For most urban gay men, HIV is an omnipresent factor in life. Between the 52% of gay men who are positive in NYC and the slew of benefits/fundraisers/message points that fill social calendars and Facebook feeds, even the casual observer is well informed and aware of this disease. Phrases like GET TESTED and PLAY SAFE and LOSE THE STIGMA have been drilled into us thanks to subway posters, ads in bars, and of course, dear friends. I can’t type 2 lines in a Scruff message without considering safe sex so it’s always a bit surprising to me when an exchange over the “dating” app goes something like this:
Me: Hello random guy I don’t know but am sexually interested in.
Me: No, I play safe to protect both myself and any others I may have sex with.
RandomGuy: Lame. Boring. <user blocks you>
Shocking, isn’t it? Some stranger wants to have unprotected sex with me not knowing anything about my status and then throws a little fit when I insist on using protection. Who is this uninformed individual who obviously doesn’t know the risks?!
But I return to the sea of men who are only a tap and swipe away and encounter some hunky HIV-positive guy. Well I know that I shouldn’t fear this individual and that knowing one’s status and being on meds can lead to a healthy life both in and out of the bedroom. Let’s see how he respond to my advances:
Me: Hello HIV-positive man I’m sexually interested in but not stigmatizing.
Me: Uh no, I play safe both to–
Hunk+: But I’m undetectable!
Me: Still I play–
Hunk+: Boring. Lame. I refuse to have sex with someone who insists on using condom.
Okay seriously, wtf?! Why is everyone rejecting me because I want to use condoms? I thought I was doing the right thing by being a responsible citizen. This is not an isolated incident either…I’ve had multiple guys reject me because I wanted to use protection in recent months and so have many of my friends. In some cases this level of rejection has gone beyond a simple denial and into a juvenile case of dangerous peer pressure.
One buddy of mine, Matthew, met a super hot guy at Folsom who insisted that he “only breeds his subs raw” and while this type of sentiment sounds hot in a porn kind of way, Matthew was not keen on putting his health at risk for the sake of some stupid top’s desires. “Most intense for me was the fact that I felt this enormous internal pressure to risk my health because of the perfection of this guy’s body…I was only fuckable on the condition that I allow him to risk my health for the rest of my life,” Matthew told me later.
Another friend, Kevin, tells me how when he brought up the issue of safe sex with a mixed group of positive/negative guys they laughed and mocked him as if they were in middle school and Kevin had just told them he needed a nightlight in his room at night. “They literally said, ‘Kev needs his rubbers! Get him his little rubbers so he feels safe!’ and laughed. I was shocked at their reaction.”
So it seems that despite the magnificent efforts of countless groups and individuals to instill the messages of responsibility and safety in us, there are still many who aren’t concerned with the spread of HIV and other STDs. We’ve talked about this before on my blog and probably the most awesome quote I’ve heard since then is from a 25 year old who recently seroconverted: “Becoming positive is like getting a ‘get out of jail free’ card. I don’t have to worry anymore–it’s a relief. Also I expect to get put on some steroids by the doctor so I’m looking forward to getting pumped.”
You can only imagine how my head exploded in mixed outrage and sadness over such a statement.
Look, I totally get why people don’t like condoms and why worrying about STDs is not fun or sexy. I also realize that HIV is a “manageable” disease now and knowing your status and being on meds if you’re positive greatly reduce the risk of spreading it. But this does NOT mean we should be recklessly fucking all for the sake of “good sex” with complete disregard for ourselves and others–both future and past generations. The fact is, we are one community and when one of us seroconverts we perpetuate a disease that has already taken too much. And despite the level of care available today (care that comes at an expense shared by others) being positive is never easy or simple–it’s a condition that will impact the rest of your life.
Really I’m just pissed that the rhetoric in the social scene is all SAFE SEX, YEAH! and then the demands of the naked men are all “Uh condoms are lame and if you use them I won’t have sex with you.” I’m tired of selling goddamn raffle tickets at HIV-related fundraisers because people still won’t practice safe sex. In theory this disease could be stopped and contained right now if we would just be smart and dedicated to the health of ourselves and those around us.
Okay, let the opinions and comments fly!