“So I really fucked up and I’m scared”. “I got drunk and was stupid – what do I do?” I get a few messages every month that begin with these phrases. All from young men who’ve hooked up and have had unprotected sex. They come to me because they are afraid – because they fear being lectured or judged by their doctors or friends – because as an anonymous person on the Internet, I’m safe.
HIV is not the death sentence it was in my youth. It’s usually a manageable condition which requires regular attention. Yet, so many continue to treat it as a biblical plague. Many, within our community and without, stand in such moral judgment of those who are positive that they intimidate men into not being tested, into not discussing status, into making men live in fear that they will not be desired or loved because of a virus.
Today we have entry inhibitors, integrase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, etc. We have PrEP, we have PEP, we have condoms, we have alternative sexual methods. We have all matter of tools and drugs, and options to manage HIV and it’s transmission. Yet, what we seem to lack is honest communications. Discussions are framed in terms that are black and white: safe vs. unsafe; POZ vs ‘clean’; and worst: no discussion at all. It’s time we stopped fearing – stopped judging those who are positive – stopped hiding from the discussion. Time we accept that men will have unprotected sex, and that condoms don’t always feel good, and that we can work to reduce risk but never eliminate it. That we need to encourage testing, and never stand in judgment of the results. That we need to know and share our status and history freely with our partners – whether they ask or not. Time that we acknowledged that HIV is a disease it is never who someone is.