Gay guys live in a paradoxical world of denial. That’s what the results of a new survey conducted by UK-based gay men’s health charity GMFA scream from the gayborhood rooftops.
Recently, for the first time (to my knowledge), I slept with a guy who was HIV positive and undetectable. I like to think that I am well clued up on sexual health, given that I work within LGBTI media. As a gay man, I also feel that this knowledge should be second nature for those instances when I need to assess my risk-taking.
I am ashamed to say my initial gut reaction, in the seconds after the guy quite frankly and honestly told me his status, was fear.
I temporarily lost the ability to recall the facts concerning safe sex with a HIV positive man and, the next morning when the deed had been done (fantastically, I might add!), I left his place with a feeling of guilt.
Not that I’d slept with him, far from it, but that my initial reaction had been one I did not expect (maybe due to past bad experiences with a HIV positive ex who betrayed my trust). I also felt guilty because I hoped he hadn’t picked up my on my earlier reservations – because as it happens, I found him super attractive (like wow!).
After reading the statistics from GMFA I realized something; my initial gut reaction resonated with the widely uneducated/in denial gay community and rather than lasting a short amount of time before common sense kicked back, as it did with me, was in fact a hardwired part of their perception and belief-system.
In my eyes, it’s this section of the gay community that is to be feared. You are more at risk of contracting HIV from having unprotected sex with someone who doesn’t know their status than from having unprotected sex with a HIV positive man who is on meds and undetectable – so why would they rather take the unprotected plunge with men who assume they are negative than with those who know they are positive?
The survey, which included over 3,000 responses found that while 51% of gay men who have not been diagnosed with HIV admitted that they were worried about becoming HIV positive, 66% of them said they didn’t use a condom with a casual partner.
Furthermore, 44% of the gay men surveyed also stated that they would not have sex with a HIV positive man who had disclosed their status.
This is simply down to discrimination, denial and a complete lack of education.
On the flip side, 90% of HIV positive men used a condom with a casual partner.
This uneducated group of HIV negative gay men, who are still clinging to the myths of yesteryear, are the biggest barriers we face in the fight against the rise of HIV and other STD’s.
I would much rather have sex with a HIV positive man who is knowledgeable about his status, and more likely to be protective of his body and clued up on sexual health, than a man who assumes he is HIV negative and is willing to bury his head in the sand and go bareback with a casual partner – which is beyond me.
It might be different if you’re on PrEP but that’s not yet available in the UK.
The stigma around having sex with people who have HIV is misguided and should be reversed. We should be looking up to the HIV positive community; HIV positive people that I know care about their sexual health, care about the safety of their partners, and doing what they can to maintain optimum health.
The negative community should then look closely at their attitudes and ask why they are willing to put themselves at risk with other uneducated ‘HIV negative’ men instead of sleeping with educated positive men who not only have their own, but also others, best interests at heart when it comes to sexual and general well-being.
It’s time for the majority of HIV negative men to pull their heads out of the sand, be aware of the actions they are choosing to take (because it is always a choice) and take responsibility not only for themselves but for those around them.
We’re all in this together, positive and/or negative.
To follow Dan on Twitter, click here.
For details in the statistics and findings found by GMFA, click here.
For other information around HIV, STDs and gay men’s health, click here.