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October 7th, 2015

How Do We Solve a Problem Like Pintauro?

My discomfort began as I sat in front of my web cam, waiting to join Danny Pintauro in a segment on Huffington Post Live. Danny had recently announced on an Oprah special that he was living with HIV, which was big news for fans of “Who’s the Boss?” and those who loved the precocious little boy Danny played. Before my virtual entrance, Danny was telling host Nancy Redd how he was infected with HIV.

Grabbed Frame 1He wanted to explore “rougher sides” of his sexuality, he explained. And wouldn’t you know it, the first guy he hooks up with for that purpose offers him crystal meth. “And you combine meth, which completely ruins your immune system,” he said earnestly, “you combine having been up a good 12 or 13 hours… you combine that with some rough but safe sex, believe it or not, and it’s just a potent combination.”

My jaw dropped. Did Danny Pintauro just attribute his HIV infection to using meth and being tired? Did he just say that he had safe sex, “believe it or not?”

No, Danny. I don’t believe it.  While gay meth addicts are many times more likely to test HIV positive, it is because they engage in high risk behaviors, specifically unprotected anal sex, and not because they missed a good night’s sleep.

Danny went on to explain, or at least presume, that his sex partner’s viral load “had to have been very high, because that’s the easiest way to contract it if you’re not being unsafe.”

I was incredulous. I began to mentally prepare retorts to the celebrity. If you are not being unsafe, Danny, you will not become infected with HIV, regardless of your partner’s viral load. Prevention is a two-way street. Your partner posed no threat to you if you were being safe, which you say you were. Which is ludicrous because you were high on crystal meth, a sex drug known for evaporating condoms instantaneously. Statements like “we were safe, believe it or not” would be pure comedy gold at any Crystal Meth Anonymous meeting.

14616But I actually said nothing to challenge his statements.  When I appeared on the segment a few minutes later, I welcomed Danny to the world of poz activism and identified myself as a fellow meth addict in recovery. I then threw out an inane softball question to our newly-minted HIV positive celebrity/cautionary tale, because, well, he was on a popular sitcom and has the power to reach a lot of people. And because I totally wimped out.

We don’t always get the spokesperson we want. We have to work with the celebrity we are dealt (ask any transgender activist in this Year of Caitlyn). And it’s unfair to expect a random person with a celebrity past to be conversant on every aspect of HIV important to us. Besides, Danny’s messaging around meth and gay men alone is worthy of our gratitude.

It is also true that Danny has set himself up for criticism and public judgments. In a universally vilified segment on The View, one of the hosts, a breathtakingly clueless idiot named Candace Cameron Bure, challenged Danny to “take responsibility” for his actions, as if she had just nabbed an interview with the latest mass shooter.

If that was your last exposure to Mr. Pintauro, you’re probably feeling for him about now. So was I. That is, until he doubled down on his “I had safe sex” statements by telling US Magazine that not only had he been a condom-loving crystal meth addict, he was actually infected through oral sex.

I better take a breath here. Ahem. Okay. Moving on.

There’s no way to know the level of shame Danny Pintauro may be feeling around his addiction and HIV infection. And he must sincerely value his beloved place in television pop culture and hate to discolor it with his personal revelations. That took courage.

But attributing his HIV infection to the infinitesimal risk of oral sex – because God forbid anyone picture the former child actor taking bare dick and semen up his ass – isn’t the kind of transparency needed for a gay, HIV positive spokesperson.

And then, oddly, Danny added in his US Magazine interview that the “irresponsible” man he believes infected him over a decade ago — whose name escaped Danny for many years – has been on his mind and he has been trying to find him, even searching through obituaries and what-not.

Danny’s strange fixation suggests a blame game that goes beyond Danny’s assertion that he wants to be sure the guy “is okay.” Let us all hope that the man in question is living a healthy life somewhere, safe from Danny’s well-intentioned but pointless quest to contact him.

That man deserves his privacy at least as much as Danny Pintauro deserves his rocky, vexing media tour.

Mark

 

 

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16 Responses to “How Do We Solve a Problem Like Pintauro?”

  1. Richard Says:

    October 7th, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Is the video of your intervention in this show anywhere to be seen?

    (The full Huffpost Live segment can be viewed at the link provided. — Mark)

  2. Brian Says:

    October 7th, 2015 at 11:57 am

    This may be a situation where he’s not necessarily intentionally lying to the public, but has convinced HIMSELF that he used protection and contracted HIV through oral sex from someone with a very high viral load. Might be a defense mechanism against his own internalized stigma against bareback sex. It can be very difficult to admit irresponsible behavior to yourself, let alone verbalize it to others. If that is indeed the case, I hope he someday has the strength to accept the possibility that he didn’t use condoms or didn’t use them correctly while on meth (and if the sex was rough, even a correctly used condom could have broken.)

  3. Charles Says:

    October 7th, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    As usual, Mark, you’re totally on target. Although I’m grateful to have a celeb disclose HIV status, I think Danny trying to make it all palatable, perhaps if just for himself, is misguided. And getting HIV from oral sex? OMYGODMETOO! 😉

  4. adam rubin Says:

    October 7th, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    There is no such thing as safe sex. It is entirely possible that he was having sex with a condom and the condom broke. Heterosexuals have unexpected pregnancies when condoms break.

  5. DrunkEnough Says:

    October 7th, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Why is the matter of blame so important? People are dying to pinpoint exactly how he got HIV even though every grown-up alive knows they ways you get it. But no one seems interested in blasting HIV as a disease as much as they are finding ways to insinuate its victims are deserving of death.

  6. Mark Cee Says:

    October 7th, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Mark, don’t you think it’s a little presumptuous of you to be questioning how Pintauro (or anyone else, for that matter) got infected?I’m going to hazard a guess that Pintauro is more of an expert on his own life and experiences than anyone else. He’s hardly the first gay man I’ve ever seen who’s sure he knows exactly when and how he contracted the virus. I don’t think we have the right to second-guess.

    Further, it’s absolutely irrelevant. The “how” of Danny Pintauro’s sero-conversion, the specific sexual act, etc. does not matter one damned bit. What matters is that he was high on “tina” (such a harmless sounding nickname we gave meth, huh?) and he paid a terrible price. THAT’S the message here, and it’s being obliterated by this focus on the salacious.

    It’s clear from the HuffPo interview that you fancy yourself an activist. Well, bad news: whatever you’ve been doing so far is simply not working. Our community continues to resist having the conversation about meth and HIV because the powers that be–the bars, the promoters, the hook-up sites–are making too much damned money to risk it. As an activist yourself, you should be supporting Pintauro’s efforts to force that conversation, not writing snarky blogs in an effort to impeach his credibility.

    (I appreciate you standing up for your friend, Mark. The mode of infection would never have been an issue if Danny had not made it one. And, as many therapists working in this arena will tell you, “the infection story” often changes over time as the person becomes more comfortable with their diagnosis and deals with their own shame and guilt over having been infected [Danny is already backpeddling on the oral sex claim; truth is important for a spokesperson on such matters]. I’ll let my 30 years of activism speak for itself, other than to say that you might find my previous post of interest; about a book on meth and gay men that is terribly important. As I say in my piece, Danny’s candidness about meth alone is worth our gratitude. — Mark)

  7. Richard Says:

    October 7th, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    Is the risk of contracting the virus thru oral sex that infinitesimal really???

    (Actually…. yes. The CDC estimates that the chances of becoming infected through receiving oral sex is essentially zero, and the chance of becoming infected by giving oral sex, per exposure, is between 0.0% and 0.04%. — Mark)

  8. Julien Pierre Says:

    October 7th, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Mark,

    Indeed, we don’t always get the spokesperson we want. But I’m not talking about Danny Pintauro. I’m talking Mark S King. How do we solve a problem like Mark S King ? Your post was completely appalling. Why do HIV activists need to eat their own ? Is it any wonder that so few celebrities ever come out about their HIV status ? If you wanted to ensure no one else ever does, then bravo, you could not have done it better.

    Danny Pintauro should be applauded for his courage in coming about about his status, not stigmatized. You are completely out of order. While HIV infection through oral sex is rare, it is not impossible.

    Many other men have made this claim before. Danny wasn’t the first, and he certainly won’t be the last. You don’t have to believe him, but you need to stop calling him a liar, right now. He is deserving of at least as much respect as any other HIV-positive person making this claim.

    I’m another in a long line of men who believe they have been infected with HIV through oral sex. I can never prove it, but I do know what risks I took and it didn’t take. I never used illegal drugs once in my life. I have never even smoked. I have not abused alcohol. I am top 99% of the time and always used a condom for anal sex in the year before I contracted HIV. I had a lot of sex partners. I always tidied up before every hookup, including brushing my teeth, and my gums sometimes bled. I never used condoms for oral sex. I never swallowed cum or took a load in my mouth to this day, much less in my ass. The most I have had in my mouth is precum. But guess what, I still ended up contracting HIV 9 years ago. Now, I can’t prove that the exposure was through oral sex, but this is still the best theory I have to this day, given the facts that I know and the risks I took and did not take.

    Who are you to call Danny Pintauro a liar, or anyone else who believes they were infected with HIV through oral sex ? Perhaps, somehow, all those who believe they have been infected with HIV through oral sex are wrong.

    Or perhaps, with 39 million people who ever died of AIDS worldwide, and more than 30 million currently living with HIV/AIDS, a few actually are correct. Low risk, very low risk, or even infinitesimal risk, still does not mean zero risk. Danny Pintauro reported poor oral health as a meth user. Given this, I think his claim that he may have been infected with HIV through oral sex credible. It is certainly within the realm of possibilities, given known medical science. You should know better than to question and stigmatize him for making this claim.

    You should also consider that those of us who make this claim have absolutely nothing to gain by making such claims. We gain nothing by trying to explain the minute details of our sexual practices to the world. We don’t ask for pity or mercy. We are way past the point of shame if we ready to open up about those details.

    On the contrary, all we ever get when we make this claim is bullshit from so-called know-it-all HIV activists like you, who ridicule even the slightest possibility of anyone ever getting infected with HIV through oral sex, in the entire history of the world. Believe me when I say that I sincerely wish you were correct !

    The next time you want to ridicule another fellow HIV positive person for thinking they were infected through oral sex, you should resist the urge, and go suck some dick.
    Julien

  9. Ken Warnock Says:

    October 8th, 2015 at 12:46 am

    i hesitate to be too critical of Daniel Pintauro, or anyone else in his situation. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that, after he did his interview with Oprah, he was bombarded with interview requests. After all, an HIV+ celebrity is pretty rare. Granted, he needs to become better informed regarding life with HIV.

    It should be noted that it really does not, and should not, matter how he became infected with HIV! It is a stupid question and is designed for salacious purposes only!! We all need to be thankful that he had the courage to come out. I wish I knew him and could offer some advice on dealing with these interviews. Someone close enough to him should pull him aside and provide some guidance!

    It’s so easy to criticize him from afar. Especially, those of us who have been out about our status for awhile! We need to be better than this!!

  10. Gary Says:

    October 8th, 2015 at 2:44 am

    Um, you can’t get HIV through oral sex. I did too.

  11. Pat Clark Says:

    October 8th, 2015 at 9:25 am

    When I first saw the infamous clip from The View, I was appalled! If you are going to use your long ago “fame” to advocate I would hope you realize the power and scope of your 15 minutes of fame and utilize experts and others to craft your message to align with current science while preserving your personal story. Danny Pintauro’s inadvertant stab at advocacy has perpetuated the stigma of shame and blame. He missed oportunities to educate and gently correct igmorant talk show hosts. He is new to this and my sincere hope is he will be able to allow feedback and create relationships with folks who may guide him.
    But Mark, I am somewhat disappointed in you! You have wit, intelligence, and EXPERIENCE, but failed to turn that moment on Huffington Post Live into a teachable moment! Welcome him and congratulate his courage for outing his status and then mention that in the world of HIV prevention we like to refer to “safer” sex rather than “safe” because if it’s safe, that implies no risk of transmission and yet as Danny just stated, and many others, transmission of HIV did occur during what they believe to be “safe” sex. Without further shame or calling him out.
    Or maybe even, “as a person living with HIV for 24 years (that’s my stat) I try not to invest much energy into the specifics of how, when, who I acquired this virus from. It was from unprotected sexual intercourse or sharing a needle and it only takes one time, that’s the only way to acquire this virus” Then say “instead I focus on removing the stigma and shame as we know this is the greatest barrier to ending HIV”
    Next time use your expertise and try not to be blinded by the “fame” and as you put it “wimp out”.
    We count on you to advocate for us, just as we count on him to up his game. We don’t have the opportunities you both have so use them wisely and with repsonsibility please!!
    And thanks for being so honest.

  12. Jonathan G Says:

    October 8th, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    There used to be an English marketing campaign- You don’t catch HIV, you can let someone give it to you (paraphrasing). Over the years, you have tackled many interesting and tough topics, often not widely discussed. I trust you could manage to open a dialog with Danny offering supportive referrals to informational programs such as Priject Inform among others. Then follow-up with a ‘Evolution of Danny’ report in 2016.

  13. Wim Dawood Says:

    October 9th, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    It is supposedly extremely difficult to get HIV by oral means, but it is not impossible. Therefore, calling someone a liar for saying that they got it that way is totally off. Another thing is that it is not a competition of “I’ve had it so much longer, and I have talking about it since forever, and I am an expert, blah blah blah”. Just let the person talk of his experiences and his views. Also contrary to what many think, he was not setting himself to be a “spokesman” for gays, he was just talking about himself. Don’t appoint him to some role he isn’t looking for and then beat him up for supposedly falling short. The response Danny is getting from some gays just goes to confirm that high profile people should keep it all secret, which in turns makes the stigma go on longer. Mark S King, stop being so self-absorbed!

    (Why stop now? LOL I love people with HIV sharing their stories. But actually, Danny *is* setting himself up as a spokesperson for the “Beacon of Light” tour, an anti-stigma campaign for gay men for which he is the spokesperson and “role model.” So, I think it’s fair to hold him to a somewhat higher bar when it comes to communicating facts about HIV. — Mark)

  14. Winter Says:

    October 12th, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    I agree with others Danny should not be beaten up over his account of how he contracted hiv. Our knowkegdge of medical science is incomplete so we should keep an open mind. I applaud his courage for coming out and taking responsibility for his action. We should focus instead on education and prevention.

  15. Dear Danny: I’ll Have the Shaking Beef | Fuck Civility Says:

    October 12th, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    […] Bure put it—has been less forthcoming. (Two notable exceptions include the always fearless Mark King, who has expressed some doubts about the believability of Danny’s story, and the Huffington […]

  16. Jason Ritchie Says:

    October 14th, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    I’m not sure how the link to my post about Pintauro ended up in the above comment. but since it’s here…

    As always, bravo, Mark! We need more Mark Kings and fewer Danny Pintauros.

    Here’s my take on it: http://fuckcivility.com/2015/10/13/dear-danny-ill-have-the-shaking-beef/

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