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This point comes up frequently among the straight men participating in Antoniou’s research.
He and the men he works with have observed that portraits of straight men with HIV in the media are often monstrous: “They are depicted as being threats to their community, as being these shady people who are deliberately infecting women.” G. “Heterosexual men are under a lot of stress in terms of what it means to be male and heterosexual,” he says.
Instead, straight men and the programs delivered to them are subsumed under other categories: injection drug users, Aboriginal communities, African Caribbean and black (ACB) men, or men from countries where HIV is endemic.
G., a 50-year-old HIV-positive man from Ottawa, says: “It’s not that heterosexual men are not at risk, it’s that we’re not seen as a risk group.
ACT’s Winston Husbands says that the idea perpetuated by media accounts “that black men are difficult to work with in terms of service provision, that they are out of control, gets in the way of understanding black men’s experiences.” For many men, being a wage earner is a source of pride rooted in their sense of masculine identity.
But living with HIV often means living with reduced financial means and, in some cases, becoming dependent on monthly government disability cheques.
is momentarily at a loss: “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.I’ve made do with so little over the years.” But on further reflection, he identifies a number of services he would find useful, including employment services, social gatherings and exchanging HIV treatment information with peers.Recognizing the importance of straight men with HIV connecting with one another, a growing number of organizations have recently started to offer activities to this underserved population.Luc-Edgard Douyon, coordinator of Projet Info-Hommes (the Men’s Information Project) at GAP-VIES, a Montreal HIV organization working primarily with Haitian and immigrant communities, emphasizes the importance of the masculine role of breadwinner to the straight men that he works with: “If a man cannot take care of his financial commitments, then there is something missing.A ‘real’ man must be independent and face his commitments, both on the family and financial front.” Relationships with women emerge as a key priority in the research that Antoniou has been undertaking with HIV-positive straight men.
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Invisibility not only has the effect of isolating straight men living with HIV but also limits the possibility that a straight man will be diagnosed in the first place.