Show Me The Money

Tim Barrus: Show Me the Money

Show me AIDS programs that are fully funded. Show me AIDS programs that have no trouble acquiring meds. For everyone who needs them. Show me AIDS programs or public health programs that don’t treat young boys with the patriarchal attitude of: this is what you have to do.

Show me anything that has failed as badly as public health.

Show me the money.

AIDS DOT GOV  is a US government website that posts on AIDS issues. It’s a good thing. I am not sure who reads it.

I know for a fact who doesn’t read it. Hard to reach populations are called that because they are hard to reach, difficult to get to, and when we do reach them, then what.

You’ll find video, audio, and anything that can touch upon awareness.

“We’d love to hear more from you,” we are told. It might be true. It might not.

There is usually a price to pay if you deviate from mainstream perceptions.

I do believe they are reaching some in the transgendered community. They had to put out to do that. It didn’t just happen. It was not an accident. They had to embrace inclusion. They are reaching some transgendered people.

In the sex work community — not so much. Survival sex is almost impervious to listening.

Boys who do sex work are not being reached.

Boys of color who do sex work are not being reached.

I know counselors in AIDS ORGS who will tell you that adolescents of color do not do sex work. They don’t believe it. Stereotypes are hard to shake.

So is stigma.

We use the word whore a lot. To draw attention to the fact that gender is not always relevant to what we think is real. 

I am of the firm conviction that following the lead of mainstream culture can end up boiling you in oil. Be very careful. In the old days, it was cops, pimps, dealers, and tricks who were dangerous.

Today, there’s public health.

In Africa, they’re telling boys that if they become circumcised, they can’t get AIDS. African boys believe this and they comply.

Often, to discover it was not true.

A safe house for boys who are doing or have done sex work is a new idea in the world of AIDS.  The grand poobahs in AIDS would be shocked to really come to terms with not so much how little such boys understand, but how little they trust. Some will never trust anything ever again.

They don’t just automatically “lose distrust” if they need treatment for HIV, getting it is easier said than done. Such boys do not like giving away their freedom, their names, their ages, or the families they fled. Or disclosing how they make a living today. Prostitution is against the law. Prostitutes carrying around condoms is against the law. Trust issues.

The THEY are, after all, government.

Sometimes the boys bet on the paradigm that one hand wipes and the other hand is oblivious. They tell me government is incompetent. The physical a year requirement in primary care is ephemeral, as is fasting for cholesterol tests and why are we testing young boys for cholesterol anyway. Because it’s in the funding rulebook.

The message they really get from public health is more You Better Follow the Regulations Manual or else. Or else what. We will drop you from the rolls. You will have to begin again. At the beginning.

It’s one thing to get fucked for a living.

It’s another thing to be objectified when you are not making a living. Many boys balk, and yet the attitude of public health is: we are only trying to help.

Actually, they are just keeping their funding. You are reduced to a checklist. Antenna that can focus on objectification is an attribute we have historically coveted. 

The boys know that there are no slogans about getting (not just tested) treatment. They know that a YouTube video is ubiquitous. They are uneducated. Not stupid.

We put our videos on http://le-too.tumblr. com and http://realstoriesgallery.organd and

We use Tumblr not FB. FB kicked us off. Because as sex workers, it was more than FB could stomach.

The lowest of the low on a good day.

AIDS DOT GOV is shooting for the mainstream. They have a voice that does exactly that.

They do not speak the boys language, Miss Thing.

They do not speak the languages of the people who are the most intransigently marginalized of the off the grid populations of people at risk for acquiring HIV. Simple.

I don’t know if they have a presence on Tumblr or not. That is the point whether they do or they don’t. I don’t know about it.

Why. Because they are suits. Like the boys themselves, I avoid the government.

We have to be our own ORGS. We have to form our own liaisons. We have to speak our own language. We have to have our own codes. We have to make what we can of it our own culture.

Because if we do not, they will eventually kill us. We understand that we are not the mainstream gay community. We are the misfits who don’t fit in. I did sex work to not starve. I share that history with where the boys are at today. We are lucky to survive and we know it.

When we were being beaten up by our friends and families, where was the government. It was not there for us.

Why has public health failed.

You have failed because you have failed. If only a minority of people with HIV can stay in primary care, you have failed. It is not our failure. It is your failure.

“But the patient is not being cooperative.”

Are you looking for the hard to reach or for cooperation. Decide. You can’t have both. It isn’t possible. Get over it.

We could never afford the drugs. Where has public health been advocating for us. We are poor. We have no money. What has public health done at the doors of Big Pharma. In a word, nothing.

When public health tells us everyone can be treated we do not believe you. We KNOW people who are on waiting lists. We think you want to use us and abuse us simply because everyone does and that is our experience.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, Valerie Jarrett is telling us about how wonderful it is that Obama has increased AIDS funding in his PROPOSED budget.

Because she thinks we are so stupid, we don’t know what a PROPOSED budget is, and we might not know it’s NOT a done deal. Sequestration has fucking HURT whether the administration is aware of that or not, and whether the mainstream media cares or not. Indifference is nothing new to us.

So you have a LONG way to go to reach young boys doing sex work and the statistics bear that out. The video we have posted here will make you uncomfortable even if it is only two seconds long.

It portrays a kind of bondage that can be inherent to sex work, and it portrays the kind of relationship we understand we would have with public health. One is the other and the other is the other. 

Personally, I have no faith in you whatsoever. Show me the money.                
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