Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Letter to My MP on the Purdy Decision

Dear Mr. Lewis,

Although I will vote for you as my Labour candidate, whatever your position on this issue, I want you to know with what joy I heard the decision on the House of Lords on Debbie Purdy's case.

This is a de facto change in the law.

As someone who has lived with knowledge that I am HIV+ since 1990, and a Person with Aids since 2005 (and still healthy) and as someone who has fought and fights to stay alive and healthy, I am delighted with this decision. I will fight for life as long as I can, but now I see that, as a country, we are moving to accept a death with dignity approach.

I don't believe those who are mentally unable, such as those with *advanced* Alzheimers, should be euthanised, but I do believe that those who sign off on taking Nembutal should be able to.

To me this decision means I might avoid supurrating to death like my friend David Bowen, who (to my shame) I avoided helping to die in 1993.

We need a law here, which does not just allow the rich to go to Switzerland, and which protects pressurization of elderly people, but which allows us to know we will not die in distraction.

I respect your views, and that you must vote according to your conscience. I just need to convey that as a person who may face this issue, I feel joy and relief today.

And I still hope to outlive you!

Twenty Five Years of the HIV Test

25 years ago today, on 23rd April 1984, the US Health Secretary, Margaret Heckler, announced the ground breaking discovery that HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

Ms Heckler also announced on that same day that a blood test had been developed that would prevent infected individuals unwittingly passing on the virus through blood transfusions.

Pink News 30 July 2009

What is wrong in the UK is the amount of stigma directed at HIV+ people by other gay people, and even by other people with HIV.

Well I am HIV+, my family knows, all my friends know, and so do most of my neighbours (and I live on a [very nice] council estate in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester).

I don't think scaring people will work. People just don't died of HIV in a few years. I can tell people, though, that even with a zero viral load, the meds can wear you down, and after many years you just feel so damned tired. (And let's not even mention the bowel problems).

But as long as this stigma remains people will refuse to get tested because they don't want to be a member of a stigmatised group. When such people do get tested, they often seem to hate themselves, and either refuse to tell partners or go into a kind of "shock" and withdraw from the world.

We need a balanced approach. HIV is not the immediate death sentence it once seemed, but it's still something you don't want to have. Until we limit stigma, there is no campaign that will be successful.

I, at least, hope to contribute, by being quite open about it.

David Tennant and John Barrowman Kiss!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fourth Plinth - Naked for HIV

A Man dresses up as Angel of the North, then gets naked (around 47th minute) on the Fourth Plinth to bring attention to HIV issues. Bravo!

See the whole hour at SkyArts: LilacBonzai

Medieval Exhibitions in London (British Museum and Henry VIII/British Library)

Back from London, where I took things slowly.

While there I look for the first time at the new medieval rooms at
British Museum - and to be frank I was not too impressed. I also saw the British Library Henry VIII exhibition.

The new medieval room has some good items, but considering how many interesting medieval buildings there are in England (and the UK generally) this new room at the British Museum does not measure up.

Certainly compared to say the Cloisters in New York or the Musee de Cluny in Paris it is fairly sparse. More than that, I doubt general visitors to the British Museum, with its stunning ancient Greek, Assyrian, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities will be especially impressed by the medieval exhibits.

But it's also the case that items are not presented very well. The BM cannot compete with the architectural possibilities of the Cloisters or Musee de Cluny, but surely it can do more than shove various collections of treasure trove into one case, with few contextual explanations. [Even the Sutton Hoo trove, which is not part of the new room, just sits there dully in a glass case.]

Apart from individual items, the overall labelling is old fashioned and uninteresting. For a visitor to the BM "Anglo-Saxons" simply replaced "Celts" and no explanation is given that DNA evidence simply does not a) support a connection of Insular "Celts" with the middle European La Tene culture, nor that b) "Anglo-Saxons" simply replaced the post-Roman inhabitants. Even if these issues may not be major issues for the waves of non-UK visitors to the BM, surely subjects such as this ("where the modern English came from") should be capable of forming interesting exhibits for the many UK visitors.

Meanwhile, the labels say that England in the middle ages was "feudal." Oy.

As to Henry VIII - he is of course part of the problem: so much English medieval art was destroyed by the monster and his successors that there is so much less to show than in France or Italy. David Starkey, the curator of the British Library exhibition, is desperate to show that the documents and objects he presents ( which are indeed interesting) show a way "into the mind of the King".

The problem is that one ends up with the same impression as before: Henry was an obsessive maniac, whose efforts to have a male heir did nothing other than destroy damn near the totality (OK, 95%) of medieval art in England, all for nought as his male heir was useless, his doubtfully legitimate daughter turned into a great queen, and it was the heirs of his sister Margaret who came to power in the end in any case.

He is quite the nastiest king in English history.