POZ And NEG Guys Hooking Up - No Prob Or No Way?
Writer Rich Juzwiak, a self-described "gay man in New York with an active, multiple-partner sex life"—recently wrote a column for Gawker in which he explores his own HIV-phobia.
Juzwiak is HIV-negative and feels uncomfortable hooking-up with HIV-positive men because he's afraid he'll become positive too.
However, he admits that he could have slept with a POZ guy already because he doesn't always ask and some guys either don't know their HIV-status or lie about it:
Therein lies the hypocrisy in turning down a potential hookup who a) knows his status, and b) is honest about it in favor of one who doesn't or is lying about it. That kind of discrimination is motivated by fear of the known while taking an agnostic approach to the unknown.
It's especially foolhardy considering that guys who know they are HIV-positive tend to be healthier and with lower viral loads than guys who don't know they have it and are going untreated. The kind of optimism that assumes someone's word is as good as a hard copy of a test result is potentially life-altering.
Later on in his column, Juzwiak meets an acquaintance named Eddie who explains the contradictions of HIV-positive life in America:
Eddie's own journey to comfort exposes the contradictory cultural status HIV has right now: it's both no big deal and a huge deal. It's no big deal because the drugs that make HIV undetectable in blood have largely converted the disease into a manageable inconvenience. For many, it is not the death sentence it was.
But for others it is: drugs are expensive and the high cost means that every minute, four people die of AIDS-related illness (as related in David France's upcoming documentary How to Survive a Plague). The drugs can also have debilitating side effects, diminishing the quality of the life they are also saving. A relaxed, non-stigmatizing attitude is a nice thing for the world but complacency with a plague that continues to rage on is not.
Penultimately, Juzwiak speaks with Bryan Kutner, a counselor in South Africa who works with an HIV-prevention group. He asks Kutner whether HIV-positive men with low-viral loads (that is, a low amount of HIV in their bloodstream) can pass on the virus to other men:
Kutner pointed me to a recent study suggesting that just because HIV is undetectable in blood doesn't mean it is undetectable in semen. It's one study of a small sampling of HIV-positive men (81), but it does suggest that being undetectable isn't the "free pass" that some would like it to be, maybe.
The paper raises yet another contradiction: as antiretroviral therapy has become more popular, HIV has experienced a resurgence. At the very least, we shouldn't rest on our antiretrovirals just yet.
You really should read the full column as it is quite introspective and raises lots of worthwhile questions. But in the end—SPOILER ALERT!—Juzwiak can only bring himself to having cybersex and going to first base with an HIV-positive guy.
While some readers might find that cowardly, he's at least made a few steps towards resolving his HIV-phobia.
Anyway, we're curious about your thoughts!
Some guys operate under a form of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in which they never mention HIV-status unless asked.
Other POZ and NEG men feel more comfortable just jerking off and kissing rather than going oral or anal sex, just to avoid any risks.
And others use condoms for anal sex and regularly get tested to keep tabs on their own HIV-status.
But there are also guys who don't know their status and those who lie about it just to avoid rejection.
So which type of guy are you? When do you bring up the subject of HIV, if ever? And are you okay hooking up with NEG or POZ men, knowing that they could be ignorant or dishonest about their status?
We're all ears!