Thursday, September 05, 2013

Is HIV Karma’s Payback? The Case of Rapist Richard Thomas

by Michael Paolo Telan Jamias

Many find it impossible to sympathize with Richard Thomas, the 27-year-old British man who knowingly raped a sick woman who turned out to be HIV-positive.

Thomas reportedly “collapsed in terror” when the police revealed that the victim was living with the virus, and the public has seemingly rejoiced in his predicament:

“Hope he catches the virus. That would serve him right.”

“Karma at it’s best.” (sic)

“Now that’s justice!”

A flood of these comments came in even as Thomas possibly faces a hard road ahead living with HIV, and the possible onset of AIDS plus other deadly complications. (His results from HIV exposure come out in a week.)

Commenters believe Thomas deserved contracting the HIV as punishment for his brutality. He admitted to binging on alcohol and drugs, according to news reports, before breaking into the sleeping woman’s home. He penetrated her until she woke up helpless from the ongoing assault.

We understand the thirst for justice, and wish the victim the strength to recover from the rape trauma and the will to live on despite living with HIV.

But there’s a dangerous idea brewing from this Thomas backlash: That getting infected with HIV is a punishment, a curse, a death sentence for any and all sins committed.

Thousands of Filipinos living with HIV discover their status in our LoveYourself free HIV testing hub, and they should dispel this notion of karmic retaliation.

HIV is not karma’s payback.

Sure, they may have been exposed as students lured into the pleasures of first love and sex. As druggies trying to keep up with their clique. As yuppies tempted into an orgy after a stressful workweek. Or as partners cornered into a sexually open relationship.

Filipinos living with HIV already torment themselves replaying these "mistakes" every day. By not perpetuating the idea of HIV as punishment, we gift people living with HIV a life-saving reprieve. We give them encouragement to believe that they are still valuable human beings, and not monsters like Richard Thomas whom the world believe deserves the dark retribution of HIV.

LoveYourself champions a message of positivity to help people living with HIV become strong and empowered members of the community. They need our positive encouragement to tap into their inner #light and find hope even in the grimmest of circumstances, to unconditionally give and accept #love, and to strive to become #worthy agents of change that give back to the community.

Learn more about LoveYourself, and help support our drive to build LoveYourself Anglo, a new free HIV testing hub soon to rise on Shaw Blvd. in Mandaluyong.

("Karma" photo by Cose666 via Flickr.)