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Wednesday 14 April 2010

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The Gay Blade

14th August 2008

Hi, My Name’s Michael & I’m A Diseased Pariah

Posted by: Michael Stevens

Well, it happened again. Met a guy online, chatted a bit, figured out that the filthy, perverted, friendly things we enjoyed would complement each other’s need for perversion and filth nicely. Agreed to safe sex, naturally. Met up in a neutral space so we could each back out with dignity if the reality didn’t quite match up to what life online had conjured up. We both fitted our descriptions and agreed we still wanted to do filthy things to each other.

Then I told him I was HIV+.

Fear, confusion, doubt and… “Look”, I said, “if it makes you uncomfortable then hey, let’s forget it - no point trying to pretend.” He was grateful for the chance I gave him and he left.

I didn’t have to tell him - and I don’t always tell everyone I get naked with. That’s why we do safe sex guys - so we won’t catch it or pass it on. In fact, I can remember about 7 or 8 years ago at a bar being told off by a guy for telling him my HIV status - as he said “We’re all supposed to look after each other and ourselves - if you have it or not isn’t an issue if we use rubbers” (or words to that effect). And that was part of the original basis of safe sex, this idea that we should all look after each other, and using rubber meant you could still be a filthy slutty sex-pig and stay safe from either getting it or giving it.

But guys today don’t seem to have that understanding, or so it seems to me. There seems to be an assumption that those who have HIV have a duty to disclose and according to some guys we shouldn’t even consider having sex.

FYI - Legally, in this country, we don’t have to tell anyone, so long as we keep our partners safe.

The thing is, when you meet someone either online or in a venue, and you agree to safe sex, then why the hell does finding out that the other guy is poz make such a difference? Don’t men believe that safe sex works? Or do they really hope to be able to rip off the rubbers halfway through in the heat of the moment? Or do we in fact remind them of the possibility that they too may have it, but they just don’t want to face that: That safe-sex something these guys only pay lip service to, and they are in fact being confronted with the fear that by their other actions they might already have exposed themselves to HIV? I think that is the case for many guys.

I sort of understand, but then, I don’t. We know condoms work at stopping transmission of HIV. Fact. And after all we gay men invented safe sex as a way to keep on enjoying ourselves and stay safe at the same time. We were practical that way - we didn’t want to have to give up all the fun and freedom we’d fought so hard to win.

And let’s face it, it can get pretty bruising to the ego to get knocked back this way. I’m pretty used to how guys can react, so I think it doesn’t affect me a much as others I know, but it still isn’t much fun I have to say. I used to just include it on my on line profiles so I could avoid having to go through it all, but that just seemed to be the kiss of death (ha!) so now I wait till we meet and then decide whether or not I feel like I need to say anything.

But you know, it really shouldn’t be an issue, if we just follow the steps we all know about. I suspect it’s more of an issue here in NZ than in other countries with larger gay populations. Fewer guys around today have actually had anything to do with HIV and there is probably more of a sense of fear and mystery - and HIV does bring sex and death together in a particularly volatile way.

Luckily for me, not everyone reacts this way. There are still hot sexy men who don’t miss a beat when I tell them and keep on being filthy friendly perverts as we step out of our clothes.

Tags: General

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 james // Aug 15, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    what you said is so true i have a illness(fibromyalgia syndrome)& i dont tell all guys cause i found people get their running shoes on judgeing you bye what you got not who you are funny thing too you cant catch fibro

  • 2 Eddy // Aug 17, 2008 at 12:24 am

    Research came out several years ago that demonstrated how heterosexual attraction is partly but strongly subconsciously based on evaluation of the other person’s facial skin. In other words, at a gut level attraction doesn’t begin if both parties don’t consider the other person’s facial skin indicates healthiness and fertility. This selectivity guarantees reproduction of the species.

    The point of mentioning this, after reading the above report, is that the desire to avoid mating with “the unhealthy” is deeply programmed into us, even we gay and lesbian folk. It’s an “instinctual” thing. Irrational.

    So, if a person with healthy skin and appearance suddenly confuses the perception by declaring that in reality they are actually not 100% healthy, then the instinctual, irrational reaction is to scarper. Bolt. Be gone.

    Only truly civilised and more highly-developed human beings have taught themselves or been trained to resist this instinctual reaction.

    It’s cold comfort, of course, why you’re hot and horny and have been expecting some good sex, to learn that the man you had lined up is NOT a truly civilised and more highly-developed human being whose rationality rules over his gut reactions. I expect it may be more helpful at such times just to think of him as a lowly little shit, not worth the time of day!

  • 3 Brayden // Aug 19, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Another well written article Michael! Even though [obviously] gay myself, I find it difficult to understand the gay man. Seems like we are seeking perfection and even when we’ve found it, we are still looking for it. Question is - what defines perfection, and in whose eyes?
    Maybe one of the reasons I no longer pursue sex is because many men seem so shallow, or is it just because I am knocking on the door of 45yrs, that I am no longer desirable!?

  • 4 Jay // Aug 19, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    There’s no such thing as safe sex, but SAFER sex.
    As everyone knows there’s always the minor risk of a condom breaking in which I’m sure many gay men have experienced.
    Reading your story though, it interested me when I thought about it;
    if so many guys are turning down protected sex with a HIV+ partner, it could also show how aware NZ gay males are and their increased effort to stop the transmission of HIV.

    I’m very glad Michael that you do tell your sexual partners of your status, although I don’t agree with the law of not having to disclose this.
    I too like to enjoy protected sex with men on a casual basis, as I don’t have a partner and would be completely horrified if he failed to tell me he was HIV+. Again, I wouldn’t want that very minor risk of a condom breakage, but more importantly a lot of men fail to realise that HIV can also be transmitted via oral sex and body fluids, more commonly semen.

    Small risk -yes, but a risk that a lot of men would want to take? It appears not!

  • 5 Robert // Aug 20, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Jay - you’re comment just goes to show why a lot of guys do NOT want, or feel secure, in disclosing their status at all to ’shags’. If they are practising SAFER SEX, then what’s the issue? I know that there are a lot of variables, however how many people have you had sex with who don’t even know their status, let alone be willing to share that with you.

  • 6 Eddy // Aug 20, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Good point, Robert. HIV is extremely difficult to catch (or be caught by!) and if people simply have “safe sex” then there really isn’t ANYTHING to worry about.

    However, most human beings allow their lives to governed and ruled by fear, fear of the worst possible scenario, i.e. the condom WILL most probably break, they tell themselves. Nonsense. The condom will most probably NOT break.

  • 7 Neil // Aug 20, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story with NZ Michael. I commend your bravery and honesty in raising awareness to this issue.
    I personally am sexually promiscuous but I didn’t realise that some people have this viewpoint that is ok to make a decision on behalf of another person where it is small risk but high impact solely on that person, and not themselves.
    I mean I get annoyed at the general selvishness of people turning up to work when they are sick, and causing everyone else to be sick when they should just take some time off and get over it, then come back to work. But a potentially life debilitating disease? Dont think thats fair at all.
    I personally will be asking everyone from now on whether they are HIV+. I want to keep this short, but I think you need to think more about what safe sex might mean to other people and that others may have a different perception on this term. Some may be ignorant and not even think about HIV and think of less harmful curable STDs, and just general cleanliness as one example. Setting expectations for yourself, a little tact and timing of advising your potential sexual partner before having sex will both reduce the damage to your ego and be fair, decent and respectful to others.
    I’d love to end on that note but ponder this.. in the financial sector it is law to advise investors about the level of risk, and the level of return they should expect in their prospectus so they make an informed decision that may affect investors level of investment. Why should this be different for health? Losing your life savings you could get over, losing your health - I dont think I could.

  • 8 Eddy // Aug 21, 2008 at 3:40 am

    Neil, your argument is flawed and you too, in spite of your admission of sexual promiscuity, are being high and mighty and, I am afraid, ignorant of HIV/AIDS and safe sex.

    You have written: “I think you need to think more about what safe sex might mean to other people and that others may have a different perception on this term.”

    Michael doesn’t need to think about “what safe sex might mean to other people”. The reason for why he does not have to do so is that safe sex is safe sex. It is not open to interpretation.

    You should be having safe sex with everyone. If everyone has safe sex, then it is entirely irrelevant whether a participating person has HIV or not.

    Your attempt of at an analogy sounds impressive because you exhibiting your knowledge of financial investment, but in fact there is no analogy at all. Have safe sex and there is NO risk. Hand your money over to an investment company and there IS a risk.

    It’s time for you to study some safe-sex literature. (And by the way safe-sex literature in NZ, Australia, the US, and Europe is all the same. The definition of safe-sex is universal.)

  • 9 Siegfried Hans // Aug 24, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Hey Michael,

    It feels as though you opened my head up and took pretty much exactly what Im feeling out. Im also HIV poz, and have encountered more fear, rejection, and plain old stigma in the 3 and a bit years of my poz life than I encountered in the 20 odd years of being out and proud previous. And yes Im very interested and not very suprised by some of the comments here. They are the very same comments that I hear often.
    HIV is a very fragile virus. Since my seroconversion I have never put anyone in any risk. Like Michael I don’t always share my status. Sometimes it’s just not appropriate to. I have a couple of interesting stories though… The day I found out about my virus, I went straight home and phoned my bf (a med student). He came straight over, I told him and he dumped me then left. Very supportive I thought. Of course he is negative…I gave up on romance for a while, then started dating someone that I had known for a few years. There was always something between us. When I told him, he ran so fast it was almost comical. I found out a couple of weeks later that he had started dating someone I know to be poz, that hadn’t (and as far as I know still hasn’t) disclosed. Lesson here….honesty is not rewarded..I haven’t taken it that way, I still have my own standards. I see similar things on NZ dating often. Bottom line. Safe Sex is safe sex. If you are having sex with someone poz and you are being safe, you will be fine. They don’t need to tell you really.

  • 10 Siegfried Hans // Aug 24, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    “I personally am sexually promiscuous but I didn’t realise that some people have this viewpoint that is ok to make a decision on behalf of another person where it is small risk but high impact solely on that person, and not themselves.”

    This is not entirely accurate Neil. The nature of safer sex is that you are responsible for your own health and I am responsible for mine. Having said that, the vast majority of poz guys I know are acutely aware of the risk to others, we after all have to live with that risk on a daily, moment by moment basis. Speaking for myself I am horrified at even the thought of risking others safety. Having been and still going through the issues involved in HIV I would never wish if on anyone. In terms of the minimal risk to me, and the potential risk to partner this is also inaccurate. If my sexual partner has an STI it will be way easier for me to catch, and can wreak havoc with my immune system, possibly causing major effects now and in the future.

    “I personally will be asking everyone from now on whether they are HIV+.”

    Good luck with that. You will probably get a straight answer from anyone that knows they are poz, because it’s (as far as I know) illegal for us to lie about it. But there are a significant number of guys that don’t get tested, or don’t get tested often enough, and based on this lack of knowledge are harbouring under the illusion that they are neg. This is a high risk group. And don’t even get me started about the Bareback brigade online. They don’t get tested because they are scared to know the answer, and in the mean time are living some dark denial picking ppl up on the net. Speaking personally they are enemies of mine, and Ill do anything I can to stop them. They are a huge part of the issue with transmission, not me, not Michael. And they will prob say they are neg, because they don’t know different…

    “I want to keep this short, but I think you need to think more about what safe sex might mean to other people and that others may have a different perception on this term. Some may be ignorant and not even think about HIV and think of less harmful curable STDs, and just general cleanliness as one example. “

    I had to re-read this a couple of times for it to really sink in.
    I think YOU need to think more about what safe sex means. My understanding of the concept is we ALL take personal responsibility for our behaviour. For me that means a clear understanding of the nature of my virus and which behaviours are more risky than others, Disclosing where appropriate, generally behaving in a mature thoughtful considerate way. For you it means assuming that every sexual encounter has an unknown risk element to it, and protecting yourself and your partners appropriately.

    general cleanliness as one example….
    Im not even going to respond to this. It’s offensive.

    “Setting expectations for yourself, a little tact and timing of advising your potential sexual partner before having sex will both reduce the damage to your ego and be fair, decent and respectful to others.”

    I hope you never have to experience life with this virus. If however you by some misfortune do you will understand how condescending and obvious that last paragraph was to someone like me.

    I really think for your own sake and safety, that you need to do some reading. There is a wealth of information out there. Im sorry but I found some of your posting a little offensive. Written in a very nice pleasant style, but a bit offensive never the less.

  • 11 bradley // Aug 25, 2008 at 12:27 am

    congratulations on another mind boggle Michael, I look forward to your next HIV install-ment. I have many of the conditions you describe and endorse your comments to the letter! ” A French letter” also may be lost in the translation!
    I look forward to the civilised boys\men that naturally pop up as we get into summer fun.
    kia kaha brother

  • 12 Daniel Reeders // Sep 11, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    What a great article and good on Michael for putting it out there.

  • 13 Thomas // Sep 23, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Just like to say a very good read and congrats for such a insightful actaul,as a hiv- person who is in a relationship with a Hiv+ person(for the past 3years) i found it is true that people usaully do run in the other direction when told of these things,but as stated safe sex is safe sex I am happy to remain by my partners side…

    My partner told me of his status some few weeks into our relationship although it did sit me back abit the bigger person inside me still saw the sexy funny person that had lead me to say yes to a second date,and some 3 years later that is still what i see…not a Hiv+ person….

    so safe sex is safe sex people

  • 14 Drew // Sep 29, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Great article. a very interesting read. I can entirely understand the reluctance to disclose prior to sex, because a lot of people *will* run for the hills, having been on the other side of the coin with someone that *DIDN’T* disclose till after the fact (most startling pillow-talk I’ve had in years!) I can tell you that it’s incredibly frightening finding out that you have been exposed, and the following weeks/months of waiting for test results was one of the worst times of my life.

    Even if you’re practicing “safer sex” we all know that condoms etc are not 100% reliable, thus I think it’s incredibly wrong to not disclose beforehand, and let the person make an informed decision. Yes, there are many ways to mitigate the risks both real and perceived, but there is still a risk, no matter HOW small. If the person is going to freak out and run away, then chances are that they’re not worth the time/effort in the first place.

  • 15 J-M // Oct 14, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Hi

    Really to the point and honest, I admire that in you.
    I am HIV negative and I can honestly say I would not be able to cope if I ever get infected with the virus so .. I am abstaining from sex until I meet a HIV- guy aswell who wants a monogamus relationship with some real wild kinky sex every night for the rest of our lives (Yes there still are some cinderella type guys out there:-P).

    The transmission of this virus in the gay community is alarming and most gay men i have come accross are downright pigs, scums and alleycats .. so better be safe than sorry .. but I’d like to clear out something aswell that condoms are not 100% effective in stopping the transmission of the virus .. so I would not have sex with someone whose HIV+ and the next time before I even dare to have sex with someone or have a relationship .. HIV Test for both of us .. its for both our safety! I want a full and healthy life and don’t want to spend it worrying about ‘Oh I gotta take my pills’ or ‘Would I get laid if I tell the guy’ hell no! I’m still young (19 only)!!

  • 16 Howie // Oct 17, 2008 at 7:53 am

    I am hiv+ and have a hiv- bf,we both have safe sex with each other and with others,I sometimes tell guys about my status but only if I judge them to be able to handle it without freaking out…

  • 17 Joshar // Oct 25, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Hoi]wie , I don’t agree you are in the position to judge whos gonna freak out or not. I think all HIV + should comunicate and let sexuals partners know before to hav sex. it’s just my opinion. Cheers.

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