Like it or not but HIV related stigma can be seen everywhere. From the entertainment industry all the way to our phones. Mobile networking apps or as I like to call them “FCK or Hookup apps,” carry much of the stigma. Many of these companies like Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d, and Adam4Adam do provide ways for AIDS Service Organizations/Community-based organizations to advertise services, and is a great opportunity to outreach to our community. Many of these applications allow for you to share your status, and even note your last testing date if you are positive; however, we are still turned down, blocked, or face ridiculous comments when we disclose our status to people or reach out to them as a openly positive person. So here goes a list of the SHIT IGNORANT GUYS SAY TO POZ GUYS Online:
“Are you clean/DDF?”
Let’s face it before you can even get into saying what you are into or what your favored dick size is you are faced with either reading this in a profile or after a light exchange of messages. What tickles us is the fact that folks common sense would either be confused by what someone means by clean or not disclose one’s STD and HIV status in order to bust a nut or avoid being discriminated against. Let’s not mention the fact that many are positive yet just do not know it. How about saying something like “I frequently test and currently negative for all STDs including HIV. How about you?” We are all clean. Let’s stop using cleanliness to describe status and keep it in the hygiene category.
“Sooo… can you still fuck?”
I take it that the lack of comprehensive sex education and just lack of contact with positive guys attributes to this. It is really sad that guys think that an HIV positive diagnosis means that we have to give up our sexual pleasure. Yes, guys who are positive can have sex and lots of it. Many use the term “undetectable to share that they are virally suppressed and on top of the virus.” Studies have shown that an undetectable viral load means a significant decrease of being infected with HIV if exposed.
“Why are you still having sex and/or bare backing if you are positive?”
The answer is simply because I can. Just because someone is HIV positive doesn’t mean they have to confine themselves to a life of celibacy nor only have sex with positive guys. It’s all about sex positivity. If both parties are cool with it then so be it.
“But you’re such a good guy.”
I’m still a good guy. Being HIV positive doesn’t change who I am as a person.
“I prefer my guys clean or DDF.”
Yet if no one even mentioned HIV you wouldn’t have brought it up or asked when the last time I tested (or cared if it was more than a year). So many put clean or DDF in their profile yet don’t understand you are basically saying anyone who is not STI or HIV free is dirty. Plenty of times you wouldn’t even be able to know a person’s actual status based of off window periods. We need to learn to have healthy conversations surrounding current STI and HIV status.
How did you get it?
HIV isn’t something you just pick up off the sale rack at TJ MAXX. Everyone’s experience with the virus is different. More importantly, it’s probably not your business. There are some people who are willing to talk about their own story, but that doesn’t mean you should assume it’s okay to ask other poz people the same question. It could be a difficult conversation for some people to have based off of past negative or traumatic experiences . Don’t be that person who reopens old and unhealed wounds.
“Who gave it to you?”
Who gave you Herpes? Oops was that too much? I mean it’s like asking someone what they went to jail for. Let the person tell you that information when they feel comfortable around you. Again there is such a thing as too much information.
“Well you don’t look like you have it?”
What does someone who has HIV look like? Remember we are now in 2015 not the 80s. Due to the available and much needed medications, research, medical services, behavioral health services, prevention options, and so many other programs we have the necessary things to stay healthy. Folks living with HIV keep their viral loads down, their CD4 counts/percentages up, and overall holistic health flourishing. Some people don’t look like total a-holes but hey looks can be deceiving, am I right? Listen, people with HIV look like you or me or him or her or them. HIV doesn’t look any specific way. Did you think I’d be wasting away? That we’d be frail and sickly little things? On the contrary, there are lots of hot guys out there living with HIV! (See thepozlife.com and this article for perfect examples.)
“Isn’t it like you just take a pill and everything is good?”
If only that was the case. Folks who are positive deal with so much stuff that goes beyond just taking a pill. Remember the fact that stigma creates barriers to staying adherent to medication and add a host of other mental and social issues. I hear horror stories of how people hid their meds in over-the-counter bottles, take their meds in secret, or even suffer from behavioral health issues. I have even been open about my own chronic depression and PTSD, which can cause huge barriers socially and to medication adherence. It takes those who truly understand the nature and severity of what people living with HIV are going through to understand that it isn’t just like a antiretroviral HIV pill(s) can fix things. So much time is spent with a mental health professional and a medical provider always checking to makes sure things are well.
“Do you think I need to be tested?” Only you can answer that question. I would say if you haven’t tested in 6-12 months and have been potentially exposed to HIV then yes you should. In addition, if your local health department has contacted you or Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) and they confirm you may have been exposed then testing would be advantageous.
“I was tested for HIV last year?”
This is a tricky one. When I provide HIV counseling to many people who happen to be young and old alike I have to remind them of the window period, the need to frequently test, and the fact that based off of things like the amount of sex and number of partners may create the benefit of screening multiple times within a year (3-6 months). I tend to recommend HIV and STI testing every 3-6 months for folks who are highly sexually active
“Will you die?”
Chile boo. I am not going anywhere. As long as I take my meds as prescribed, go to my doctors visit, and live an overall holistic healthy lifestyle I will be just as old if not older than you. Yes! And so will you! I’m assuming most guys mean to ask; will you die due to HIV related causes? C’mon guys. Great strides have been made in enhancing treat and the lives of those living with the virus, and discovering out how to control it in order to live a full life. As long as a poz person stays in care and/or sticks to their medications then there’s hardly a reason that their lifespan is decreased BECAUSE of HIV.
“But you’re such a good person.” Sooooo everyone else that has HIV are terrible people? No my friend HIV doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care which walk of life you come from. You could be the biggest sinner around or a total saint! You could have a purse so heavy making Oprah dollars or dirt poor. Keep your pre-conceived judgments to yourself.
“How did you get it?”
The same ways HIV is transmitted. Did you want some elaborate story? Well that depends on how comfortable the poz guy you’re talking to is up to sharing.
“Who gave it to you?” Again this is probably not your business and probably not the most comfortable conversation to have. Also, does it matter? If you’re worried about knowing who has “it,” and who doesn’t so you can know whom to avoid, then you probably should be taking other precautions. Like, I don’t know, talking about the matter with your intimate partners, condom use, and even PrEP?
“I prefer my guys clean.” Hey good for you! Some like ‘em clean, some like ‘em smelly! STOP equating being negative to being clean! If negative is too difficult of a word to type out, use “neg,” maybe? It’s also only one syllable!
“I’m so sorry for you.”
And I am so sorry that you are ignorant as hell. No one asked for apologies. Why? Who died? Is my dog okay? Dude, where’s my car? I kindly reject your invite to the pity party. Instead of feeling sorry or sad for me, you could try to support the HIV community by broadening your horizons and giving back. Educate yourself and start the conversation with your friends. I’m only sorry that people still cringe at the acronyms HIV and AIDS.
“Why does it always have to be the cute guys?”
Why does it have to be anyone at all? Why do folks think that HIV only goes after a certain look? Although certain populations are impacted greater than others anyone can be HIV-positive. It does not matter how you look, your socioeconomic status, the amount of followers or likes you have, or even if you identify as a top or bottom. Trust there are some positive tops out there.
Patrick Ingram and Adrian Castellanos are two awesome gay men of color living with HIV sharing their experiences. Please share, spread the word, and continue to keep in touch with ThePozLife.com. For media inquiries please contact Patrick@thepozlife.com