Why the term “disease-free” hurts my feelings

This is me, crying because of the cruelty of gay men and their use of words like "disease-free."
This is me, crying because of the cruelty of gay men and their use of words like “disease-free.”

Some gay guys just don’t get it. They go around boasting about their “disease-free” status like a badge of honor, or a degree they earned, or an award that makes them a better person.

“Disease-free” is a term born of ignorance, a term with ugly and insensitive origins. The very fact that a term like “disease-free” has been allowed to prosper in the gay community is but a symptom of the problem. The problem being the proliferation of newly-diagnosed HIV infections among the young and horny.

Before their life-altering HIV tests, I imagine most of the newly-infected probably went around using the term “disease-free,” not knowing where it came from or what it means, and especially not understanding why the term is so hurtful.

Odds are, those same newly-diagnosed men now understand why.

The term “disease-free” hurts.

For the remainder of gay men who still use the term, here now, why the term “disease-free” hurts my feelings:

The term “disease-free” was created because of the AIDS epidemic. Before AIDS, “disease-free” was not part of the American vocabulary. Disease-free has become the way the post-AIDS Panic generation describes itself, as in, “Oh, no, I was born after the AIDS crisis, I’m disease-free.”

If you are disease-free, what does that make me, disease-ridden?

The medical term is HIV-negative. Words like “clean”, “disease-free” and “bug free” reek of judgment.

Would you use the term “disease-free” in front of your parents if they had AIDS?

Many guys claim to use the term to tell potential mates they have no STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea or herpes. Trouble is, no one on the Internet advertises that they have syphilis, gonorrhea or herpes, so there is no need to advertise not having these diseases.

HIV, however, is the one and only disease people choose to disclose on the Net. Ergo, the argument that “disease-free” has to do with those other conditions makes no sense.


How most gay men acquire HIV.

Of all the male US citizens who have ever told me how they became infected (in the 31 years I’ve been poz), an overwhelming majority were infected by getting fucked in the ass raw. On rare occasions—perhaps once, twice—I’ve heard a gay man tell me it was something else.

Gay guys are right to give HIV/AIDS attention and energy, the same way a hetero guy must think about not making a baby when screwing around with women. However, just as a hetero couple can screw around and not make a baby, two men, regardless of HIV statuses, can screw around and not make AIDS, baby!

Check out How to Stay HIV-Negative in an HIV-Positive World. You can remain HIV-negative without using harmful words like “disease-free.”

And now that you know those words are harmful, what will that say about you if you continue to use those words?