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April 23rd, 2014

NEGATIVE: HIV Negative Gay Men Speaking for Themselves

“Talk to me like you talk to your friends when no one is around.”

That was my only request when I sat down with each of four HIV negative gay men to create a short film about their lives and attitudes (video below).

AJ GrabThey held back nothing, sharing details of their sex lives, their fears of becoming infected, and, perhaps most surprising, what they really think of HIV positive guys. I couldn’t believe their candor, and have worked to distill two days of explicit conversations into ten minutes of brutal honesty (the language is sometimes NSFW).

They don’t speak for every gay man, only for themselves, and the differences of opinion between them is really striking. It really is a snapshot of what it means to be a negative and sexually active gay man these days. No matter which of these men you might relate to the most, there’s no doubt they are all just trying to carve out a satisfying sexual existence during a pretty confusing time.

Evan Grab devilish grin cropI couldn’t help thinking of The Golden Girls when I was editing, because all the archetypes are here: the reserved one, the sensible one, the endearing one, the man-eater. Just saying this makes me guilty of the very thing the video is meant to address: how easily we label ourselves and others, and how we try to assign the same perspective to entire groups of people.

I deliberately produced this without any particular context. No one is presented as right or wrong. It is meant to provide a forum for these men to speak their truth without interruption — and perhaps help us see them as men stumbling through life as we all are, trying to make the best decisions they can with the information they have. I refuse to judge them for that.

If there is anything to be learned from this video, it is that there is no monolithic “HIV negative perspective.” Gay men are far too diverse for that. That’s a lesson our community seems to have to learn over and over again.

Mark

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24 Responses to “NEGATIVE: HIV Negative Gay Men Speaking for Themselves”

  1. Sean Strub Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Fascinating. I appreciate the honesty of the guys you interviewed, Mark. Amazing how in 11 minutes you get to so many of the complicated, conflicting and confusing impulses involved.

  2. MariaHIVMejia Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Mark! thank you again for these wonderful vlog!

    love and light

    sharing <3

    maria

  3. Darrell Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I remember when I was negative and thought that what ever people did to get HIV was their problem because it didn’t effect my life, because I was negative I would not consider dating or having sex with anyone that was positive, Until my status changed. I understand the fear of getting it and the terror of finding out I’ve been infected. I hope these guys keep an open mind about dating, sex,and being with someone positive because it can happen to you. then your outlook about life ,love and what’s really important in life drastically changes.

  4. Jim Pickett Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    LOVE THIS. What a fucking brilliant video. I so appreciate the honesty and forthrightness each of these guys brings to the conversation. Thank you Mark, and please, thank these men.

  5. Matt Mikaelian Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    As a future social worker, I can’t say enough about how valuable this type of content is. Thank you for bringing real people and honest opinions to the table. These conversations, free from politics and social desirability bias, are the voices we need to inform the work.

  6. chuck jarvis Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks for doing this, Mark. And thanks to the guys who shared. I needed to hear and see these guys to confirm what i was thinking just trying to pick up up out of air at clubs and gatherings and from friends. Great discussion starter.

  7. Ben Clapham Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Such important stories being told that are so honest. These stories need to be heard, so that having that HONEST conversation isn’t weird or you’re not being labeled a certain way for just being honest and talking about the sex you are having. THANK YOU!

  8. Dave Rumsey Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Now I finally feel like my frightened voice has been heard. It’s been a long 28 years in the darkness, paralyzed by this damned disease. I just wonder how many others are out there hiding in a forest of fear and confusion.

  9. Dave P. Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Mark, WoW this video was wonderful, I will share it with others.

  10. Andy Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Anyone wanna place bets on how long before the twink gets it? I say within 3 years.

  11. Jacob Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    I’m 28 and I’m from a place where poz people are very discriminated. I grew up fearing so much to get infect that my sex life was terrible. Here in Toronto I met poz people and to me at beginning was strange because where I am from if people are poz they have to hide their status fearing rejection I learn more about HIV now I don’t fear getting HIV because I only have sex with condom. Of course I like nasty sexy but I will never do bareback because I know it’s dangerous. I love my poz friends and I know the treatment is giving people a change to live more and with better quality of life but it doesn’t mean that I will take the risks of unprotected sex.

  12. Andy Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    That blond is the perfect example of how normalizing HIV and removing fear of getting HIV causes people to be reckless. He flat out says he’s not worried about getting HIV because it’s not a death sentence. Funny how I’ve known 5 people >40 who’ve died from HIV related causes in the past couple of years. Great job gang! You’ve removed stigma so much people don’t care if they get it. Hope he comes crying on your shoulder and not mine.

  13. Eddie Says:

    April 23rd, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Before the twink gets what? A marriage proposal? I bet it’ll be sooner, because he IS all that.

    I hope each of these four men watched the others, and saw opportunities to change perspective. It isn’t easy when people dig in their heels out of fear (balding guy with beard), but it can be done when people have the courage of their convictions, or heck, can just be themselves.

    Finally, to the one who believes that positive men are “more promiscuous,” could you please give my right hand an all-expense paid vacation? Once upon a time, maybe that was true, but once upon a time, our gay brothers did not use code language like “promiscuous” for internalized homophobia. Watch a Brené Brown video for god’s sake. Shame be gone!

  14. Mark Hammann Says:

    April 24th, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Thanks for this Mark!

  15. Matt Says:

    April 24th, 2014 at 11:27 am

    I found this very interesting. I am personally paralyzed by the fear of seroconverting. When I was 18 I got tested at a local AID testing facility in Atlanta. The test came back non reactive inconclusive. I tested again 6 weeks later and was negative and the counselor told me to treat everyone like they were positive so I did. I thought to myself, if everyone is poz I wouldn’t have sex with anyone. I’m in my early 30’s and these days I generally limit my sexual contact to mutual masturbation and on a very rare occasion oral. I have no dating life because I can’t bring myself to go further. I avoid gay bars, hook up sites (grindr, manhunt) so the temptation isn’t there. The thing is I’m not so worried about having the disease because it seems treatable in this day and age. I’m worried more with what friends and family would think.

  16. Mark Randall Says:

    April 24th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    This was a great piece to watch this morning and speaks to the variety of Gay and MSM out their, their beliefs, knowledge and understanding of risk. I am happy to see such a varied group of men speak from their perspective and could help to address some of the Truvada Whore comments coming from other parts of community. It really confirms the challenges that exist when working with a diverse population of men, mindsets and knowledge not to mention fear and acceptance. Awesome and will be sharing and using in my work.

  17. Jonathan Says:

    April 24th, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Um, gee, this is 2014. Taking PRep (Truvada) wss glossed over in a few seconds only by the African-American pierced guy. Perhaps the next four guys you interview could be taking PRep and a discussion about that and how they talk about it with new partners….

    (PrEP is a worthwhile topic and something I often cover, but this isn’t a PrEP informational piece. It’s important to note that the actual percentage of sexually active gay men taking PrEP is, right now in 2014, in the low single digits. So in that respect, the two mentions of PrEP by one of the men in the video — and the fact he is on it at all — more than represents its actual usage among gay men today. Let’s hope that changes in time. — Mark)

  18. Patrick Says:

    April 24th, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Wow – nice work, Mark! Like Jim says, be sure to thank A.J., Aethan, Derrick and Evan for their honesty. I watched your video back to back with Taking Our Chances, a 50 minute video from 2013 by Matthew Feliss that also captures some frank talk in the present tense. Both videos make clear the diversity of positions around gay sex, and the challenges created by HIV in the here and now.

    (Watch the trailer for Taking Our Chances here. — Mark)

  19. Daayiee Says:

    April 24th, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Thank you for your vlog, very informative. As an older POC gay male (60) the video was very helpful and to hear how younger generations are handling the HIV status issue continues to give me hope for our community. I’m at the age where I remember before HIV, but it was still an arena with STDs, and protecting oneself is important. In my life, I did enjoy several monogamous relations and moving from condoms to bareback worked itself out over time, and most importantly continued testing. No matter what age group, I am seeing similar mindsets as expressed in your vlog. Another point made which I think is very important is to break down these barriers and build close relationships if you so desire to do so. I really appreciate your work and plan to send people to view it.

  20. Chas Says:

    April 25th, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Thank you for doing this video. Thank you also very much to all the participants. Having been in a monogamous relationship for a very long time I have become lazy complacent naive and sadly ignorant and it has struck me that I don’t nearly know enough about the HIV+ and Aids and Sero and Undetectable etc issues at all. I need to get informed. Thank you…

  21. Auerbach Says:

    April 27th, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Mark,

    Really, an excellent piece! I have passed it on to a young friend. He NEEDS to see it. I especially enjoyed hearing from the bearded African American man. I thought he had a very realistic perspective and I appreciated how open he is with his partners and generally non-judgmental as to whether a person is positive or negative – Just that they communicate and are safe. The other bearded gentleman (balding): though I absolutely appreciate his candor, I think his obsession with wondering HOW a partner acquired HIV is disturbing. I myself acquired HIV while a patient in a hospital at the age of 41 and while in a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship(who woulda thunk huh?. I am no longer with that person (he couldn’t “deal” with my diagnosis, but during the period after this relationship when I was dating, it became increasingly disturbing to me how many men wanted to know HOW I acquired the virus. Grow up. Regardless of HOW you acquire the virus, no one “deserves” the virus which to me is the implication. I am happily engaged to an amazing man who is HIV negative. We practice safe sex and have had lengthy meetings with our doctors regarding PREP and it seems as though it might be a good option for us. Thank you again Mark!

  22. Lily Says:

    April 29th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Mark,

    Thank you for an insightful video. Enjoy your work.

  23. Tom Says:

    May 6th, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I am a gay Irishman with hiv. did the gay community know or want to know. about the ban that was in place for all hiv positive people. especially gay hiv positive people from travelling into the united states of America.

  24. Derrick Starr Says:

    May 6th, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    this was such an honor to be a part of. I was nervous before but i’m glad i got the chance to work with Mark on this. As a HIV – man, i want to express that i have no fear of any type of person living with HIV. As i said in the video, they do not want no need our jugemental looks upon them but to be accepted like we as gay man want to be accepted in the rest of the community. No matter the skin, age, etc….a person is a person to me and that was my message in the video

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