Some hook-up sites for gay men make it easy to discuss HIV status; others just muddy the waters. But how reliable is the data for deciding what sex to have, with whom and how safely? And how does barebacking fit in? Bob Leahy looks at two popular sites and arrives at some surprising conclusions.
As editor of a respected online magazine for people living with HIV, I made a choice, rightly or wrongly (probably the latter), so that in our magazine's first year or two we didn't cover barebacking. We thought it was too inflammatory a subject, thought it might encourage people to do it, thought that people would think we were irresponsible.
That changed in a big way when we featured Josh Landale, Josh Kruger, Michael Bouldin, Jake Sobo, Mark S. King and a handful of others for whom barebacking is either part of their lives or they have come to terms with it.
One hundred and eighty degree turns happen in a variety of ways. Sometimes we seize the steering wheel of our lives and in one fell swoop travel along an opposite path. Other times, we take the turn slowly, one degree at a time, gradually realizing the path we are on leads nowhere and we need to go off in radically new directions. That's been the case with my realizing that most of my once fervently held objections to treatment as prevention, in 2013, make much less sense than they once did.
In these times when the conversation is all about NON-disclosure, I'm becoming increasingly a fan of the very opposite. In short, I think many more people need to disclose.
Here's the thing. It's unfashionable to say so, I know, but I think we should disclose, when we can do so safely, in almost all sexual and nonsexual situations where it makes sense.
The place of gay/bi men in our response to the HIV epidemic has changed. (And I say "gay/bi men" because I dislike seeing the term MSM -- men who have sex with men -- outside the realm of epidemiology.) Once, in those early days of the epidemic, we were both leaders and the focus of everything about HIV. But over time, and as other at-risk groups became more affected by the disease, that all changed. It had to.
I've never really heard people ask this question -- strange in itself when it looks like every question about HIV has been asked, and written about, often -- whether people living with HIV are inherently different. I'm talking about more prone to taking risks and thus more susceptible to becoming infected. Sure, we know all about vulnerable populations, social determinants of health and all that, which are often fingered as the culprits in HIV infections. But let's face it; the reality is that many, many people from vulnerable populations and with ALL the social determinants of health looking pretty good DON'T get infected. So what is different about the ones who do?
It's time, I'm afraid, to turn a critical gaze on those with HIV who smoke -- but more importantly those service providers who ignore that life-threatening issue. Because where we are now as a community on this issue, a community who should be leaders in promoting healthy choices is, frankly, third-rate.
Many people living with HIV have written about the importance of the pets in their life. But we tend to talk about that comfort, that support they provide in general terms. Exactly how does that support work, though? And are some pets better at it than others? Today, I'm going to drag my three critters in to the picture to help me out.
Not everyone knows this but I used to be a banker. I wore a three-piece suit and tie every day, and pored over statistics and reports and numbers and, well just bleh stuff, on the 52nd floor of an ivory (no, stainless-steel and glass clad) tower in the financial district of downtown Toronto. Not corner office, yet, but close to that. I had a fancy title and a lovely view, but my head was down all day, both literally and figuratively, so I seldom looked up to enjoy it.