Last week saw the return of BBC Three’s “Unsafe Sex in the City” this year focusing on two Sexual Health clinics in Exeter and Leeds. For those outside the UK I would describe it as a ‘relaxed’ documentary series about various young people visiting their clinics and following them as they receive their results, it also gives an insight as to how they found themselves to be there in the first place.
I think you have to take the programme at face value, it’s on TV so if it was as dull as visiting the clinic actually is it wouldn’t be much fun to watch or get an audience, and if we want people to actually go out and get tested, then they need to be watching this sort of thing which is quite easy to relate to.
I got quite uptight towards the end of the first episode when one young person revealed how pleased they were to be “clean”. I tweeted how I find that term offensive, I’m HIV Positive, that doesn’t mean I’m dirty (unless I’ve a clay mask on my face).
On the face of it “clean” doesn’t seem an offensive word, but it is the context of its use that I have an issue with, if people describe themselves as “clean” for not having an STI, then if follows someone who does have one is “unclean”. It would also suggest that any such person could be referred to as any of the following…
…and just because I have a virus does not mean I am any of those things. HIV has not changed me as a person; it does not make me monster, freak or something rabid to be afraid of.
It’s also terms like “clean” that drive the way society interacts with HIV Positive people, and how behaviours can change. It’s because of ideas that we’re contagious, infectious and diseased that people ask stupid questions, like “can I drink from the same glass as someone who is positive?” yes you can – but it is a bit trampy! “What if someone with HIV has been sat on a toilet seat before me?” Well it’s probably warmed up for you love.
This isn’t about being politically correct, it’s about respect. If I and others like me find this term disrespectful and insulting then it’s polite and courteous to listen to us and maybe reassess the language that you use. Think before you speak. And if you’re positive and don’t care, then that’s fine, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I am not going to stay quiet about matters like these, I’m not afraid to rock the boat, I’d even capsize it.