Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Dear Sandton, you’re not immune to HIV

Aids ribbon
Dear Sandton,

I get it. You’re rich. You drive nice cars and own nice things. You work in shiny corporate offices with designated parking spaces and live in gated estates. You meet people from work or on dating websites. You work the network or get picked up in the local Baron, or at least that’s how things worked back before I retired permanently from the dating scene.

When you sleep around, you don’t always use condoms. Oh, you might, the first time. Maybe the second and third time, too. But after that it’s such a schlep and you never have one around and you’re horny and and and. Plus, rich (and, yes, white) people who have nice jobs and went to nice schools and come from nice families aren’t HIV+. Because being LSM 10+ not only means you’re paying a lot of personal income tax. It also means you’re immune to HIV.

HIV/Aids is something that happens to poor black people, or gay guys from back in the day, like my friend who got married yesterday, who’s on ARVs after picking up the virus in Europe 10 years ago.

You’ve been hearing about Aids for years now. (I first learned about it in 1989, when I was in Std 7.) Quite frankly, it isn’t something you think about too often these days. It’s still there in the corporate social investment strategy, but with the days of Mbeki and Aids denialism behind us, we’ve moved on. We’re less interested. LeadSA might be doing something with T-shirts at Constitution Hill, but quite frankly, HIV/Aids is passé.

Well, guess what, it isn’t. It happens, and it happens to people who think that the safe-sex message stops applying after you turn 30. (It’s office party season, so it’s probably happening all the time now.)

Eighteen months ago, I found myself sitting in a Dischem clinic in Fourways, heart pounding, waiting for the nurse to prick my finger and tell me positive or negative. Six months of hell because I assumed it wouldn’t happen to me, and didn’t have the guts to say no to a man I admired a great deal and fell for when he did me the immense honour of paying attention to me over one random weekend. I’m in my 30s and educated and should know better, but even women like me are not very good at standing up for ourselves, not where male desire is concerned. When a charismatic jerk says jump into bed, we do. We know we shouldn’t, but we can’t help ourselves.

I know I’m not the only one. I know that there are men and women out there, my age and older, who take chances they really shouldn’t.

So take this from someone who’s been there: stop taking chances. Stop thinking this doesn’t apply to you. Because it does. And you don’t want to be that person sitting in the clinic at Dischem wondering if you’re not going to be one of the lucky ones.

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  • 37 Responses to “Dear Sandton, you’re not immune to HIV”

    1. Wildcat #

      “When a charismatic jerk says jump into bed, we do. We know we shouldn’t, but we can’t help ourselves”
      No dearie, speak for yourself! Self control is not that difficult to master!

      “but even women like me are not very good at standing up for ourselves, not where male desire is concerned” You make it sound almost like you were coerced, and isn’t that borderline rape?

      December 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm
    2. Thanks for sharing your story. The fact that even an mature, intelligent and empowered person can still make a rash decision when it comes to the intimate act of sex, shows the magnitude of the problem we have with trying to convince our youth to take precautions. This is why frequent testing is advisable to ensure early detection.

      btw, You’re right about first learning about AIDS in 1989, unfortunately for SA you were in the privileged minority, because the apartheid state could care less about warning the rest of the population even though other first world countries took immediate preventative steps. Maybe the apartheid state figured this was another ingenious method to could control the population in addition to their sterilizations experiments http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/2824584/south-africa-apartheid-era-sterilizations-admitted

      December 1, 2012 at 4:42 pm
    3. Fiona #

      I won’t demean or patronize you with that dismissive and intensely arrogant ‘dearie’ from Wildcat who, in a clearly unintended way, ends up supporting your point. What I will say is ‘Well done!’ A brave piece of writing.

      December 2, 2012 at 9:53 am
    4. Belle #

      Thanks for the article, I think you were very brave to add your own personal experience into it. Kudos to you.
      I like how it touches on how multidimensional sex is. You can never predict when consensual sex can become borderline rape or rape itself. There are subtle nuances in these moments that changes the way the situation plays out. This is what makes it difficult to educate people on safer sex practices. You can know everything about HIV yet still fall prey to the emotional power of sex, the power of the person and even be intimidated by what the other person represents. Sometimes it’s more than self-control that you need in order to say NO. You need some power yourself.

      December 2, 2012 at 10:59 am
    5. Wildcat #

      Fiona (and Sarah), my intention was certainly not to come across as demeaning or patronising. My apologies.

      Let me try again: You (Sarah) are an empowered woman, you can say no, or you can insist on protection. As an empowered person who CAN say no, but doesn’t then it’s all on you.

      Don’t tar us all with the same brush. Respectfully to you and Fiona, there are still women and men who can control themselves, for whatever reason.

      If you were coerced then you need to further analyse the situation and decide if the guy you were with needs to be reported to the police.

      Perhaps there are grey areas, but in my mind a person either avoids AIDS or puts themself at risk by acting irresponsibly and then wants to point fingers at others. And then you get people who have AIDS foisted on them through blood transfusions, rape, and trusting the wrong person. They are innocent.

      please point out how I am wrong in this….

      December 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm
    6. Lesego #

      I’m definitely sure that after reading this piece you will also realise how mythical this aids thing is.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neural_top_down_control_of_physiology

      Most definitely medical practitioners know about the brain’s role in physical health but one should wonder if the Aids concept was created to control population or just the black people’s.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:28 am
    7. BillyC #

      I hope the sisters at Dischem treated you confidentially, compasionately and gave you pre-test counselling as they are supposed to do. It would be nice to know that, although the decision to have the test was agonised, that you were well treated once you got there. You are an inspiration to the LSM10+’ers that think they are immune

      Dave Harris is consistant in his habit of attacking anything non-ANC in every post. He convenienty overlooks that HIV/AIDS was still considered a rare and relatively poorly understood gay disease in the 80′s. The true horror of what became a holocaust of HIV/AIDs denialism occured during Thabo Mbeki’s time as president.
      At least 300000 died needlessly as a direect result of his hubris and failure to act.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:36 am
    8. Suntosh Pillay

      Another enjoyable and stimulating piece, Sarah. Thanks for sharing and making yourself vulnerable, especially on a platform such as this.

      The message is clear.

      December 3, 2012 at 12:06 pm
    9. Lesego #

      BillyC #

      “Dave Harris is consistant in his habit of attacking anything non-ANC in every post. He convenienty overlooks that HIV/AIDS was still considered a rare and relatively poorly understood gay disease in the 80′s. The true horror of what became a holocaust of HIV/AIDs denialism occured during Thabo Mbeki’s time as president.
      At least 300000 died needlessly as a direect result of his hubris and failure to act.”

      I dont get your point here. Are you saying that 300000 people who died should have been cured by the Aids drugs?

      December 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm
    10. Noni #

      You are the brave women who face the reality in our country. This article is brilliant and touchy, is a wakeup call to women. God gave us soft heart which we should reach a level of dealing with it to connect in our mind. HIV/ Aids is like an addiction, for example a person know very well that cigarette kills worse warning is written outside the box but he/she continue to smoke.

      It takes a courage to anyone to rise up to face our challenged of life and learn to say, NO. I did teaching years ago I learnt about good characteristic of a good teacher, “You must learn to say NO, so that you will always remain trusted in life”. This point keeps my life stable and cruel to other people but beneficial to my own life.

      You are the women of strength, the fighter, the more speak you learn to stand for your own words. As you have spoken, you have protected your life. Keep it up!

      December 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm
    11. BillyC #

      @ Lesego; The number 300000 killed by Mbeki’s HIV/AIDS denailaist hubris is readily available on a Google search. It’s based on a Harvard study http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2008/11/26/harvard-universityreport.pdf , which didnt look at the total killed, as that ran into millions, but only the estimeted number killed as a result of being denied timeous ARV treatment

      December 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm
    12. Jens Bierbrauer #

      Lesego, treatment and cure are not the same thing. This viral infection can, at present, be treated but not cured. A friend of mine, who became HIV+ 19 years ago, is still alive due to treatment. His viral load is so low it barely registers.

      He’s lucky. His family could afford the extremely expensive medication.

      Poor people in his position would be dead.

      So yes, I am saying that, without treatment, a friend of mine would be dead. He nearly died a couple of times early on anyway. Mbeki’s bluster however, well…

      I also knew a guy in the late 90s and early 2000 period. He said that President Mbeki was an educated man, far more educated than us, and that the president said HIV was just a plot to stop people having babies. He’s dead now. He got “thin” despite eating well.

      300 000? I would guess it’s probably more. What makes it worse is that it was the trusting poor.

      December 3, 2012 at 6:47 pm
    13. WTF #

      @Lesogo:

      Please do yourself a favour and visit one of the nearby public hospitals.

      It is so frustrating to hear these ridiculous conspiracy theories especially when you are at the coalface as I am.

      AIDS is a global phenomenon. 6 million people in India have it.

      Get over yourself.

      December 3, 2012 at 10:26 pm
    14. Anne #

      I feel bad for you, really. I guess intelligent women can be naive, too. One has to be street-smart, right?

      A good piece of writing as this may be, it is a generalization that “should not be”.

      Wildcat is right;
      “You (Sarah) are an empowered woman, you can say no, or you can insist on protection. As an empowered person who CAN say no, but doesn’t then it’s all on you.”
      “Don’t tar us all with the same brush. Respectfully to you and Fiona, there are still women and men who can control themselves, for whatever reason.”

      There are such things as self-discipline, good judgement & wise choices. Perhaps, the issue is emotional women (with weak flesh?) vs women who can differentiate between pure chemical reaction mistaken for love & true love which is a decision, as per my Catholic priest.

      Then again, maybe this generalization has some truth within SA. Could it be a matter of values, upbringing and environment? When the country’s president advises its people to “condomize” instead of abstain.. huge difference!.

      Personally, I don’t think it’s “Sandton”. I think the problem starts with (1) “getting picked up in a local Baron…” & (2) “sleeping around…”

      It seems I am not a real Sandtonista (though I’d like to think I’m a proud Sandtonite).. Sleeping around & pick-up places are no-nos. I love dancing. I partied but one doesn’t find a “man” in pubs/clubs. Maybe I’m lucky or it pays to dislike pubs & drinking. Alcohol takes away one’s capacity…

      December 4, 2012 at 12:01 am
    15. Johan Beaurain #

      Dear Ms Sarah Britten

      Thank you for your letter warning us to be careful not to infect ourselves with ‘HIV’ but I think that you are grossly mistaken. There is really nothing to be scared about and I think you are agonising for nothing.

      My understanding is that all the tests for ‘HIV’ are invalid. The tests are invalid because the sample used to develop the ‘HIV’ test must be taken from purified ‘HIV’. And as I suspect you know, scientists have not yet succeeded in purifying ‘HIV’. Watch the documentary The Emperors New Virus? – An Analysis of the Evidence for the Existence of ‘HIV’.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQFxratWh7E&context=C44
      62bc7ADvjVQa1PpcFMvpG3q5FFmu9qbwHiw15tmrNQBPHxKsPM%3D

      If they are not working with purified ‘HIV’, then the tests developed from the unpurified soup that they think contains ‘HIV’ will also light up for many other conditions.

      ‘HIV’ antibody tests have been documented to react to more than seventy different, unrelated health conditions, including alcoholic liver disease, flu, flu vaccinations, malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, hepatitis B vaccination, and so on. Even malnutrition and past pregnancy can cause the test to react positively and mislead the doctor or nurse doing the test to tell a woman that she is infected with ‘HIV’ when she isn’t.

      December 4, 2012 at 9:27 am
    16. Lesego #

      BillyC #

      Billy, actually i wasnt disputing the numbers. Could you please read my question again.

      WTF #

      That link is from Wikipedia and its a scientific phenomenon that is commonly known within the medical community so you are clearly ignorant.

      Jens Bierbrauer #

      “300 000? I would guess it’s probably more. What makes it worse is that it was the trusting poor.”

      Jens, could you quote what Mbeki said that caused people to die, pretty please please…

      Jens Bierbrauer #

      “My understanding is that all the tests for ‘HIV’ are invalid.”

      Jens, stop wasting your breath cos such information is not supposed to be known so they’ll just dismiss it as just another conspiracy theory.

      December 4, 2012 at 10:38 am
    17. Lesego #

      WTF #

      I would suggest you research more about Neuroscience, ok?

      December 4, 2012 at 10:41 am
    18. BillyC #

      OMG! Its way past halloween and there’s still denialists around in the 21st century

      Sarah, you’ve inadvertently summoned up the demons of HIV/AIDS halocaust

      December 4, 2012 at 1:20 pm
    19. wow #

      @ Lesego
      Resorting to wikipedia for your research is really dodgy. As a scientist I would be embarrased to admit that I did. AIDS is a reality. So is AIDS denialsim. You choose, and live your lie accordingly.

      December 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm
    20. Lesego #

      I would like to assimilate this article below with the topic at hand as it is perfectly relevant as it points out the same tactic being used in a form of aids by Colonists in order to exterminate indigenous populations of conquered territories.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_Australians#Since_British_settlement

      “Since British settlement

      British colonisation of Australia began with the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay in 1788.

      One immediate consequence of British settlement was a series of European epidemic diseases such as measles, smallpox and tuberculosis. In the 19th century, smallpox was the principal cause of Aboriginal deaths…”

      December 4, 2012 at 1:54 pm
    21. Denton Smith #

      If the tests that they are using to diagnose people as ‘HIV-Positive’ are not valid, why do medical doctors then continue to diagnose people as ‘HIV-positive’?

      December 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm
    22. Lesego #

      This is the North American version of the same scenario at hand.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Americans_in_the_United_States#Impact_on_native_populations

      Impact on native populations

      From the 16th through the 19th centuries, the population of Indians declined in the following ways: epidemic diseases brought from Europe; genocide and warfare at the hands of European explorers and colonists, as well as between tribes; displacement from their lands; internal warfare, enslavement; and a high rate of intermarriage. Most mainstream scholars believe that, among the various contributing factors, epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the American natives because of their lack of immunity to new diseases brought from Europe.

      December 4, 2012 at 3:58 pm
    23. Lesego #

      wow #

      “@ Lesego
      Resorting to wikipedia for your research is really dodgy. As a scientist I would be embarrased to admit that I did. AIDS is a reality. So is AIDS denialsim. You choose, and live your lie accordingly.”

      @wow, you’re not making a point really.

      December 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm
    24. Jens Bierbrauer #

      Lesego

      Mbeki’s equivocation on the issue caused less educated individuals to mistrust life-saving medical science. The evidence I have is in the words and deaths of a few people I knew. These were good people. They were simply led to believe falsehoods by the distrust of medical science displayed by an educated person.

      Mbeki was and is not a virologist. The dead didn’t see that.

      You quote me as saying “My understanding is that all the tests for ‘HIV’ are invalid.” I did not say that. Lesego, you are a liar and a fraud.

      If you really believe that HIV and its results are a Western conspiracy, good luck to you.

      December 4, 2012 at 6:33 pm
    25. WTF #

      @ Lesogo:

      Please wake up. It is the 21st century.

      Somebody has done a hectic number on you.

      HIV exists. It is real. ARVS work. They prolong your life. All types of people get it including white colonialists.

      I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

      December 4, 2012 at 7:31 pm
    26. Lesego #

      “You quote me as saying “My understanding is that all the tests for ‘HIV’ are invalid.” I did not say that. Lesego, you are a liar and a fraud.”

      @Jens Bierbrauer, I think you are a bit crazy cos what i did was copy and paste from what you exactly typed.

      And you still fail to answer me. Could you please quote were Mbeki said something that caused people to die, pretty pretty please, Im begging you! Anyone please help…

      December 5, 2012 at 10:49 am
    27. BillyC #

      WTF and Jens: You are wasting your time arguing with denialists – they will post their drivel all day long and not respond to logic

      Its a shame that they take over any string like a virus and dilute Sarah’s very timely warning

      December 5, 2012 at 10:51 am
    28. Lesego #

      @WTF, you are busy wasting your time senselessly typing but you are really making no sense at all.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:51 am
    29. Lesego #

      I’d like to quote the American version of the same scenario we have at hand.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Americans_in_the_United_States#Impact_on_native_populations

      Impact on native populations

      From the 16th through the 19th centuries, the population of Indians declined in the following ways: epidemic diseases brought from Europe; genocide and warfare[40] at the hands of European explorers and colonists, as well as between tribes; displacement from their lands; internal warfare,[41] enslavement; and a high rate of intermarriage.[42][43] Most mainstream scholars believe that, among the various contributing factors, epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the American natives because of their lack of immunity to new diseases brought from Europe.

      December 5, 2012 at 10:57 am
    30. Lesego #

      @BillyC, I know that you can’t support your drivel with sense thats why you resort to name calling, that the oldest trick…

      Like Jens, after ive copied and pasted exactly what he/she has typed she/he still denies that im lying. Pathetic!

      December 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm
    31. Johan Beaurain #

      The manufacturers of the so called ‘HIV-tests’ are well aware of the fact that their tests do not detect the presence of ‘HIV’, and they acknowledge this in the legal disclaimers that come with the tests. You can view some of these disclaimers online at:

      http://rethinkingaids.com/quotes/test-disclaimers.html

      The information in the test kit package inserts is very revealing. For example:

      ELISA antibody test insert:
      “EIA testing alone cannot be used to diagnose AIDS. At present there is no recognized standard for establishing the presence and absence of HIV-1 antibody in human blood.”

      Western Blot antibody test insert:
      “Do not use this kit as the sole basis of diagnosing HIV-1 infection.”

      Rapid (antibody) test insert:
      “The OraQuickRapid HIV-1 Antibody Test is intended for use as a point-of-care test to aid in the diagnosis of infection with HIV-1.”

      PCR genetic test insert:
      “The Amplicor HIV-1 Monitor test is not intended to be used as a screening test for HIV or as a diagnostic test to confirm the presence of HIV infection.”

      bDNA genetic test insert:
      “The VERSANT HIV-1 RNA 3.0 Assay (bDNA) is not intended for use as a screening assay for HIV infection or as a diagnostic test to confirm the diagnosis of HIV infection.”

      From reading these documents, it is clear that the tests do not look for or find ‘HIV’, even indirectly. There is no evidence that the antibody tests are specific for ‘HIV’ and that when they light up it means that the patient…

      December 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm
    32. Johan Beaurain #

      From reading these documents, it is clear that the tests do not look for or find ‘HIV’, even indirectly. There is no evidence that the antibody tests are specific for ‘HIV’ and that when they light up it means that the patient is infected with ‘HIV’. Even more surprising is that the genetic tests are so non-specific that they are not allowed even for screening blood to ensure quality blood for transfusion purposes, let alone for diagnosing people as ‘HIV’ infected.

      So Ms Sarah Britten, maybe you can explain to us why is it that most medical practitioners continue destroying people’s lives, mostly poor and mostly black, by using these invalid tests to diagnose them as being infected with ‘HIV’ when the tests are known to be completely unreliable?

      December 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm
    33. Lesego #

      Well finally, in a nutshell, it goes to show that the aids dogma hogwash that cant be supported with credible argument but rather illogical rhetoric and pseudo medicine. How embarrassing!

      December 5, 2012 at 12:10 pm
    34. wow #

      @ lesego – No serious researcher/scientist would resort to wikipedia to substantiate an hypothesis – especially on so serious a topic. He or she would just not be taken seriously. It really is that simple.

      December 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm
    35. Sean #

      Yet another reason to pursue a permanent, loving, monogamous relationship with someone you trust to be faithful and to whom you commit to being faithful in return.

      It is possible if you are prepared to commit, HIV has not been a concern to me for a long time !

      December 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm
    36. wake up call for everyone whether we take it or not it is in our hands the choice is ours, truth is some of us dnt know how to say NO when there is money involve.

      You can have it all a mansion, fancy car ect and become any kind of person you wanna bi it is up to u. bi indepedent n proud of hu ur are if yu cnt afford a blackberry it z fine bt dnt sell your body cheap for a one night stand(HIV is curable when you gt money bt if yu dnt it kills) ask me how dnt jus comment and tell me about ARV’s from a local clinic duuuuuh

      January 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm
    37. Saaren Lawrensson #

      “When you sleep around, you don’t always use condoms. Oh, you might, the first time. Maybe the second and third time, too. But after that it’s such a schlep and you never have one around and you’re horny and and and.” SB

      Thank you for the illuminating insight into “people who sleep around”. How frightening!

      The obvious conclusion one could make is that no-one is 100% safe from HIV AIDS, even those in a seemingly stable married one-partner relationship. It is a stark reminder of how married couples literally put their lives in one another’s hands and how significantly important complete trust is as a part of love.

      January 17, 2013 at 2:57 am

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