I heard a story today.
The Marulu tree provides some of the favorite foods for elephants in Hluhluwe park, and elsewhere, in South Africa. The elephants eat the leaves and the fruit and the roots, I hear. If an elephant is hungry, and the tree is tall, he will try to push the tree over so that he can eat from the top branches. Sometimes, male elephants will compete with each other to see which is strong enough to knock the Marulu over.
For its part, the Marulu tree produces a nectar that is delicious and can ferment to alcohol, and this can make the elephants drunk. It can be quite a party.
Yet, if the Marulu tree is pushed too much, the leaves and scent can become bitter, and unattractive for the elephant.
People are like the Marulu. The most attractive features can nourish and delight. Yet if too much is taken from our human interactions, people can be toppled over. Competing for people can lead to bitter fruit. People so targeted are traumatized.
This may be a lesson for HIV prevention, and advocates for communities and ideas. Sometimes it is best to leave people to grow and be as they wish. The fruits of social interaction may be sweeter if we are easy with each other, and we do not compete for each other's favors.
People use PrEP to feel safer. Sex, and other social relationships, often feel frightening. In a relationship, we worry....Will we give up too much? Will we trust and lose? What will be taken?
PrEP can release people from fear of HIV. People who have been toppled over by fear of HIV, may find themselves stronger and more resilient. Being held in safety can heal. Finding pleasure is sweet.
If PrEP brings sweet and safe human connection to anyone, that is enough. That healing will make us stronger in our struggles, including our struggle to find human connection and belonging.