In 1987 I found out I was HIV positive. In 1988 AIDS took my best friend Alvin. Less than two years later my boyfriend Tony’s body was flown in a coffin from LA to his mother in New York. That same year the LA Gay & Lesbian Center began treating my HIV even though I had no money and no insurance. My mentor, Gustav died from AIDS only weeks before the protease inhibitors came out that began literally saving lives of people like me and those newly infected.
The man in a wheelchair does not want your silent condolences, he wants you to look him in the eye and engage. The HIV positive man does not want your mournful laments of his condition, he wants a clear assessment of his abilities.
To project deficiency on our fellow human brings him down. Do not yield to the temptation to placate the challenged. Instead, respect the diverse gift of their experience and expect great things from them.
This is my answer to a question posted on the TRIBE – WeHo Gay Men’s Discussion Group facebook page.
“If condoms are only 70% effective at preventing the spread of HIV, and less that 17% of men who have sex with men are using condoms every time, where do we go from here?”
Putting the Nail in the Coffin of Condom-Only HIV Prevention
We should change the discussion to match today’s sexual and medical realities.
I think we need to start being honest with men (like you are in your column, thank you!) about the real risks of HIV transmission. We need to insist that “prevention experts” like AHF stop their infatuation with the false notion that condom use leads to a panacea of prevention. We need to insist that they redirect the insane amount of money they are spending on ineffective, shame based, sex negative, billboards into programs that give men the real tools they need to slow or stop infection. The established AIDS communities infatuation with the condom-only-nothing-else-matters concept, is only leading to more infections because guys are fucking without condoms. It’s a fact! How many studies are we going to do before we face that reality? If our brothers are fucking without condoms, we need to talk to them about doing it in the safest possible way…which, by the way, may be safer then putting ALL their trust in condoms alone.
We need to stop shaming and start celebrating sex. We need make it cool to be responsible. Make a trip to get tested for HIV or STIs a badge of honor.
I’d like to know more about the men still getting infected.
Do they know all their options? Do they know there is a sliding scale or risk? Do they know who is most likely to shed the virus and under what circumstance? Do they know about PrEP? Are they being taught to talk openly about medications as well as HIV status with their partners? Do they know what “undetectable” means? Do they know that a guy whose on meds and undetectable is statistically safer to have sex with then a guy who doesn’t know his status and is wearing a condom?