In one of the bright spots of the new year, 2015, the HIV status of the guy you’re dying to get into bed matters less than ever. And if you play your sexual cards right, his status doesn’t really matter much at all.
Sure, you might prefer to segregate your men by HIV status. But if you’re engaged in casual sex or even active in the dating pool, making assumptions can be a fool’s errand. We’ll save you the lecture about the perils of labeling people and simply say this: the best laid plans often go astray, particularly when true love shows up.
Can you guess what HIV status really does matter? Yours. To stay negative, or keep your HIV virus to yourself, the power is in your hands.
Here are five reasons why his HIV status just isn’t the point anymore:
1. What you do in bed is up to you.
Until you know the guy, and we mean more than his sexual statistics and where he works out, you’re going to have to demonstrate to him what a creative lover you are without high risk sex. Use a condom for fucking or drive him over the edge with oral sex. As long as you stay in the safety lane, his HIV status is irrelevant. Once you know and trust each other more you can negotiate the best of the rest.
2. Someone may be taking PrEP.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (taking a pill to prevent HIV infection) is fast becoming a game changer for gay men on the scene. There’s a growing pile of research to show that PrEP has an efficacy rate that rivals condoms, and can give you some peace of mind when his status is a question mark. Of course, there’s no rule keeping you from continuing to use condoms regardless.
3. He is positive and undetectable.
Another major development of the last year has been the growing research showing that someone living with HIV that maintains an undetectable viral load is not capable of transmitting the virus to their partners. Of course, you have to know him well enough to feel comfortable that he is taking his meds as prescribed. Until then, see Reason #1.
4. HIV isn’t the only game in town.
We take our eyes off the other balling bugs when we forget that HIV isn’t the only sexually transmitted disease. In fact, among the various ways you can get infections from boinking, HIV is relatively hard to transmit because it requires blood fluids (blood, semen, or a mother’s breast milk) to enter your blood stream through an open wound or through mucus membrane (the booty canal).
That’s not the case for more common infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes, which you can catch through oral sex or simple contact with skin during an outbreak. With the staggeringly high rate of sexually transmitted diseases among gay men these days, don’t over-estimate your HIV risk and under-estimate the others.
5. When does his HIV status absolutely matter? When he isn’t dealing with it.
When you have the HIV chat with Mr. Very Soon and he admits his last HIV test was before the final season of True Blood, you may want to think twice. Our sexual health depends on our getting tested regularly and addressing the results.
Likewise, if he is HIV-positive but hasn’t sought treatment because he says he feels great or doesn’t believe in taking pills, we have a problem. There are amazing new treatments for HIV. If you do not take advantage of them you might as well be living in 1987. Ask anyone who made it out of that decade alive and they will tell you it was not pretty. Even someone who truly believes they are undetectable may not be at the moment, given normal fluctuations in viral load, drug regimen, and strength of his immune system.
Our strength as a community comes from celebrating our similarities, not the definitions that keep us apart. When it comes to HIV, those labels are beginning to fade. And that is something to be grateful for.