I am at a bar in the Zona Rosa, Mexico City’s trendy gay quarter catering to the growing middle class’ demands for increased sexual freedom and complicated cocktails to match. In a room full of slick hair and form-fitting blazers I lock eyes with a guy built like a brick in track pants and sneakers with strong-looking hands. I nod my head and he almost smiles.
After he makes his way over to where I’m standing, he tells me his name’s Jorge and that he’s a petrochemical engineer. I tell him I like his hands and I have no idea what a petrochemical engineer does but that I like the Pixies and I have a hunch he does too. He tells me he does and that he’s originally from the southern state of Tabasco but that it’s more conservative there and anyway, it’s easier living far from his family so they ask fewer questions. He asks if I like Mexico and I say that I love Mexico and also how his lips stay wet while he talks.
Later he sits down on my hotel bed in his boxers and immediately takes his T-shirt off in a functional, non-seductive kind of way, which I like. On his shoulder there is a large, darkly pigmented area with a lot of hair growing out of it that sort of repels me at first and then makes me curious because I’ve never seen something like that and so I touch it and he looks at me.
He lies back and pulls me down onto him and his kisses are wet like I was hoping they’d be, but I can tell he’s nervous, which doesn’t make sense because it was his solid energy in a room full of high-strung men that attracted me to him in the first place. I pull back slightly so I can look at him, and when I ask what’s wrong he says, well you should probably know I have HIV.
The next morning, the morning after I licked that dark, pigmented patch covered with hair over and over till it was wet like his lips, the morning after he forcefully held my hands over my head so he could push his face into my armpits and breathe in deeply, the morning after I pulled those boxers down and then all the way off to push my tongue under the gorgeous thin skin covering the fat head of his heavy uncut cock, the next morning he kisses me till I wake up, then gets up out of bed and dresses himself to return to the mysterious world of petrochemical engineering.
A young Ottawa man living with HIV recently told me: “A lot of HIV-negative guys don’t wanna think about the possibility of getting infected. So HIV-positive guys get lots of discrimination from the gay HIV-negative community.”
This fall, gay men across Ontario are being asked: “If you were rejected every time you disclosed, would you?”
It’s part of a campaign to end HIV stigma within the gay community. Eight men from around the province, both HIV-positive and HIV-negative, are blogging at hivstigma.com about what it’s like to negotiate risk while hooking up.
And it’s touching a lot of nerves. One reader responded to a post by saying: “I think anyone that knows that they have HIV should not be having sex with anyone at all unless their partner has HIV too. The idea is to stop the spread of the disease, not to feel bad for all of the infected and let them continue to pollute our healthy population.”
This reader has made poz men into scapegoats onto which he can nail his HIV paranoia. About 17 percent of gay men in Ontario are HIV-positive. But it’s not necessarily guys who know they are positive who are passing on the virus. It’s guys who have high-risk sex but don’t get tested often enough. For every 100 gay guys in Ontario reading this column who think they’re HIV-negative, five are actually positive. About 30 percent of HIV-positive gay guys in Ontario don’t know their status and pose a far greater risk of transmission than the majority of poz men who go out of their way to make sure that HIV ends with them.
Often when we’re having sex, we don’t mention HIV at all. Or we ask useless questions that won’t protect us. Let’s say a guy wants to fuck me and asks me if I’m negative. I say, “Sure, I’m negative,” because I’m pretty sure I am. But let’s assume my last test was two years ago and I sometimes fuck without condoms when I get really drunk. So if a guy asks if I’m positive, I don’t think I am so I say no, and he feels a false reassurance that might even convince him it’s no biggie to fuck me bare.
The idea that we’re asking each other bogus questions in a charade of disclosure is scary. Simply changing the phrasing of our question could go a long way: “I was last tasted in (whatever month) of this year and the result was positive (or negative). What about you?” But instead, we too often shift our anxieties onto an easy target: HIV-positive men.
And then we wonder why poz guys find it so unsafe to disclose. And why supposedly negative guys are too scared to get tested in case they find out they’re positive. So we keep negotiating sexual risk in the dark because too few of us know our true status and too many of us want poz guys to take the fall for the high-risk sex we choose of our own free will.
If you were rejected every time you disclosed, would you?