I’ve lived with HIV/AIDS for more than half my life. That’s twenty-four years and counting. I was there during the first epidemic in the 1980s, and miracles of miracles, I’m still here in the 21st century, experiencing life beyond my wildest dreams. Can you say President Obama? Ipod? Tivo?
For a 23-year-old UCLA grad (of one month!) who, in 1985, found out he was going to die of this mysterious new “gay” disease in 12-18 months, living this long feels like a miracle every single day. I’m still here!
But there’s just one thing.
Never did I dream I’d be alive in 2009, let alone alive and feeling like an AIDS Monster starring in my very own monster movie. Most gay men are terrified of me. The rest of America barely knows I still exist. While story of HIV/AIDS has evolved over time, the perception of HIV/AIDS by most Americans has not. People with HIV can live long, healthy lives now. People with HIV can have children. People with HIV can have healthy sex lives with people without HIV.
That’s right. The HIV-negative can have sexual relations with the HIV-positive and remain HIV-negative. Just as two people can have sexual relations and not make a baby, so too can two people have sexual relations and not make AIDS, baby.
Staying away from people who admit to being HIV positive does NOT protect you from HIV.
But Americans do not know this. Gay men in general do not know this. Instead, many gay men see HIV/AIDS as another evil in the universe and vow to avoid all those who carry evil, in this case, men who are HIV-positive. Neg guys declare themselves to be “clean” and only fuck around with others who declare themselves to be “clean,” “disease-free” and “bug-free.” Neg guys boast of their HIV-negative test dates. They’ve created a whole new lexicon to distinguish and separate themselves. Disease-free as of April 26, 2009. UB2
But how do you know the other person is really “clean?”
The result: millions of gay men are fucking around, not using protection, not having safe sex, not really knowing what is and isn’t safe sex, all while assuming they’ll be just fine as long as they only fuck around with other dudes who are “clean.”
Simply put, this “disease-free” mentality is not keeping anyone safe. It’s doing the exact opposite and lies at the core of the new HIV/AIDS epidemic in America among men who have sex with men. That’s because it’s the same magical-thinking that infected so many men in the 80s: I’ll just fuck around with guys who seem OK.
But how do you know he’s really OK? How does he know he’s really OK?
In 2009, most gay men are confused, uneducated and insensitive about HIV/AIDS. Those that came out and came of age in the 90s only knew the horror and fear at the tail end of the AIDS Panic. Those that came out and came of age in the 00s have only known eight years of abstinence-only sex education via the Bush Administration. The result: a modern day population of gay men who are stuck in time, literally. History is repeating itself. Infections are on the rise, and so is the insensitivity and lack of awareness.
Your body is made up of viruses, down to what’s in your DNA.
For the most part, only the HIV-negative gay man who lived though the AIDS Panic (1981-1996), and oftentimes had HIV-positive lovers who died–only these gay seem aware of the fact that it’s possible be intimate with an HIV-positive man and not acquire the virus. These men understand what keeps them safe and what doesn’t. These men understand safer sex. They also remember the war. (It’s hard to imagine a gay man living during the AIDS Panic using insensitive terms like “clean,” “disease-free” and “bug-free,” words used by countless gay men of today.)
Divisive language that reeks of judgment, infection rates rising, a virus that seems to be getting stronger and stronger. Throw in the Internet age and this could one hella sequel, AIDS 2: The Bitch Is Back.
But the sequel does not have to come knocking on your door, if you are HIV-negative. Just like someone who is HIV-positive, you, too can live a happy, healthy long life full of great sex with anyone, neg or poz.
Here now: three ways to stay HIV-negative in an HIV-positive world.
1. Embrace the Poz People
The best way to stay negative is to always, always have safe sex with whomever you fuck around with. That means, always use a condom when fucking and always use it properly. That means, learning how to use a condom properly. That means, only involving your mouth (or his mouth) in sex if your mouth (or his mouth) is free of open wounds, sores and bleeding gums. Ditto for your dick, your ass and the rest of your body parts that wanna join the party. That means, find out what reputable websites like the CDC have to say about the latest information on safe sex.
Taking these kinds of precautions will greatly reduce your risk of all STDs when having sex with anyone, neg people or poz people. Not taking these risk when having sex with anyone, neg people or poz people, could harm your health.
Keep this mind: Most people who are HIV-positive acquired HIV because they thought they were having sex with someone who was HIV-negative.
And while there are no guarantees in life, practicing these kinds of responsible methods of safe sex have more often than not meant the difference between those who ended up HIV-positive and those who ended up HIV-negative.
Remember: Most people who are HIV-positive acquired HIV because they thought they were having sex with someone who was HIV-negative.
Staying away from people who admit to being HIV positive does NOT protect you from HIV. Education, knowledge and practice is what reduces your risks in life, nothing else.
2. Free Your Mind of Disease-Free Thinking
When you use language like “clean” and “disease-free,” it creates a false sense of reality that could lead to the kind of risky behavior that leads to sero-conversion.
If HIV-negative men are clean, then HIV-positive men must be dirty. If some men are disease-free, others must be disease-ridden. In addition to this language being potentially hurtful, it also lulls gay men into assuming all men are either clean or dirty. Desirable. Undesirable. Good. Bad. Acceptable. Unacceptable.
What happens if you become HIV-positive? Are you now dirty, undesirable, bad and unacceptable? What about your good friend who turned poz? Previously, you both used terms like clean and disease-free. How’s he supposed to feel now? Is feeling disease-ridden going to help his morale? Are you going to keep using words like clean and disease-free around him?
Your words create your mindset, which creates the world in which you live. By using words like clean, disease-free and bug-free, you’re creating a very ugly world. Is that the kind of world you want to live in?
The medical terms are HIV-positive and HIV-negative. Using those other words just shows how thoughtless and insensitive you’re capable of being. What else can you be?
3. Re-think the Virus
In the 2000s, scientists have discovered fascinating new information about viruses, so much so, that in the distant future, viruses might not be thought of as viruses at all. Instead, viruses might be thought of, not as inherently bad monsters hellbent on destruction, but as agents of evolution that have shaped and enabled things like childbirth and the modern world.
A virus might even be the so-called “missing link” that enabled some apes to evolved into homo sapiens. Indeed, a virus might someday create the next species that evolves from ours. What, you didn’t think this was the end of the line for evolution, did you?
Your body is made up of viruses, down to what’s in your DNA. So you see, not all viruses are bad. Some have made you who you are. In part, HIV has made me who I am for twenty-four of my forty-seven years (and counting), so no way am I thinking I’m all that bad. LOL.
I don’t recommend anyone voluntarily adding HIV to their genetic code, but it’s important to realize: if you don’t want to acquire HIV, you don’t have to banish me and others like me from even your most intimate dreams. And if you do acquire HIV, for whatever reason, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world, merely the beginning of a whole new you.