Dating and/or having sex can be a daunting challenge for MSM (men who have sex with men), particularly those who are HIV-negative. But only if you let it. And, I’ll explain exactly what I mean about that a little later.
But first, stats on HIV. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 1 in 5 sexually active MSM in America are HIV-positive, but that 44% of them don’t know it.
Regarding estimated new HIV infections among all MSM in the U. S. in 2010 (year of most recent stats) Blacks/Africans accounted for 10,600 (36%); Hispanics/Latinos accounted for 6,700 (22%); whites accounted for 11,200 (38%).
Of particular note: Overall, Blacks account for more new HIV infections, people estimated to be living with HIV, and HIV-related deaths than any other racial/ethnic group in the U.S.
Many MSM consider dating/having sex a tricky, unnerving and perilous journey, full of potential health minefields.
Well, it doesn’t necessarily have to be.
My assistant thought that a recent Queerty piece, “Ten Things HIV-Positive Guys Want Negative Guys to Know,” would make a thought-provoking article for www.wyattevans.com. He’s correct, and maybe it will help give “neg guys” a totally different perspective.
So, without further ado, I present to you, the “Ten Things HIV-Positive Guys Want Negative Guys to Know.”
- All positive guys are not barebacking drug addicts. It’s probably human nature to try and find fault in the actions of those becoming infected. If we see them as extremists it helps the rest of us feel more secure in our own choices. And yet, the truth is that the majority of new infections occur within “primary relationships,” such as a lover or boyfriend, and usually because one partner did not know he was infected and then transmitted HIV to his partner. That’s why there’s such intense focus on getting tested and doing it regularly. New infections are typically not the result of some insane night at a meth-fueled sex party or a boozy night at the baths.
- Living with HIV is not a toxic horror show of medications. Yes, HIV usually requires medications and doctor visits. So does every chronic condition. With so many option for HIV drug therapies, side effects have been reduced drastically and ones in development will reduce them even further. Poz guys are not weeping every morning as they chug down pills with their morning coffee.
- HIV infection does not automatically turn guys into dangerous liars. One of the most unfortunate misconceptions about positive guys is that they outright lie about their status just to get laid, or worse, are on a mission to infect others. Can we dial down the rhetoric about intentional transmission, please? What is true is that positive men often have trouble disclosing because of the very stigma that results from sensational rumors like this one. It is unfair to blame all positive men due to the reckless behavior of a relative few.
- “Drug and Disease Free, UB2” is every bit as stupid and non-productive as it sounds. If you are using this dangerous phrase as a filter for potential sex partners, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. We know positive guys who are undetectable are not infecting their partners, so rejecting people based on their status can be more discriminatory than practical. “UB2” also sets you up for a false sense of security, because as one British study suggests, the risk of sex with someone who thinks they are HIV negative is higher than sex with an undetectable positive person. This is because the viral activity in a newly positive person can be incredibly high, and he may not even know it. Of course, either way you have to know who you’re dealing with.
- Our health and risk behaviors are up to us and no one else. After decades of scientific and treatment research focused on those with HIV, new options are now available to sexually active negative men, such as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). This advance puts negative guys in control of their own infection risks. Your own health is always in your hands through the choices you make—and they have nothing to do with the status of your partner, whether known or unknown.
- Guys with HIV are not promiscuous…or have a rotten sex life…or no sex life. All of these are usually false, if you’re using the typical sex life of a single gay man as a barometer. We all have our moments. Sometimes our dance card is filled, sometimes there’s a drought, and sometimes the sex we have sucks, and not in a good way. And just like the rest of us, positive guys are getting their share and having satisfying, balls-to-the-wall sex when they’re lucky.
- How they got it and who gave it to them is none of your business. The details of someone else’s infection isn’t your personal soap opera or cautionary tale, no matter your good intentions. If poz guys feel like sharing it with you sometime, they will. Chances are they came to terms with it long ago and it’s probably not very interesting, anyway.
- If you need an HIV educator, go find one. Having HIV doesn’t come with a master class in epidemiology and HIV transmission. Every person with HIV is not an expert or a prevention specialist—or an activist. They are simply living with the virus. And if they do find themselves having to educate you about the simplest facts of HIV prevention, don’t be surprised if they are the ones that decline to have sex. Nothing kills the mood like HIV 101.
- Positive guys aren’t going anywhere soon. Recent studies suggest that someone being infected with HIV today in the United States has the same odds of living a normal life span as anyone else. People with HIV see a physician more often, and other health concerns can be identified and addressed sooner. They are also more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol, eat well and exercise regularly, the keys to health and longevity.
- Even more breakthroughs are coming. There is research underway that will continue to change the landscape and make life easier and less risky for both positive and negative. Treatments for HIV infections will become even less toxic and even more effective.
The reality is that poz guys are out there. And probably, there are too many MSM who believe they are neg, but actually are poz.
Also: what if that poz guy is a great match for you on so many levels? What if he’s the one you’ve been searching for? Do you summarily dismiss him because he’s poz?
Meaty food for thought, eh?