The idea that HIV positive people still want sex is as old as The Denver Principles, the 1983 manifesto drawn up by gay men with AIDS that demanded “as full and satisfying a sexual and emotional life as anyone else.” The document also stated that people with HIV/AIDS have an ethical responsibility to inform their potential sex partners of their health status.

Fast forward to today, and HIV positive gay men are as open as ever about their status and their sexual preferences (setting aside, if we can for the moment, the increased stigma and discrimination facing HIV positive people of all stripes who disclose their status these days). And those sexual choices may not include HIV negative people at all, thank you very much.

sex club 1Last year I taped a tour of a sex club that hosts a monthly “Poz4Play” party, and sat down to interview Bill, the party’s disarmingly unflappable host. In this video blog (the video, above, is PG rated but the language is explicit), I revisit the tour and get an update from Bill about the strong reaction to the original video, which includes a frank conversation on barebacking, the risk of other STD’s, and serosorting.

Serosorting, or limiting sexual partners to those who share your HIV status, has become the de facto prevention technique for many gay men with HIV. Research indicates that the tactic may have value in containing the spread of HIV, but as you might guess, it isn’t so effective when it comes to HIV negative gay men who attempt to serosort amongst themselves. People who claim to be negative are often wrong, misinformed or simply lying. HIV positive men who claim to be positive are less likely to be wrong about that fact.

On an important side note: is avoiding HIV enough? Research indicates that poz-on-poz sex is much more likely to include barebacking (unprotected sex), and that means the potential of pitting a sometimes compromised immune system against other sexually transmitted diseases. If the idea of catching gonorrhea simply makes you feel nostalgic, what about (the far more dangerous) Hepatitis C? A recent study found that 75 percent of new hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in HIV-positive men occurred in those with no history of injection drug use (IDU) — the more typical transmission route for HCV. Barebacking is the suspected culprit. In the video, I play devil’s advocate with the sex club’s host about the risks of unprotected sex, and what it means to community and to our personal values.

Everywhere on the gay hook-up radar, positive men are asking, telling, and serosorting. “Disease free, UB2″ in online profiles is being countered by the cheeky “HIV positive and plan to stay that way, UB2.” Meeting sites are engaging in some serosorting of their own by offering poz dating and hookup options.

Treasure-Island-logo-art-red-kissAnd over at the gay bareback porn company Treasure Island Media (TIM), director Paul Morris has named it “the year of living positive (sic),” with a series of videos featuring openly HIV positive actors. While one might appreciate Mr. Morris’ enthusiastic wish that everyone “fuck freely and without fear,” he’s a little light on the real-life implications of such a lifestyle.

I exchanged e-mails with Paul Morris in an attempt to interview a real-life couple he just re-signed to exclusive bareback video naughtiness. The couple includes an HIV negative top and a positive bottom, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to educate gay men by going “behind the scenes” and speaking to these two actors in a way that focused on their real life and didn’t demonize them.

Paul was complimentary of my blog and confident that his actors would communicate with me if I would e-mail my questions to them. I did so, and my queries included: how big an issue was HIV to them? Did one worry for the other’s long term health? Was the positive partner on meds? How did they handle feeling judged by those who disagreed with their bareback porn star habits?

Paul Morris NametagNote to self: do not attempt to “get real” with bareback porn studs or their handlers. I never heard from the actors, or another peep out of Paul Morris. His silence betrays his grandstanding on the topic (his own press release gleefully refers to him as “universally reviled,” which would look great on his name tag at the next Gay Erotic Expo). Or, perhaps Paul Morris really does know his audience, and figures they’re uninterested in his stars once the DVD is back in the sock drawer.

It’s also possible Treasure Island Media is just distracted with appealing their recent $21,000 fine by California OSHA for, among other things, not developing procedures for things as basic as Hepatitis B vaccinations. Maybe the Oscar winning song is right, and it really is hard out there for a pimp… or for a porn empresario.

Please be well,

Mark

UPDATE 2013: Bill has relocated from Atlanta and no longer hosts the POZ4Play parties, and this Poz4Play web site is no longer active.

FOR MORE: My thinking and writing about gay sexual politics have evolved over time. For a much different view of unprotected sex among gay men, check out my more recent post, “Your Mother Liked It Bareback.” For more about bareback sex and its place in gay male culture, check out “Is ‘Dawson’s 20 Load Weekend the Most Important Gay Porn Film Ever Made?
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Chad NoelFor another view of gay men, porn and barebacking, check out my most Googled post of last year, “Did the Bareback Time Machine Kill Chad Noel?“ It is a melancholy epilogue on the brief life of a gay bareback porn star (right) and what his childhood friends remember about him most.

One of my favorite HIV sites, LifeLube, has started an ongoing series called “Andrew’s Anus,” and it’s about sexual health for gay men and the human papillomavirus, or HPV. But wait! The series is written from the point of view of Andrew’s anus! It’s fun and witty and has great information and I hope you’ll check it out.

WendyGrabThere’s a lot in the news about marketing the female condom to gay men. If you’d like a frank demonstration on using the appliance for anal sex, check out my video from AIDS2010 in Vienna with Wendy of The Pleasure Project (right). She leaves no question unanswered, and trust me, I ask them all. Our interview begins at the 4:05 mark.

Mike Barr has returned to the pages of POZ Magazine, or at least to their web site, as a blogger on the topic of Traditional Chinese Medicine and HIV/AIDS. His knowledge on HIV treatment is stellar, so if you have any interest in eastern approaches, his blog would be an excellent start.

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