Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Status Update

An interesting blog post at Change.com inspired the following response, which was too long to fit in their comments field, so I'll post it here:

Great blog post, Todd, and thanks for posting it. A very important subject that's getting lost in all the hubbub over ENDA, DOMA, UAFA, DADT, and the other alphabetical legislative battles.

I'm 44 years old and HIV negative. I've been openly gay since the early 1980s, so my entire adult life has been lived dealing with the disease, with friends and lovers who have it, and with other negative men like me trying to stay negative. Ive dated both poz and neg guys, and I was okay with dating sero-discordantly. I did have two boyfriends break-up with me specifically because I wasn't HIV-positive, because they didn't want to deal with the stress over HIV differences, who "preferred not to be reminded of the disease during sex" and wanted to date other poz men instead (so they could have unprotected sex). I understood and respected their choice. (For the record, yes, I also have heard of plenty of rejection stories from Poz friends being treated less-than-sensitively by Neg guys--so there's pain on both sides of the viral divide.) But do know, Todd, that--believe it or not--some of us Neg guys are also feeling stigmatized--especially those of us who have been negative for decades and who dare advocate staying that way.

Todd says he wants more Neg boys talking about HIV? I'll make him a deal: we Neg boys will... if more Poz boys talk about, advocate--and practice--effective methods of prevention of infection, in addition to much-needed talk about sensitivity about stigmatizing people--all people--regardless of status.

And, yes, that means taking responsiblity for not spreading the virus.

That's not meant to blame anyone--it is proudly proclaiming, if not demonstrating by example, It's a Good Thing To Be Responsible Members of Your Own Community. (For a few years recently, my own city of Seattle participated in the admirable campaign "HIV Stops With Me.") When I even try to have honest and open conversations about HIV prevention, I often get shouted-down by Poz folks for being "insensitive" because I "don't know what it's like." (Okay, point taken: unless one is infected in-utero, every HIV-positive person knew what it was like at some point to be negative; but no negative person knows what it's like to be positive.) When I cite numerous examples of the current incentivization of risky behavior (the prevalence of "barebacking" in porn now, the glorification of "raw" or "natural" sex over safer-sex, and the sense of social pressure that it's more important for negative guys to self-censor any conversation for fear of offending positive folks than it is to talk effectively and openly about how to keep folks negative), I get called all manner of things. Yes, Todd, let's discuss stigmatization.

I know we're not supposed to say this, but an HIV-negative person only has direct control over infecting him/herself. Sure, we can volunteer for all the community groups or walk miles in AIDS walks, but when it comes to directly stopping actual infections, each Neg person can only protect his/her own body. On the other hand, an HIV-positive person has the power (dare anyone say responsibility) to prevent infecting every other person he or she has sexual contact with.

I realize to say this is not Politically Correct--some would say it's downright Sexually Incendiary--but it also happens to be true. Both Neg and Poz groups have to stand up and say they are going to be Reponsible Citizens, both to themselves and their own health, to their own viral-status communities, and most importantly to the health of others, both physically and in terms of the "health" and well-being of our Community at large. If we all did, the rate of infections would drop dramatically. And that goal is at least as important as making sure we consider everyone else's feelings, right? At least?