantly white population), it has been absolutely mind-blowing to witness the the difference in cultural beliefs surrounding HIV.
Forget what LoveLife tells you. Forget what you've talked about with your friends. The truth is far scarier.
Don't get me wrong - I don't think white people ACTUALLY believe that they are immune to the virus - but they have this unbelievable disregard to the rules of "engagement", so to speak. It's baffling.
Why do white people think they can SEE a person who is infected? If a person "looks clean" – it's ok to bang them without using a condom? Argh.
And it is not about education... I have medical friends (who know the most about the disease and its implications) – yet STILL sleep around (one night stands or new relationships) without a condom or a recent negative HIV test.
It's irresponsible. And more frustrating than you could guess.
And then… there are those who are oblivious to the basic facets of human nature. Never underestimate a human's ability to be STUPID. I see a couple who "swings" - and still don't always use condoms. The rationale? They say that they are in a circle of swingers (5-6 couples) that only swing with each other... it's safe! Rule one: NEVER underestimate human nature. Do people not realize that all it takes is ONE to sleep outside the circle and the risk is introduced to ALL of them? What is the matter with people in this country?
HIV can wreck lives.
Case in point - a single episode of infidelity (genders, names and unimportant particulars have been changed to protect the identity of this person). One of my patients came to see me for an unrelated problem - I see him and his children regularly for typical GP stuff. They are the "perfect family" – and he, the near perfect father and husband.
During the consultation he nonchalantly asks whether he should be worried about HIV. Nonchalantly. After much probing it turns out Mr White Right had an extra-marital incident with a work colleague - who is, get this, "perfectly healthy and doesn't look ill".
I did the pre-counseling thing and pulled the bloods. HIV Positive.
It was the worst thing I've ever had to do. Perhaps I saw some of me in his situation? Perhaps I worried some of me would end up in this situation? Perhaps I culturally empathized – I don't know… What I do know – is that this man's whole world was destroyed with a single result.
It gets worse. He had been sleeping with his wife post-incident. Now, not only does he have to tell her about the cheating but also get her tested. If anyone has been in a relationship where they've had to deal with infidelity - they can empathise how truly awful it is... now you add an HIV test to the equation?
HIV can infect ANYONE! For crying in a bucket! You cannot tell who has it and who doesn't, especially in the early stages. In fact, if patients look after themselves – you'll barely know the difference until the last quarter of the disease starts running its course.
White people need to catch a serious wake up. This is NOT a black disease. It's NOT an African disease and it does not only occur in townships. Wear a freakin' condom and have yourself tested.
It makes me sick sometimes.