Advice: Is It Wrong for HIV-Negative Guys to Seek Same?
BY Steven Petrow
October 04 2011 6:00 AM ET
Q: I have to say, this Craiglist ad really makes me angry: âIâm HIV-negative, clean, disease- and drug-free. Looking for the same.â Do you think ads like this are discriminatory against poz guys or just ill-advised? (In case youâre wondering, I am HIV-positive.)
A: I actually think that candid, up-front ads help smooth the way for more satisfying sexual (and emotional) relationships. Just as you may be looking for a top or a bottom, a trans man, or someone with a sadistic fetish, the Internet and various dating apps now allow you to self-select beforehand, before youâre face to face â or face to whatever. In other words, if youâre going to take a pass on someone, itâs better to do so in the virtual world than after youâve met in real life.
I am, however, unhappy about some of the language in this ad. For starters, thereâs the use of the word âcleanâ as shorthand for âHIV-negative.â That carries a strong implication that being positive is âdirty,â which only adds to the stigma associated with the virus. If thatâs specifically why youâre angry, then youâve got my vote.
Then youâve got the claim about being âdisease- and drug-free.â Just because someone says so is no guarantee that itâs true. More about that in a moment.
Still, as I often write, language matters. What you say about HIV and other STDs (and how you say it) takes this question squarely into the sex etiquette court. In search of better language, I looked around on Craigslist myself and saw some ads that I think will do the trick (so to speak), without any of the nastiness or judgment that often marks these kinds of postings. Here are two samples:
- âI prefer HIV-negative but I am poz-friendly â please know and disclose your status â I play SAFE only!â
- âHIV-neg (tested 9/8/11), drug/STD-free. I am uninterested in those who would like to have unprotected anal sex. Maintaining a negative HIV status is important to me.â
The test date in the second ad is a reminder to keep your guard up: A negative status shouldnât be understood as anything other than a snapshot in time, since it still takes up to three months for HIV antibodies to form. So being âdisease-freeâ is meaningful only in the moment youâre being tested. You could become infected at any time after that, even though youâre armed with a negative test result.
A last point for HIV-negative men comes from Frank Spinelli, a gay menâs physician in New York City: âComparing couples who are in serodiscordant relationships, that is, where one is poz and the other isn't, we statistically see less HIV conversion. Thatâs because these couples know the deal. Most new cases of HIV occur when men have unprotected sex because they both thought they were negative. I think itâs a red flag if someone said they were tested âthis past year.â Sexually active gay men should be tested more frequently.â
Of course, whatâs good for the goose is good for the gander; thatâs to say Iâd give similar advice to HIV-positive men who prefer to have sex with other poz guys. Be candid and nonjudgmental, and use common sense. If youâre poz and âseeking same,â hereâs a recent ad from Craigslist that I consider a good model for sexual etiquette: âBeing poz is new to me, so I am out to build a positive lifestyle, have some (responsibly safe) fun, and possibly build an LTR with a younger poz guy.â Or this one: âDetectable poz bottom seeks detectable poz top.â Although I hope this poster is not suggesting the old âWhy wear a raincoat when youâre already wet?â
(According to Spinelli, âThe practice of serosorting, where poz guys engage in unprotected sex with one another, does not protect them from other STDs like syphilis, which can affect liver enzymes and T cells. Iâm also seeing more and more gay men contracting hepatitis C through unprotected anal sex as well as inheriting resistant strains from sexual intercourse with poz men who do not have an undetectable viral load.â)
Bottom line: Poz guys need to make the same kind of informed decisions about safer sex as HIV-negative ones. So pull out your raincoats, fellows!
Talk about it in the comments section: What ways have you found to talk with dates and tricks about your and their HIV status?
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