Dear Straight People,
Contrary to popular belief, not every millennial is an apathetic, self-absorbed narcissist obsessed with growing their social media following.
Here are 3 Singaporean youths doing their part in the battle against HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases:
MR. AJMAL KHAN (AJ): COMING OUT WITH HIV
Stigmatisation, and subsequently discriminatory behaviours and attitudes within social circles and networks, is a reason oft cited as to why people are hesitant to talk about their sexual health.
Yet, Mr. Ajmal Khan (better known as AJ) is one of four Singaporeans who chose to come out publicly living with HIV despite knowing the challenges he would face in society.
AJ shared that coming out publicly about his HIV status has not altered the way he goes about life, although he does get recognised occasionally but declines to liken that fame to ‘celebrity status’.
Once I was at Orchard Cineleisure, and we saw a couple arguing.
They were on the verge of being violent, so my friends and I stepped in to try to break it up. We pulled the guy aside and he took one look at me and said, ‘Aren’t you the Pink Dot guy?’
That ended up diffusing the tension and no one left hurt. It was awkward, but I’m glad it helped the situation.
He recalls that his “world pretty much stopped” and “went completely numb and even forgot to breathe” when he received his test result which came back positive.
It’s funny, because everyone else seemed to carry on normally. How could the world still carry on? Didn’t they know my world had ended?
I didn’t feel much at first, but all the people who were close to me were really sad. They were all crying.
He eventually told his mother, Madam Honey Bee, about his condition two years later after his diagnosis. His mother was devastated when he broke the news to her.
I felt really guilty for lying that on her, but I don’t regret it because she has been supportive of my journey.
After having come out publicly about his HIV status, AJ hopes that his life is evidence enough as a message to all young people.
Life (or experiences) is our best teacher really.
When we’re young is when we are more free to have fun, but a moment’s pleasure isn’t always worth the consequences that follow, as my life has shown me.
I’m making up for my decisions as a youth by being a responsible person today.
MR. ALEX TAN: HELPING SEXUAL HEALTH EDUCATION WITH ACTION FOR AIDS
Recognising that the lack of awareness of sexual health and the rising number of cases of people being diagnosed as HIV positive, organisations such as Action for Aids (AfA) was formed to alleviate the problem and educate people.
AfA was first started when the Aids epidemic broke out. To date, it has five arms under its organisation- Heterosexual Outreach (HSO), MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) Programme, Anonymous Testing Service, Mobile Testing Service, and Support and Fundraising.
Mr. Alex Tan who has been with AfA for 2.5 years, works as a coordinator for the MSM Programme. As part of the MSM programme, Pink Carpet Y (Y for youth) was launched in January 2017 and is targeted at gay, bisexual and transgender men aged between 18 and 24 and provides information, which are grounded in statistical findings, on sexual health.
We feel that the young ones need to understand more about their sexual health so that they are more comfortable talking about their sexual activities because the truth of the matter is, there are more of them getting infected now
Outreach efforts by AfA extend to using gay dating apps such as Grindr where coordinators from AfA will drop messages to users to inform them of the organisation’s mobile testing service and its location.
Recounting his first experience having sex, Alex did not know what HIV was, but “wanted to wear a condom” because he knew he would get ‘something’, but was unsure what it was; it was not only until he joined AfA that the decision he made back then became clear.
For straight people, the first thing they’ll think is whether she is going to get pregnant. They think that HIV will not come to them unless they go to sex workers or overseas to have sex. And that’s only when they start worrying.
For MSMs and bisexuals, they are quite informed in a way because we don’t have to worry about girls getting pregnant so that’s the reason why they are the people who come to get tested.
MS. SHERRY SHERQUESHAA (Project X): BELIEVES IN FIRMLY SAYING ‘NO’
Sherry Sherqueshaa works as a writer and researcher at Project X – a sex rights group established to address the discrimination, violence and abuse faced by sex workers in Singapore.
The organisation also conducts outreach to various areas in Singapore to distribute safer sex resources and build a relationship with sex workers and encouraging them to voice their opinions on issues that they have concerns about.
Sherry shared that most queer youths are unaware because they think that it is unlikely for them to be infected with HIV as they are still young and that “the opposite partner never had sex too often to be at risk”. She also notes that while young people who engage in sexual activities do take precaution during sexual intercourse, they neglect doing so when having oral sex.
Staying true to the nature of her work, Sherry cautions LGBTQ+ youths that simply because the queer community is already a marginalised group, there is a stronger impetus for members to educate themselves about sexual health and adopt an uncompromising attitude towards having safer sex.
These youths have a long way to go – education and employment wise; having protected sex doesn’t make you a loser or weak. Please don’t risk your sexual health and future for a moment of pleasure.
You may have known the other partner for months or years and have complete trust in him or her, but that is still not enough. It is wiser to lose a partner than to be infected with STI or HIV.
Find out everything you’ve wanted to know about sexual health, HIV and PrEP (where to get tested, what contraception to get, how to get vaccinated) in this book prepared by Inter-University LGBT Network!
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