Posts Tagged ‘hiv

I was just flipping channels (settled on “When Animals Attack”) but happened to see that The Real World on MTV (also could go by “When Animals Attack”) is STILL ON.

What season is this?? 30000?

I am old enough to remember when the very first Real World came on – NYC. Seven strangers picked to live together… to see what happens when they stop being polite and start getting real.

Remember? Remember Julie, the innocent dancer? Norman, the gay guy?? Kevin, the black guy? The cute guy who went on to host some MTV shows and I can’t remember the shows or his name?  Remember the fight about race between Kevin and Julie? Remember when Norman went to the protest/rally about gay rights?? Remember him kissing another boy and it was scandalous??? Remember discussing all of that the next day at school?

Remember San Francisco? With Puck and Jude and Rachel and Pedro? The first time HIV was shown in a way that would mean something to those watching? Remember his commitment ceremony with his partner? Remember Puck being a complete asshole and that was just who he was, not some part he played for the show to gain notoriety??

God. Remember when this show meant something? For so many of us, it opened our eyes to what happens as you get just a little older – having gay friends, different race friends, different religion friends. Coming to terms with what you thought was right and being challenged to accept others.

Now it’s just sex. And drinking. And drinking while having sex. And having sex while being filmed and hoping it launches a career, a la Kim K and Paris Hilton.

I remember being very young and not being allowed to watch MTV at all, unless we were sick and had to stay home from school and then it was a special treat. I still remember Dad putting it on for us one day and Mom getting SO mad because Madonna’s “Open your Heart” video came on with the kid and the peepshows and Mom turned it off and said, “THIS is why you’re not allowed to watch this junk!”  And Dad just laughed, but the tv didn’t get turned back on.

Fuck man. I know I’m not the first to say it, but I want that MTV back. The one that was provocative and made you think and was controversial because of the content not just the fake characters.  The one that was relevant.


And it was staring me in the face the whole time!!! It’s walking distance to my house, $15 a month and did I mention only $150 to start up? No? Neither did they on their advertising. Goddamn gym math. I still joined because it made the most sense.

So, while I’m talking to the guy about joining, another member who was just chatting at the front desk starts to sell me on the place too. Honestly, I was already sold when I walked in – not because it’s so phenomenal, but because I am tired of having to listen to sales pitches. (This was how I bought my condo too – I got sick of looking after 2 months and just picked one (that I happened to like the most) and it worked out just fine!)

Anyway, this member was a bit older, in scrubs (Doctor maybe?!?!?! Who has younger friends for me?!!?!? Desperation has become my middle name) and he starts telling me how he used to be 450 lbs. I called bullshit, which he laughed and agreed to, AND THEN HE MADE ME FEEL HIS BICEP.

Because why not? That’s totally proper gym etiquette!

And because I sometimes do things without really thinking about it, I felt his bicep – admittedly, rock hard. Impressive. But why is this even happening? Because it’s me. That’s why.

So then, I’m signing up and the owner asks me what I do, and I told him I work in HIV prevention, and he asked about Truvada. OMG! A SMART GYM PERSON! MIND … BLOWN.

But the best part is … I worked on one of the studies that contributed data to the decision. Do you know how amazing that is for someone in public health?

Finding “new” approaches to diseases/programs/public health issues is HARD. People go a lifetime with never working on something that makes a difference… careers are made and broken on outcomes of clinical trials and studies. BUT ME! LITTLE ME! I got to be involved with something that was really fucking hard but ended up being amazing and may really help. (By the way — this is a complete oversimplification of the issues involved, but this is a blog about me and my experiences, not a medical discussion).  In any case, not only did I get to work on it, but I made some really good friends along the way (who are reading this now 🙂 ). I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of the work my colleagues and I have done then when this recommendation came out. WE MADE A DIFFERENCE.

And some random guy, at a gym, asked me about it and we ended up having a really good conversation about the drug, pros/cons, and just general public health issues.

This is totally the gym for me. 🙂


Bicep-man sadly did not look like this



I was sitting at the pool on safari (like I said, Africa isn’t always that hard) and the pool man and I started chatting. Henry was sweet and smart… he asked about the upcoming US elections and who I thought would win this time around. I told him I hoped it would be Obama again. Most impressively, he knew the Republican candidates (when buying curios, the same thing happened – they told me I would get a discount if I voted for Obama. I told them they should just give me the stuff since I was already going to vote for him. Not only did I not get it for free, but I overpaid, like a total muzungu (foreigner))… I’ve been in this country a week and still can’t tell you who is president. I am ashamed of myself more times than not while here.

In any case, back to the pool – there I was in my little bikini (black with pink ties, red/pink cherries in case you’d like to know – a Victoria’s Secret special) and we got to chatting about the work I am doing here in Kenya. I told him we’re here to assist with HIV prevention and he said he used to teach students on how to use protection, when (always!) and what the risks are. Then he told me: “In the villages they say, “How can you eat a sweet in paper?” and I didn’t get it… so he explained it. If you eat a wrapped sweet, it won’t taste good/sweet, as it would if you’d unwrapped it – basically, you won’t be able to enjoy it. So just in the same way, if you have sex with a condom, it won’t feel as good as if you did it without. I laughed, because although I definitely don’t agree with the analogy, it’s one of the better ones I’ve heard — I used to have a “friend” tell me that having sex with a condom was like showering with a rain jacket on (that ‘friend’ and I spent a lot of time just talking in bed as opposed to anything else). We discussed how that attitude is the one that needs to change if there will ever be a difference made, especially in the villages.  He also said that many people believe condoms are only a ploy to make money for companies, and that they don’t actually work. ARGH! These are the misconceptions we’re up against… nothing we do matters if we can’t change the root beliefs.

On our drive back to Nairobi, I asked our guide/driver if he’d heard the saying as well, and he laughed and said he had. He said it was a popular saying among many people to justify why they don’t use protection. Then we got on the topic of prevention, and basically he said that too many people go outside their marriages because they get bored with their wives. In essence, he said that when the women are married they don’t put a lot of effort into sex. But when they’re with someone new, that same woman does a little striptease and makes it exciting. I couldn’t figure out if he was just giving examples or if he was blaming the women for what goes on… probably a little bit of both. Given that he was driving us back, I really didn’t want to press the subject and changed the topic to what kind of people he normally gets to take on safari… 

He said he gets Indians, but they never listen. SO TRUE! Freaking indian people never listen to anything. It’s so annoying. He said the French are typically rude, which is also true. And he said that he gets a lot of Americans as well.  He mentioned that one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that the muzungu that come to visit are rich and just leave him all the extra money when they’re done – and how everyone thinks that since they are rich, they should buy something from all the vendors and stands. This proved to be true when I bought some plums from a road-side stand and as we drove by, a little boy yelled out, ‘MUZUNGU! Buy me one!’ Meaning, he wanted me to buy plums from him as well. I really didn’t need three bags of plums though, so we didn’t stop, but we did have a good laugh.

We were in clinic one day and this little boy, about 5 years old, was waiting for his mom to finish working. He was coming over, showing off, and not talking at all. I tried to get him to chat in the little Swahili that I do know and even in English. He later told our Kenyan coworker, “That muzungu talks with a funny accent.”  I totally cracked up when my coworker translated that for me. I guess it’s true, I do have a funny accent.

In any case – “how can you eat a sweet in paper?” I think the answer is “pretty easily” if you knew that doing so could possibly save your life… we just have to work harder at getting everyone to believe the same thing.

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