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May 28th, 2014

Ten Things HIV Positive Guys Want Negative Guys to Know

When Donald Sterling dissed Magic Johnson for being promiscuous and unworthy, it was nothing new for people living with HIV. They’ve heard it all over the years. A lot of those misconceptions persist today, even (or maybe especially) among gay men. Our attitudes can be hurtful, stigmatizing, and even contradictory.

Let’s give HIV-positive gay men the chance to set the record straight, and break down ten things they would like the rest of us to know. This list may not represent the views of every positive guy, but they definitely echo many of their most common frustrations.

Mark20131. Not all positive guys are barebacking drug addicts

It’s probably human nature to try and find fault in the actions of those becoming infected. If we see them as extremists it helps the rest of us feel more secure in our own choices.

And yet the truth is that the majority of new infections occur within “primary relationships,” such as a lover or boyfriend, and usually because one partner did not know he was infected and then transmitted HIV to his partner. That’s why there’s such intense focus on getting tested and doing it regularly. New infections are typically not the result of some insane night at a meth-fueled sex party or a boozy night at the baths. It happens, sure, but that doesn’t make good ‘ol fashioned sex any safer. Leather or lace, it’s all the same to HIV.

2. Living with HIV is not a toxic horror show of medications

Yes, HIV usually requires medications and doctor visits. So does every chronic condition. With so many options for HIV drug therapies, side effects have been reduced drastically and ones in development will reduce them even further. Poz guys are not weeping every morning as they chug down pills with their morning coffee.

3. HIV infection does not automatically turn guys into dangerous liars

One of the most unfortunate misconceptions about positive guys is that they outright lie about their status just to get laid, or worse, are on a mission to infect others. Can we dial down the rhetoric about intentional transmission, please? What is true is that positive men often have trouble disclosing because of the very stigma that results from sensational rumors like this one. It is unfair to blame all positive men due to the reckless behavior of a relative few.

4. “Drug and Disease Free, UB2″ is every bit as stupid and non-productive as it sounds

If you are using this dangerous phrase as a filter for potential sex partners, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. We know positive guys who are undetectable are not infecting their partners, so rejecting people based on their status can be more discriminatory than practical. Besides, labeling someone as damaged goods or unworthy sucks, and if you’ve been on the receiving end of this practice you know how demoralizing it can be.

“UB2″ also sets you up for a false sense of security, because as one British study suggests, the risk of sex with someone who thinks they are HIV negative is higher than sex with an undetectable positive person. This is because the viral activity in a newly positive person can be incredibly high, and he may not even know it.
Of course, either way you have to know who you’re dealing with. So hold off on any risky moves until you know him well enough to be sure he’s negative (get tested together!) or be sure he’s taking his meds and is undetectable.

If you are compelled to demand your sex partner’s HIV status up front, consider a more respectful way to do it (“I tested negative as of this date. What about you?”). Asking if he’s “clean” or “disease free” just makes you look like a dick, especially since you don’t know what STDS you may have if you are sexually active at all.

5. Our health and risk behaviors are up to us and no one else

After decades of scientific and treatment research focused on those with HIV, new options are now available to sexually active negative men, such as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). This advance puts negative guys in control of their own infection risks. Yes, there’s been some concern about the toxicity of Truvada, the PrEP medicine, although new reports suggest that these have been overstated. Your own health is always in your hands through the choices you make — and they have nothing to do with the status of your partner, whether known or unknown. The blame game has never benefitted anyone, and the playing field has always been level, whether we acknowledge it or not.

6. Guys with HIV are not promiscuous… or have a rotten sex life… or no sex life

All of these are usually false, if you’re using the typical sex life of a single gay man as a barometer. We all have our moments. Sometimes our dance card is filled, sometimes there’s a drought, and sometimes the sex we have sucks, and not in a good way. And just like the rest of us, positive guys are getting their share and having satisfying, balls-to-the-wall sex when they’re lucky. Judging guys for the degree of action they are getting feels like an old, worn argument against all gay men that we could really do without.

This is just another example of trying to distance ourselves from positive guys by judging them as different from ourselves. They’re really not. Some are prudes, some are sluts. After all, it only takes one time. And isn’t a slut just someone who has more sex that you do?

7. How they got it and who gave it to them is none of your business

The details of someone else’s infection isn’t your personal soap opera or cautionary tale, no matter your good intentions. If poz guys feel like sharing it with you sometime, they will. Chances are they came to terms with it long ago and it’s probably not very interesting, anyway. They probably had sex and got HIV. The details are not yours for the asking.

8. If you need an HIV educator, go find one

Having HIV doesn’t come with a master class in epidemiology and HIV transmission. Every person with HIV is not an expert or a prevention specialist — or an activist. They are simply living with the virus. And if they do find themselves having to educate you about the simplest facts of HIV prevention, don’t be surprised if they are the ones that decline to have sex. Nothing kills the mood like HIV 101. And most positive guys aren’t going to be put into the position of talking anyone into bed. They probably have hotter, more enlightened options on their smart phone anyway.

9. Positive guys aren’t going anywhere soon

Recent studies suggest that someone becoming infected with HIV today in the United States has the same odds of living a normal life span as anyone else. Some research even suggests a life expectancy that is longer than average, because people with HIV see a physician more often and other health concerns can be identified and addressed sooner. They are also more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol, eat well and exercise regular, the keys to health and longevity.

Positive guys know this, and are living their lives with appreciation, joy, and an eye towards the future. There’s no reason for them to settle for second best. As infections continue and treatment improves, healthy HIV positive gay men are a growing population. It might be better to try and understand and respect them than hang on to outdated fears or biases.

10. Even more breakthroughs are coming

There is research underway that will continue to change the landscape and make life easier and less risky for both positive and negative. Rectal microbicides (lubes and douches that kill HIV on contact) are being tested. More medications to be used as PrEP are being developed, including injections that could offer protection from HIV infection for months rather than the regimen of a daily pill. Condoms are getting a makeover with new designs and sensitivity profiles. Before long, even modest risks of infection could be eliminated for those who take advantage of new technology. Treatments for HIV infections will become even less toxic and even more effective.

All this progress isn’t only significant in terms of HIV transmission rates. It could help bridge a viral divide that has troubled our community for well over a generation.

Mark

(I wrote this piece for Queerty. I love reaching their audience of young sexually active gay men who need information! — Mark)

Comments

comments

16 Responses to “Ten Things HIV Positive Guys Want Negative Guys to Know”

  1. MAURICE BROWN Says:

    May 28th, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    great article!

  2. Daniel Moreau Says:

    May 29th, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    When I met my partner for the first time, we both asked each other about our health status. I told him I was a type 1 diabetic. He told me he was HIV +. The first thing I remember thinking was “big deal?”. It’s never been an issue other than when I get concerned about him. I love him. Period. In fact, we’re getting married in 29 days.

    We survived the holocaust of the 80s when HIV was a death sentence. It isn’t anymore.

    (I hereby name this the Most Romantic Comment of 2014, at least so far. Congratulations! — Mark)

  3. John-Manuel Andriote Says:

    May 29th, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Thank you, Mark, for really nailing it in your “10 things.” This should be required reading for ALL gay men. Make reading it a requirement to renew our Queer Card!!!

  4. Alex Heylin Says:

    May 31st, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for your insight. You really might want to reword a couple of things… “1. All positive guys are not barebacking drug addicts” – some of them might be, and probably are…. Try “not all positive guys are barebacking drug addicts”?
    Alex

    (You’re right! I’m firing my proofreader. If I had one. Changed. Thanks! — Mark)

  5. tim Says:

    June 15th, 2014 at 5:57 am

    Great interesting read! I so agree with all of your comments! I was with a long time lover who cheated on me! He infected me some where down the course of the 9 years! My partner a few years after that,that I was with for 4 years, new my status! He insisted on sex unprotected! Then OUT Magazine came out with all of these couples that were together, with mixed statuses, because they built up anti bodies to the strain of HIV! But Since I am positive, my boyfriend of eight years does everything with me but sex!

  6. Roger Cunha Says:

    June 26th, 2014 at 5:08 am

    Hello Gorgeous! and Thanks… for making it all so,

    Publicly…

    Clear~

    Submitting to my Facebook Page!

  7. Rube Says:

    June 29th, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I have never been to this site before. I liked every single point made and I could relate to all of them. I have been HIV positive since the early nineties and I have had my share of disappointments. But I learned that I am not a open container of viruses for everyone to get.
    I few years back, perhaps six months before I met my boyfriend, I went on a date with a guy whom, after I disclosed my HIV status we had this conversation:
    (Let’s call him Phil)
    Rube: I’m HIV positive.
    Phil: Well, don’t take this personally, but I don’t date HIV positive men.
    Rube: Good for you.
    Phil: It is too bad because I am really attracted to you.
    Rube: Well, it is not entirely your decision to make whether we date of not, I have something to say in the matter. My HIV status does not determine whether I let you treat me this way or not. I have made the decision not to date negative guys because I can’t take the drama any longer. Don’t take it personally.

    He did take it personally and he was taken aback. I refused his stance and took it personally because he had survived the plague hidden away from the real world.
    As a result we dated for about three months and it was one of the most successful relationships I have been in. A few weeks into our relationship I met Robby (not his real name)and I had never met anyone as strong and honest who wore his dignity and pride in the most admirable fashion.
    We have been together over seven years to date, and my relationship with Phil, honestly, help me set the base to develop the skills to be there for Robby during his health up and downs.
    I will bookmark this blog and visit it as often as I do other favorites. Thank you so much!
    Rube (not my real name)

  8. Kc Says:

    June 30th, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    I love this, I’ve been with AIDS for over 32 years now, I meet my love on a trip to S.F. From boston. I went out on a Saturday night ( not wanting to meet a new lover ) I went to the bar to order a cocktail, and that’s were it all started. Went to the beer bust on a Sunday afternoon , he had to go to a bar on Castro for a birthday and wanted to know if I’d like to come. So we went had a good time. I was leaving the next day. Well he called asked if I’d like to come for Folsom st fair. I was there,the next week we went to Castro st fair, there we made a comittment to eachother. This was 18years ago. The first time I told him I had AIDS , he was Poz. What could I say let’s do it.
    May 24 2014 we got married, the best thing to happen to me.
    I never let haveing AIDS stop me, I beet the early years and made it, I can’t and won’t let it bet me. Yes I wish I had. A penny for all the time I’ve been told I won’t make it. We’ll look who’s her. Thank you love your list. Thank you

  9. Steve Says:

    August 15th, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Awesome article!!

  10. Dieci cose che i maschi sieronegativi dovrebbero sapere (e spesso non sanno) | Mario Mieli | Circolo di Cultura Omosessuale Says:

    September 4th, 2014 at 4:15 am

    […] pubblicato sul blog di My Fabulous Disease, si trova a questo […]

  11. Steven Says:

    September 21st, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    I’ve been HIV positive for 18 years I’m a lifeguard I worked as a patrol boat captain I I have made over 500 rescues,dealt with boat fires vessels sinkingplane crashes and looking for drowning victims withand without scuba gearI’m considered very experienced an expert in prevention boating enforcementand responding to any emergencies from drownings to cliff rescues swift water rescue and plane crashesover the waterI also taught all the new guards also a swim coachand water polo coach for a local high schoolfor fun. I came out in 94after working for the county for five yearsthings do not change amongst my coworkersmy conservative Christian Chief has a big problembut he try and hard and couldn’t find anything to fire me you passed me up on promotions at times and I brought his discrimination to light after in a 8 month fight I was proven to be the best candidate for a permanent position and was given a promotion at the new facility I became HIV positiveand my new boss knew about it via a letter warning him on my perceived evilsinsisted I never scuba dive for a bodyhe said quote”I do not want you in the position to have to sharea regulator with you in an emergency I don’t care what scientists and doctors saybesides they don’t know everything”. I proved to him he was wrong with 8 inches papers and documentsdemonstrating there is no risk of catching it by sharing a scuba regulator with anyonehe resisted we agree to disagree I win about my career with my own scuba gearPublic Safety divers don’t use secondary air sourcesfor backup we change thatit now we are only safer for it. overtired the next 8 years changing the ways we Patrol and respond to emergencies this changed the trend of 3 to 5 drowningsper yearto one every three yearsit was hard work that I love to doit needed a little harder that I was sickoftenbut I managed to perseverethe crew became much more friendly to the patrons while remaining firm and fair I thought the crew by examplethat it really workswe managed to increase the amount of citations and Bui arrest and it all worked and improved r statisticswhen I first came to the facility everyone knew a gay lifeguard was coming. there were two of us that startedI showed up in a wrinkledold lifeguard shirt with chewing tobacco stainsthe other guard showed up witha full length mirror for the locker room. all the guards thought it was him for a few daysI’d let them in on it and they all enjoyed my company and my hard work and new ideasand honestywe enjoyed our time together and the fact that we were changing statistics for the betterI work hard responding to all kinds of situations until the bouncing on the boatfor 20 years caught up with meI am now retired with 9 / discs squashedantivirals and 2 morphines keep me healthyI did this day I’m proud of what my hard and honest work accomplished more lifeguards came out. our workplace was it comfortable non judgemental place to do our hard work.I think I made a difference for us as gay lesbian and transgenderwe two can make excellent lifesavers.I hope my story makes a difference for all of us we are here and always have been.

  12. BiGuy Says:

    October 21st, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Actually, all positive guys are barebacking. And probably a good many of them abuse alcohol and use drug, but I digress.

  13. Diogenes Says:

    November 3rd, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Hello, I read your stigma article in POZ magazine and was grateful that you had written and published it then. Now i see you continue to educate everyone on this and you are right on the money, nail in the head kind of thinking. Thank you Sir.

    I live in El Salvador and being gay is hard not to mention HIV poz…No one wants to even be near you. I don’t care, its their loss.

    Thank you again.

    (You’re so welcome! The POZ Magazine cover story might be the piece of which I am most proud. — Mark)

  14. john Says:

    January 2nd, 2015 at 8:39 am

    It’s so great to know a handsome man like you is out their telling the truth about aids and the people it effects….. happy new year.

    (Thanks, and may you have a bright and healthy new year. — Mark)

  15. Steven Says:

    February 25th, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Excellent information. At some point those of us who have HIV have to deal with the being shunned, feeling as being cast as a pariah. But in general we are simply people with a chronic illness that needs treatment. Perhaps the most disturbing experience for me is sorting out the “bug chasers”, guys who want to become infected. But other than that, by disclosing upfront, I have a pretty swell life!

  16. Dale Griffin Says:

    August 2nd, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    great info everyone should read. Another popular misconception is the one that STILL exists about “married” men. There’s still the ridiculous idea that there’s something instantly “safe” about all married men. Never mind if a guy screws heroin addicted whores in alleys without condoms….if a guy is “married” a concrete wall forms around him and he is safe forever. Watch the TV show called “Cheaters” and just WATCH some of the things they catch married people doing. Larry Craig is married and was trying to suck strange mens’ dicks in an airport restroom. Fred Willard is married and was busted trying to crack a nut in an adult theatre so sleazy the police were watching it. And don’t get me started on Tommy Lee or Bill Cosby.

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