Friday, June 22, 2012

Representation: The undefined Job Description

Since the discussion around Pre- Exposure Prophylaxis-PrEP, (the anti HIV drugs to be taken by HIV negative people to prevent them from getting HIV even if they come in contact with virus). I have listened, spoke, argued and even made cases for the cautious implement of the policy so that the people that will be taking the pills know what really they are getting themselves into and be able to make an informed choice about their life, their health and their future.

However, there is been a particular group of people that have been missing in this very important discussion, the people that will be taking the drug. The issue of representation in this case has been taken over by the HIV positive old horses that think that they can speak for everyone. Just like the pope and the Catholics criticizing condoms and contraceptives for women when they are not one that will use it.

This scenario of self appointed speaker/ representative is not limited to the HIV field. I have seen many people speaking on behalf of other people with such authority (mind you I am not excluding myself) and with the use of the word "Community" that you asked yourself when was the election conducted? Who are the opposition party? On which political platform that person stood? These questions brought about the argument of the notable academia Anne-Marie Slaughter when she talked about "Representation and Democratic deficit". 

Just recently I was drag into a twitter argument over racism and representation again. When on BBC Sunday Morning live, a panel discussing racism has no black person on it. The argument was in 21st century, do we really need to have a black person talk about black issues? Do we only need a gay person to voice the concerns of gay people? And since we have no HIV negative community, do we really then have to look for someone to speak for them?

Do we really need to desperately look for someone to speak for a group of people? As an African Gay man living with HIV living in London, I constantly find myself having to speak or represent that community and on many occasion I have asked myself that do I really know what deep down the issues are? Does having those boxes to tick makes me the best person to speak for this group of people?

As much as I asked myself these questions, I have never been able to find an answer to it nor will I ever be able to find an answer to it. However, what makes my case different is that I have to certain degree the support of the group of people I represent. This is clearly different from White people representing Black issues, or an HIV positive man talking about what is best for HIV negative man with such authority.

We all know that there is a difference between taking a pill to stay alive and taking a pill because it is an option not to catch something. Both are different and the level of tolerating the risk differs as well.

I wish we can take the PrEP conversation away from the ball room of HIV positive people to the dinner room of HIV negative people and allow them to take centre stage on the discussion as much as taking the conversation of racism away from the sympathetic white middle class to the reality of black people on the street of the UK.

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