Stop Shaming HIV- Gay Men

I got another note in my Daddy Hunt in box today. It was from a HIV+ guy, with the purpose of “educating” me about why I was wrong to state in my profile that I choose to only be sexual with HIV- guys. I had stated in my profile: I want to have no boundaries to our intimacy in case we that we come to love each other. 

I found his note to me self-serving. Instead of cheering and being supportive of someone that has gotten to his mid-50’s and is still negative, he was critical and unsupportive. 

He made my HIV status, and how I choose to keep it, about him. From my perspective as a psychotherapist, that suggests to me that he has not worked through his own feelings about being HIV+ and is trying to get me to 'validate his being okay' by insisting that it is okay for me to have sex with HIV+ guys. Often in my experience, HIV+ guys that have truly processed their sero status choose to sero-sort with other HIV+ guys. They would not wish being HIV+ on anyone else and they would feel terrible if they transmitted the disease to another man. Sadly enough, not all HIV+ men have that much regard for other men. 

Lastly, it takes a lot of balls to criticize another man about how he chooses to stay HIV-. This shaming of HIV- men has got to stop. How ever a man chooses to protect himself from HIV, whether it is sero-sorting, PrEP, abstinence, “always using condoms”, etc., it is his choice and he should be supported by the entire gay community, both HIV+ and HIV- alike. 

Those of us who have been around from the beginning understand the long-term consequences of the disease, both the cognitive and physical toll that HIV and the medications take on the body and mind. Personally, it brings up a lot of anxiety when I am sexual with a man that is HIV+. I choose to sero-sort and to always have protected sex because it keeps me healthy and my anxiety stays at a reasonable level. And no amount of ‘education' is going to change that. I have too much history and knowledge about HIV and I am not buying the spin of the HIV establishment and the pharmaceutical companies that drugs are the answer. I have considered PrEP, but I have seen the impact of long term use of all the other drugs on my brothers' bodies and do not wish for those side effects, even if I could tolerate the drugs. 

So it is time for the community to support HIV- mens efforts to stay negative and most of all, to support their choices to stay HIV-. HIV+ men that find that offensive need to look inside and deal with their personal shame and stop trying to make the rest of the community responsible to make them feel better about themselves. We all have to deal with the societal shame that we absorbed growing up being gay. it is not the straight community's  job to make us feel better about ourselves. That is our task to work through the shame and become whole. Once we do, then others have no power over us. HIV+ guys have yet another layer of shame to work though. Once a gay man has really processed the shame of being gay first and then the shame of having HIV+, and there is shame attached to any STD in our society, then he will simply understand that each man has his preferences, whether it be about height, weight, age, race, HIV status, etc. And if he has worked through the shame, then he will be a better man and have better relationships. It is crucial that we as a community stop looking outside of ourselves for validation that we are okay. 

This is not the first time I have gotten one of these notes or got a lecture from some guy that did not put his HIV+ status in his profile and then is shocked that what is clearly stated in my profile is still true. I have had clients talk of being bullied by HIV+ guys that refuse to accept that they are unwilling to date or be in relationships with HIV+ guys. I have had dates with guys who have been called PrEPed whores by other gay men. This is shaming HIV- men for how they choose to protect themselves. Not all HIV+ guys do this and there are plenty of HIV- guys who tell me I need to be educated. Both are wrong to attempt to shame HIV- men into doing something they are uncomfortable with, and to take on what they consider to be risky behavior.

Each of us gets to find our level of comfort in protecting ourselves from HIV. Each of us gets to make choices. It breaks my heart each time I see another 18 or 22 year old that is HIV+. We as a community have failed them. I hope that situation changes and one of the ways that change will come is to support men in staying negative, however they choose.