4 min

How gay men protect each other’s health

Or, how I didn’t become HIV-positive

Looking out for each other: this 2013 painting reflects the value of community care that Kevin Moroso says still runs strong among gay men.  Credit: naïve art/Flickr

So where did I leave off with my story about sleeping with a guy who had an undetectable viral load? Oh right, discovering how good sex was topping bareback.

Well, that continued and I discovered a few more things about myself, including that I really enjoy kink, especially domination-submission role play. I’ll leave how I got into that for another time, but it opened me up to a whole new world of sex play.

A few months later, I came across a kinky sub boy on Scruff that I’ll name Kirk. Kirk was a younger guy, in his early 20s, and definitely knew his way around the Vancouver fetish scene — rubber, leather, piss, masochism, and of course he was very dedicated to barebacking as a bottom. There was only one problem: he was HIV-negative.

I’d been trying to stick to guys who were undetectable, since I could dip my dick in them without having to worry, but I’ll admit my dick was in the driver’s seat. If a guy was hot enough but HIV-negative, I resorted to the incredibly safe (read: notoriously unreliable) method of asking a guy when he was last tested.

We flirted for several weeks online, and by flirt of course I mean we talked dirty. How I was going to shove my used underwear in his mouth to gag him. How I was going to get him down on his knees and throat fuck him. How I was going to tie him up and flog his ass until it was a nice shade of bright pink.

And of course how I was going to pound his hole senseless and use him as my little cum dump.

You know, romantic stuff.

We had some trouble making our two schedules work but we finally had some time that would work for both of us over the Christmas holidays. We almost hooked up in the burbs (it turns out our respective families we were spending Christmas with were quite close) but we put it off another couple of days.

On the day we were to finally meet up and get down to business, he messaged me to cancel.

He levelled with me: “Kevin, I hate to cancel, but I was at the bathhouse over the weekend. Things got a little out of hand and I probably went too far. I’m a little worried cuz it wasn’t safe. I think I need to put off having any sex until I get tested and my results come back all clear.”

Needless to say, I thought that was a pretty good reason to cancel.

He told me the date he’d be getting the results back and I actually set a reminder in my calendar to get in touch with him that day.

A couple of weeks later, when that date rolled around, I sent him a message in the morning to wish him good luck.

He told me it’s probably all fine and he wasn’t that worried. A few hours later, I got a message from him: “fuck, I’m positive.”

This was the first time I’d heard from someone who’d just been diagnosed. He knew what this meant, medically speaking. He knew enough HIV-positive guys that he wasn’t freaking out about getting sick or anything. But he was still a wreck.

He was upset with himself. He then said “now I’ll never find a boyfriend.” I assured him that people are a lot more knowledgeable and open-minded than in the past, especially in Vancouver. I also reminded him that he’s into daddies and the fetish scene, a population that is not only less stigmatizing than the average gay but also has a high proportion of guys who are already HIV-positive. I tried to assure him that it will likely have little impact on his dating life.

Not long after receiving this news, I started to realize I just dodged a bullet.

What if Kirk hadn’t told me about his risky weekend at the bathhouse?

What if he hadn’t insisted on waiting until he got his test results back?

I know I probably still would’ve slept with him, no matter what shenanigans he had told me he’d gotten up to. And he would’ve been in the acute infection phase — a million copies of the virus floating around in every millilitre of his rectal fluids, just waiting to find a tiny abrasion on my shaft, or looking to travel into my urethra.

I know the early infection period is when people are at their most infectious. It would’ve been like rolling the dice — and probably only a single six-sided dice.

Kirk saved me. Yes, he’d put himself at risk. Yet he was incredibly responsible — he might not have protected himself but he darn well protected me.

It doesn’t surprise me in the least.

The results of a Vancouver study came out earlier this year on the pooled nucleic acid amplification test, the one Kirk took, with a 10–12 day window period. The study looked at the behaviour and attitudes of guys who had just been diagnosed positive. It showed just how seriously they took their diagnosis, how they immediately altered their sexual behaviour to ensure they didn’t pass on the virus to someone else, and how they wanted the virus to end with them.

We gay guys are a peculiar lot at times. We’re more likely to do drugs. We’re more likely to engage in sex that puts ourselves at risk for STIs, including HIV. Yet, despite all that a guy might do to put himself at risk, some sense of community is strong — self-transcendent values that make us look out for one another.

These values got us through a plague and they seem to still be around, despite the naysayers who think we don’t have that sense of solidarity any longer.

So what happened to Kirk? Three days later he was taking meds — that’s right, diagnosis on a Friday, treatment on the following Monday. Thank our lucky stars we live in British Columbia.

We decided to put sex off. We agreed that we’d hook up when one of two things happened: he became undetectable or I got on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), whichever came first. Ironically, they happened around the same time. I owe Kirk a huge thank you.

Oh, and by the way, the sex was a lot of fun. And yes, his butt cheeks were more red than pink once I was through with him.

Previous: Where to go cruising in Vancouver