2 min

The hardest thing to say

It’s been one of the loudest gobfests in recent memory — and that’s saying a lot for the chatty queers in Ottawa. Over email, Facebook and in person, gay men have been talking about a fellow fag, a man they say is HIV-positive and intentionally spreading the virus to others.

Since the first person stepped forward to complain, five others have pressed charges — likely an even larger number have spoken with police but chosen not to pursue legal recourse.

One man said he text messaged his entire phonebook to warn his friends about this fellow.

The folks at Xtra have followed lots of these cases, and we think they’re really important. Xtra readers — and the gay community in Ottawa — clearly agree.

I’ll tell you this much: you can’t put much stock in gossip and secondhand information. There’s a lot more to the story than the things your friends have heard. There’s more to the hookup profiles that are circulating online, too.

And — while it might be hard for some to imagine — claims by police usually give way to a different story when cases come to trial. Men who are branded threats to the community sometimes turn out to be mentally ill young people, where the “victim” mantle is worn by both the accuser and the accused, as with a 2007 case in London. Others turn out to be caught up in feuds with roommates and angry exes, as was the case of a man acquitted in Vancouver in May.

In the last issue of Xtra, we focused on police conduct, how the Ottawa Police Service tarred and feathered a young man before he’s had his day in court.

In this issue, we spill a little ink on serosorting. If you think you are HIV-negative and you have bareback sex — because your partner tells you he’s HIV-negative — you are taking a risk. Now, that doesn’t make you bad, or evil, and it doesn’t mean you “deserve” HIV or any other sexually transmitted infection. But it does mean that you’re taking a risk.

A good chunk of HIV-positive people don’t yet know they carry the virus — from epidemiological evidence, we know they’re the most likely to pass on HIV.

Another group knows they are positive but are still on the journey to self-acceptance, and are unable to talk about their health status with lovers and tricks.

There are those who fear, probably rightly, that if they go public with their health status, they will face ostracism and rejection from their friends, family and lovers. And, yes, there may well be the odd asshole out there who doesn’t care about who he infects.

Because of that, asking your partner his health status before having bareback sex isn’t going to keep you negative.

As difficult as it is to accept, that’s the take-home message. It ain’t pretty, but it’s true.