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Your Mother Liked It Bareback

January 28, 2013

Whenever a new study of gay men is released showing that we are having bareback sex, the arbiters of sexual conduct among us clutch their pearls and decry this shameful, shocking, murderous behavior. So you can just imagine runaway pearls showering the floor when a recent survey showed that nearly half the users of the gay phone app Grindr engage in unprotected sex.

I really wish that people would put down their smelling salts and try to understand the reasons why. Instead, every time some half-assed study demonstrates what we already know, they stand there in stunned outrage, frozen in their outdated indignation like they've been caught baking bread in Pompeii.

There's nothing new here, except our seemingly endless fascination with gay men behaving in exactly the same way as nearly every other man on this planet.

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Maybe those who find bareback sex distasteful believe they are being politically correct, that their strident judgments about the sex lives of others are in the service of HIV prevention, that criticizing other gay men for acting like human beings will somehow alter instincts that evolution built over millions of years.

Perhaps this is part of our new gay agenda, to demonstrate to straight society that we're just as good at shaming gay men as they are, that we'll gladly be neutered for equal rights and be denied the same pleasures they take for granted, that if they only give us gay marriage we won't talk about the unprotected butt fucking that will happen on the wedding night.

Somehow, we have come to the homophobic conclusion that when gay men engage in the romantic, emotional, spiritual act of intercourse without a barrier we label it psychotic barebacking, but when straight people do it we call it sex.

This double standard is ludicrous. Your mother barebacked. It is a natural and precious act that has been going on, quite literally, since the beginning of mankind. Abraham (barebacked and) begat Isaac; and Isaac (barebacked and) begat Jacob; and Jacob (barebacked and) begat Judas and his brethren (Matthew 1:2).

Maybe you have the uncanny ability to enjoy sex while your penis is wrapped in latex. That is terrific, really. Please continue. You are using a classic prevention tool, a real golden oldie. Or maybe you and your boyfriend are HIV negative and have the good fortune to be in a committed, monogamous relationship in which you are having sex without condoms. Or perhaps, by whatever Olympian discipline you possess, you are capable of using a condom each and every time you have sex, no matter what. You are to be commended, and you are, regrettably, in the minority.

All of these scenarios are valid and worth replicating whenever possible. They do not, however, represent a superior high ground from which to make pronouncements about someone else's choices.

There was an unspoken agreement that gay men made amongst ourselves during the AIDS crisis of the 1980's. We accepted that we would use condoms -- at the time it was the only "safer sex" option that existed -- until whatever time the crisis abated. Many of us believed this contract would be in effect for the rest of lives, if only because we thought we would be dead within a few short years. But none of us could have fathomed that, thirty years later, we would still be held to these strict and oppressive guidelines.

Even then, some of us didn't follow them. One might assume that the cascade of death we experienced would have led to long term behavioral change. In fact, many of us responded to the crisis in a profoundly human way: we found comfort by making love with one another, often without a condom. It was a life affirming gesture, and an enormous "fuck you" to AIDS.

In fact, a 1988 study of gay men showed that almost half of them never used condoms, and most did not use them all of the time. These figures are strikingly similar to the recent Grindr results. Everything old is new again. Or it never went out of style in the first place.

The 1988 study is particularly interesting when you consider how many gay men consider that period a time of great sexual austerity -- and some of them are wishing for a return to those times a bit too ardently. Gay men who witnessed the early AIDS carnage will sometimes say, "If only younger men knew what we went through. If they had seen it, they wouldn't be behaving this way."

That's sick. I do not wish young gay men could witness the soul crushing things that I did. I worked in the trenches very, very hard so that they might have the option of being apathetic. I prefer their blissful ignorance to burying them.

And make no mistake about it, the number of gay men in the United States dying from AIDS is a small fraction of what it once was. Cigarettes are now killing more people with HIV than the virus itself. HIV/AIDS has become a dangerous but largely manageable disease, and fear tactics that suggest otherwise are being ignored because they simply are not true. Sex is sex, it is affirming and natural, and anyone who wishes to equate unprotected sex to death and disease really needs to get some therapy.

Condom usage will almost certainly continue to decrease in the future because of new tools that have joined the growing list of HIV prevention options. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) -- taking medication in advance of sex with an infected person -- has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of transmission (and some insurance plans in the United States are covering the cost). Many people living with HIV are limiting sex partners to those who share their HIV status, known as serosorting. Positive gay men have largely dismissed scary fireside stories of the ultimate boogeyman, the reinfection SuperVirus, who has never materialized.

We also know that when those with HIV have an undetectable viral load the risk of transmission is negligible, so "treatment as prevention" efforts have increased (a new British study of straight couples showed that an undetectable viral load is more effective in preventing transmission than condoms, and those researchers believe the same will hold true for gay men).

Gleaming on the horizon are rectal microbicides. These products, currently in development, will come in the form of lubricants or douches that will prevent HIV infection, and they could make the endless debate and judgments about condoms moot, once and for all.

We don't have to do this anymore. We don't have to clobber each other with condom fascism, discredit the value of our sex lives, or promote a singular strategy that doesn't work for everyone. We can accept that gay men are making educated choices to engage in a variety of risk reduction techniques. We can acknowledge that all of these techniques reduce the risk of HIV infection and all of them constitute "safer sex."

And finally, we can stop pretending that those who remain fixated on condom usage have the moral upper hand.

The emperor has no clothes. And he isn't wearing a rubber, either.

Mark



This article was provided by MyFabulousDisease.com. Visit Mark's live blog.
 
See Also
Barebacking, Unbridled: Thoughts From the HIV Community on Unprotected Sex
Barebacking & HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: aaasian (NYC) Mon., Dec. 16, 2013 at 9:01 pm EST
This discussion needs to go through general gay media like Metro mag & other lifestyle media. etc., not just media targetting the hiv population. It's a discussion that has many & clear implications for the hiv negative & not just the M4M population.
And the next thing is when the discussion moves to the heterosexual population & general media.
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Comment by: Mike (Florida) Wed., Mar. 13, 2013 at 9:56 am EDT
Someone has finally said the truth !!!!!Thank You !!!!!
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Comment by: jay (my house) Sun., Feb. 24, 2013 at 6:57 am EST
I would also call straight folks barebacking psychotic...but hey, mark knows what's real and what isn't. We don't. and btw: What is a "prevention advocate". If there is not a CLUSTER of gay people gathered in one place there is no such thing as prevention advocacy happening that I have seen for decades. People will have unprotected sex and have since the beginning, I do agree with this guy on that one and these people deserve compassion and love. However promoting barebacking even among the Poz community is wildly irresponsible. I have yet to meet a physician who would advise two hiv positive people to have unsafe sex. Evidence is evidence mark. Predicting the future of this illness and behaving in a way that is based on YOUR predictions seems really weird to me...kinda Sketchy if ya get my drift.
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Comment by: Mark S. King (Washington, DC) Wed., Dec. 11, 2013 at 9:08 am EST
Let me guess. "Kinda sketchy" would be a reference to my drug addiction (and recovery process). Nice bit of judgmental shaming, Jay, but nothing compared to the struggle for honesty and enlightenment I have gone through the last few years.

Your grasp of the facts in this matter are no less off the mark. But as you have demonstrated above, fear- and shame-based remarks are the bastion of those without empathy or concern for the least among us. Once you gain that kind of insight, you might be less inclined to label people who behave differently than you as "psychotic," or to hide your ignorance behind anonymous posted comments.


Comment by: Vaio (UK) Thu., Feb. 21, 2013 at 10:21 pm EST
What a fantastic article! This is what good journalism is all about, making us discuss passionately about what we really think, where our morals lie and the putting all our cards on the table whether we are for or against! It is insightful and itís honest. Too long has this been a taboo subject that people dare not discuss, we really are just the stereotypes depicted in this article, there are a so few real faces prepared to be associated with such a topic. Feeling passionately about something and wanting to voice your opinion is a great thing, it gets people talking, thinking, resolving. This is an area that has never seen the light of the day except to comdemn. Perhaps through discussion and debate we can find some common ground and potentially find a new resolve. Its evident our current efforts are lacking in efficacy and letís face it they are somewhat extremist. A new approach might be just what people need.
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Comment by: MJ (Atlanta, GA) Thu., Feb. 21, 2013 at 3:29 pm EST
In it's simplest form isn't this argument really about immediate satisfaction vs personal responsibility? Yes, people should take the time to ask about their partner's status, but if they don't it doesn't relieve one if the of blame for potentially infecting the other knowingly. If both know they their status and agree to have unprotected sex, that is a different story. They choose to take the risk as compared to having it thrust (no pun intended)upon them. No different than any other STD in that regard. I happen to be straight (and don't sleep with negative women)but bring that choice to the forefront everytime...though it is a rare occurance these days. I do find this article somewhat irresponsible and biased toward gay rights as opposed to human rights.
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Comment by: AJ (NYC) Thu., Feb. 21, 2013 at 3:12 pm EST
Considering that this is a site used by so many poz people, I'm always surprised at the number of anti-barebacker voices in any discussion on the subject. Are Mark and I truly in the minority when we say that we enjoy barebacking? My suspicion is that we aren't.
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Comment by: Kyle (Boston) Wed., Mar. 6, 2013 at 3:37 am EST
So, what, because we're poz, we're a bunch of reckless sex fiends who traded our health for a little fun on Grindr? And because we did it once means that we should keep doing it,regardless of the social and biological implications? That's one of the most stigmatizing, backwards things I've ever heard, and a complete oversimplification of how most of us wound up here. Did most of us bareback at some point? The short answer is yes, but the honest, nuanced answer is that anyone who has the wherewithal to survive more than a few years with this virus wasn't the kind of moron who picked it barebacking with strangers under the impression that it'd be no big deal. Way to further the stereotype.


Comment by: Reggie (Palm Springs, CA) Thu., Feb. 21, 2013 at 8:47 am EST
Too bad the original author missed the salient issue, that "your mother" never had an account on Grindr.
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Comment by: Gauge Rey (Savannah, GA) Wed., Feb. 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm EST
"Half of gay men do not use condoms and never have."
This "fact" underpins the supposed morality of this blog, that few use condoms, and we must deal with this. I'd love to know how this study breaks down though. Are we talking about people not using condoms with "long term, monogamous" partners, or at least those presumed to be long term and monogamous? Are we talking about people sometimes not using condoms with hookups? Only not using condoms for oral? The notion that 50% of gay men "never" wear rubbers, even for receptive anal sex with casual partners, is clearly ludicrous. That's exactly what is implied by that statistic, and that's what many people reasonably hear. HIV and other STDs are pathogens, not winning lottery tickets. If you play, you will wind up infected. That is why in the 70s, when people truly weren't using condoms, syphilis was endemic and an entire generation was lost to HIV. To simply say that "50 percent of gay men don't use condoms" is a gross oversimplification of what gay behavior is, and is not validated by the outcomes we see in the incidence of most STDs. It's part of a scary trend I've seen amongst many so called "activists", to conflate the technicality that condoms aren't universally adopted at all times with the illusion that it's possible to meet strangers on an app, screw them raw and not wind up a human disease sanctuary, capable of spitting into a petri dish and creating an entire ecosystem.

There are plenty of bugs besides HIV. I know plenty of neg gay men who are going to be crapping in bags in a decade thanks to anal cancer, and the evidence grows monthly that that a wave of sexually transmitted HCV is more than just fearmongering. You do people a disservice when you use your position of influence to pretend that certain behaviors are normal. When you do this, you validate bad decisions that will kill. From someone who accuses others of being "nazis", such hypocrisy is startling.
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Comment by: Scott (Washington, DC) Tue., Feb. 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm EST
I have seldom seen so ill-advised a treatment of a health subject. Skipping the condom may feel good, but it only makes sense if one is (a) HIV-negative and with an HIV-negative partner, or (b) HIV-positive and with an HIV-positive partner. If there are any doubts about the other person's status, it's foolish to bareback. Sure, it's no longer necessarily fatal, but the therapies are not cost-free. Further, viruses have a way of evolving to defeat anti-viral agents, so the weapons we have now could become obsolete and ineffective at any time. Finally, HIV is not the only sexually transmitted disease that condoms can protect against. The many others are invidious and, like HIV, constantly evolving.
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Comment by: happynurse (Ohio) Tue., Feb. 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm EST
Well, thanks for sharing at such length, but actually for those of us who are health care professionals, it's NOT about any kind of "moral high ground", it's about hard, cold science. HIV seeks means to infect as many as it can, that's what viruses do, to stay "alive". When they do infect living beings, they can cause damage and death. Treatment, although much better these days, is still complicated and expensive and NOT 100% effective, for many. Those not caring about transmission of HIV to others, to themselves,enough to have unprotected sex for what ever reason, are asking the rest of us to carry them when they do need care, also to care for them financially, even though the "facts of HIV life" have been known for years. It is naive and disingenuous to expect us not to wish for more responsible sexual behavior.And for the record,we don't wear pearls (huh? they don't go with my scrubs).
I personally was amazed to read this article, I thought we'd maybe moved on since the early 80's, when there was all the shrill protest about closing bath houses, etc. Move on, and grow up, and protect your fellow human beings and yourself. Sorry, but them's the facts.
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Comment by: RayW (Melbourne, Australia) Thu., Feb. 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm EST
And the other fact is that humans of all kinds persist in having unprotected sex despite knowing the risks (of STIs, of pregnancy, of social disapproval, etc). You need to understand the reason for that better. It's not due to immaturity, it's not due to irresponsibility.
There's the clinical view of the world - which is important, and necessary - but it's just one view. It is naive of you to deny that there is a richer and more complex reality beyond the clinic walls.
By the way, the bath houses weren't closed down in Australia (and other countries). Yet HIV infections still went down in the 80s and 90s.


Comment by: Mike (Washington, DC) Tue., Feb. 19, 2013 at 11:57 am EST
Mark should be applauded for having the courage to put pen to paper and expose the truth about bareback sex among gay men. Many gay men have and will continue to have bareback sex, just like straight people.

However, traditional, condom-based prevention interventions have not and may never engage this population.

Expressing your shock at these facts does nothing to prevent the transmission of HIV. Knowing how it is being transmitted, does. When we, as prevention advocates know and accept the methods of transmission we can take effective behavioral and medical interventions. Ignoring the utilization of all our prevention tools is the only way we will make an impact on this epidemic.

But until such a time as when we can stop expressing our "disgust" and "shock" and accept the fact that men continue to have sex without condoms, we fail in our jobs.

For each of the well-meaning comments left here, I would say that Mark understands your concern, but we must move on in the adaptation and development of HIV prevention strategies that address the facts and not just our own paradigm of how gay men should behave.
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Comment by: Christina (Everywhere, USA) Sat., Feb. 16, 2013 at 11:51 pm EST
As a visitor to this site looking for real-life knowledge and perspectives of those living with HIV/AIDS, I am both shocked and appalled at the gall put forth in this article and your cavalier approach to protecting against HIV. So because it's no longer devastating and is now 'manageable' for the infected person it's not still a hard pill to swallow for his family and loved ones? For his children? You can't just pretend that every HIV-infected person can afford meds or regular doctor's visits that keep them alive and healthy; for some people it's still a major life altering diagnosis, if not a life-ending one. Decrying condom use as an affront on love and spiritual connection, or as a diminishing of gay rights is just outright ridiculous. Gay men are not the only ones faced with condoms being the only prevention for HIV (or any STD); women have no choice either. This article only serves to reinforce the stereotypes of gay men being sexually reckless and too hedonistic to care, which is a huge disservice to those struggling with this disease.
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Comment by: Mark S. King (Atlanta) Thu., Mar. 7, 2013 at 11:28 am EST
Oh. I guess you weren't looking for "real life knowledge and perspectives" after all...


Comment by: Disgusted 2 (USA) Sat., Feb. 16, 2013 at 3:40 pm EST
This article should not be on a resource for many young teens searching for information about HIV. Why are we accepting the fact that 50% of men prefer to have sex bareback? We should focus on educating these people. I can assure you a majority of these people hook up with random people all the time- why else would you be on Grindr? Not to be in a long-term relationship like my mother.

I find it funny you have to reply to every comment with "hate", calling people "shrill" for simply stating their opinions.

How does it feel that you'll likely influence someone to bareback with an unknowingly HIV positive person and make them live with a deadly disease for the rest of their life.

Good riddance. You're the reason us gay men get a bad rep.
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Comment by: Douglas (Miami Beach, FL) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 8:07 pm EST
A reminder that the bareback enthusiast who authored this article previously posted a video on this site that suggested he doesn't necessarily inform his HIV-negative sex partners he is poz before having sex with them.

"Disgusting" isn't a strong enough word. "Immoral" is more like it.
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Comment by: Nick (Europe) Tue., Feb. 19, 2013 at 9:59 am EST
There is nothing immoral about it. Most positive people I know don't inform their casual sex partners.
And I am no exception. Sometimes I tell, most of the time I don't. But I have a simple rule: If a sex partner asks me my status he gets to know the truth.
Can't remember the last time that happened. Must be over a year ago. Fact is, people almost never ask. In the city where I live one in ten gay men is HIV positive. For the most part, the guys I have sex with have a brain and a mouth. If they really care so much about my HIV status, they can simply ask instead of assuming that I am negative.

Question: When you go on a date, is the first thing you do telling your date all the things in your past that might be a potential deal breaker for him/her? "Yeah, I think you should know that I cheated a few times in my last relationship. And well, I have a little drinking problem. And also, I was convicted once 10 years ago..." Since you are such a moral guy, I am sure you do...
Comment by: Douglas (Miami Beach, FL) Wed., Feb. 20, 2013 at 6:05 am EST
Nick, I'd like to make sure I correctly understood what you said. You have bareback sex without previously informing your partners that you are poz (unless they happen to ask you)? And, if that's the case, you don't regard that to be immoral?
Comment by: Sam (Wilton Manors, FL) Sat., Feb. 23, 2013 at 8:59 pm EST
LOL, the idea that it is reasonable to operate under the presumption that a casual partner is negative in this context is the exclusive domain of an increasingly spoiled and immature gay population. I'd love to see how many straight people think they should be able to meet strangers for sex on a phone app, barely know their name, expect that person to disclose sensitive medical information for their benefit and then cry victim when it turns out they've been exposed to a virus that afflicts more than 20 percent of their peers. You'd get a lot of eye rolls over that one Douglas. If you're so scared that your partners might not be disclosing, I'd recommend you grow up and stop expecting other people to save you from your promiscuity like some delusional, entitled sex addict.
Comment by: Douglas (Miami Beach, FL) Tue., Feb. 26, 2013 at 7:19 pm EST
Nick, I'm not the least bit scared that my partners might not be disclosing that they are poz--the reason being that I consistently use condoms.

Mark obviously doesn't use condoms, and he has additionally posted on this site about not disclosing his status to his partners, presumably even before barebacking with them. Fly that twisted scenario up most any flagpole--straight or gay--and let's see what the reaction is. To many, myself included, Mark and his ilk are, by their actions and words, actually earning the stigma they have coming to them.
Comment by: Sam (Wilton Manors, FL) Sat., Mar. 9, 2013 at 10:46 am EST
Do I regard a lack of disclosure as immoral? No, I don't. I regard spreading the virus as immoral. There's a huge difference between those two things. If Mark's partners are the types of morons who are barebacking strangers, a long time undetectable AIDS activist with a controlled viral load is probably one of the least risky encounters those guys are going to have. When you allege that Mark doesn't disclose, you indicate a total misunderstanding of the relevant issues, or an imperative to segregate people who are labeled positive rather than the virus. Not cool, and more an indictment of your perspective than King's behaviors.

Mark "and his ilk" deserve stigma, huh? Sweetheart, you don't even understand what stigma is here.


Comment by: Jamie (Melbourne, Australia) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 7:36 pm EST
Mark King appears to be arguing that unprotected anal intercourse (barebacking) is fine because:
1. Poz guys with an undetectable viral load have a negligible chance of passing on HIV;
2. Neg guys can use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to significantly reduce the risk of transmission;
3. Anyway, with new treatments, HIV/AIDS is a "dangerous but largely manageable disease"; and
4. In the future, prevention measures and new treatments will make barebacking safe.

These arguments are misleading and potentially dangerous:

1. How do we know that a poz guy has an undetectable viral load? Even if he does, it doesn't mean the poz guy can't pass on HIV; it simply means that AT THE TIME OF TESTING, the virus, although present, could not be measured in the blood. It may well be present in greater strength in the poz guy's ejaculate, especially if the poz guy also has another STI (which he may not know about).

2. While pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is promising, it is still a toxic treatment with unpleasant side-effects, that most people would prefer to avoid. It is also expensive.

3. New treatments have made HIV/AIDS a "dangerous but largely manageable disease", but those treatments are toxic with multiple unpleasant side-effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, wasting, erectile dysfunction, etc. Poz guys I know would do almost anything to be able to reverse their diagnosis.

4. We all hope that future prevention measures/vaccinations and new treatments make HIV/AIDS a thing of the past, but until they have been developed and thoroughly tested, safer sex, i.e. using a condom every time, is the only responsible recommendation for neg guys.
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Comment by: RayW (Melbourne, Australia) Fri., Feb. 15, 2013 at 3:38 pm EST
I'm on HIV treatment. The medication is not toxic, and there are no unpleasant side-effects. Though, I'm lucky I'm not in the USA, where treatment is expensive.
Insisting men wear a condom every time is NOT the only responsible recommendation if it does not gel with the reality of men's experience. You have to meet in the middle somewhere.
Comment by: Douglas Merilatt (Miami Beach, FL) Fri., Feb. 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm EST
Thank you for the reality checks, Jamie. All four of them.
Comment by: Mark S. King (Atlanta) Sat., Feb. 16, 2013 at 9:08 am EST
You did not mention the most important point of this article:

1) Nearly half of gay men are not always (or ever) using condoms and studies suggest this has been consistent since the beginning of the epidemic.

Shaming these men, as our culture (and many advocates) have been doing, has been proven to only worsen outcomes. So, rather than spouting the same fearful reasons why they should use condoms (but won't), we must embrace a multi-pronged approach that includes condoms and the other tools mentioned.

Bemoaning the facts doesn't protect gay men. We all want to see a reduction in new infections.

"Use a condom every time" is a relic that has failed for half of gay men. How is it "responsible" to shame them, ignore the facts, and not provide information and encouragement about other risk reduction techniques?
Comment by: Mike (W) Sun., Feb. 24, 2013 at 6:22 am EST
I know many Poz guys who outright lie about their status to get laid. To say that is selfish and downright creepy, imo, is an understatement. I agree the condom thing has been a failure since the beginning (personally i was in NYC in the very early 80's when the virus first hit--it had no name back then). Condoms have been like the War on Drugs. You just can't expect people to stop doing something they find pleasurable--it does not work. Having sex with a condom is like drinking O'douls to get drunk. No fun. Now we have alternatives to condoms being tested. That's a smart move I think. Predicting the future is insane...period. HIV is a virus. We can make assumptions yes but no one has given me the right to put this kind of DENT in someone else's life and I never would (just me). I understand that my managed infection is not likely to be transmitted but..as my Dr. said to me. I also have Herpes and HPV, which my Dr. (and those on Poz personals) has told me most POZ guys have anyway. People have the right to do what they want for now and if they choose to transmit an incurable virus (lifechanging to say the least--for the very WORST) then go ahead. I prefer to protect myself from OTHER stds which can make a huge mess of my health in general (duh) and sleep at night knowing I have not infected with anything that will change their live for the worse FOREVER (as we know it to be now). WHAT IS; IS The rest is just speculation and who am i to judge whether someone even wants to take a chance with this or any illness. By not disclosing we are denying a basic human right to our potential partners--CHOICE and given what IS NOW (not what may be in the future) bringing intentional potential lifelong harm to another individual. Fighting stigma by 'pushing' ourselves on other people who have the basic human right to not associate or have sex with us ? I don't want that happening to me and I am not doing it to someone else.
Comment by: Steve (Chicago) Fri., Mar. 29, 2013 at 8:57 pm EDT
"By not disclosing we are denying a basic human right to our potential partners--CHOICE"

Oh spare me. By not disclosing, you're treating HIV like everything else-a risk that people take, including the risks that they readily take with other STDs that may be fatal. "Disclosure" presumes HIV is a something special, deserving to be in a special category, more than the stupid STD it is. Let's be clear, HIV is a virus.

When you "disclose", you empower people to make horrible health decisions, since an undetectable gay man is LESS infectious than the 1 in 10 neg guys bragging that they're "clean". You're also segregating yourself from general society. You're not a hero, you're a martyr for viral apartheid. For too long, horrible, discriminatory, counterproductive ideologies have been wrapped in smug, stigmatizing notions of personal responsibility and obligation that ignores medical reality. I'm fed up with that, and I'm fed up with being a pariah for the wrong reasons. Nail yourself to a cross to pretend that there's some virtue in "CHOICE" if you want, but don't tell the rest of us that we should join you up there. Until we start "disclosing" every other STD, our credit scores, our IQ, high school GPA and every other little quirk, we need to be honest: disclosure is nothing more than discrimination.


Comment by: Lancelot (Blah) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm EST
while it's true my mother likes it bareback, she has also been married to the same man for nearly 50 years. If I found out tomorrow she was engaging in anal sex with random dudes she met using her phone I would at least also insist that they put on a condom before penetrating her, not engage in the "most beautiful, natural act", nor would I let her be a human guinea pig in any of these alternatives you are proposing.
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Comment by: Strangelove (Berlin, Germany) Tue., Feb. 19, 2013 at 9:35 am EST
I know plenty of positive guys that got infected by their partner in what they thought was a monogamous relationship. I also know of a few straight couples where that happened (yes, even in the sacred boundaries of marriage).
Sure, the odd may be smaller to get it from your commited partner than from a random guy you met through a app on your phone but it still happens all the time.
What the article is criticizing here is the double standard that is applied. As for me, I am really tired of getting judged by others for being positive when in the end we all have bareback sex one time or the other.

As for your guinea pig, you are obviously not aware of recent studies that show that successful treatment is as successful at preventing transmission of HIV than condoms are.


Comment by: RayW (Australia) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm EST
@Disgusted - but sex isn't supposed to be a "responsible act". We're simply not wired like that. And there's nothing we can do to change that reality. The sex drive is procreative. Our genes don't 'know' we're of the same sex. Most of our instincts are clamouring - begging - us to spread or receive seed. It's possible to be rational about sex (an inherently irrational act) but it's very, very difficult. Most straight youth engage in unprotected sex, yet there are risks for them as well. We shouldn't devalue the sexuality of gay youth by applying a double standard. That's not fair, and it's homophobic. Of course we should support them to find ways of being safe without burdening them with a sense of responsibility, but we should definitely not castigate them for being human.
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Comment by: J T (London) Thu., Jan. 31, 2013 at 8:27 pm EST
A friend of mine got MRSA in a sauna that nearly killed him, and they say that various STDs are mutating so as to be resistant to available treatments. Does that not matter at all? I'm incredibly thankful that there are very effective HIV drugs available now, but I still don't want to spend my entire life having to take heavy-duty anti-retroviral medication: it's a burden and the drugs gradually wreck your liver (and don't work for everyone anyway). I don't think that such a medicalised life is 'natural' - or free. It certainly seems an illusion to say that chugging down a high-tech pre-exposure prophylaxis before a big night out is more 'natural' and celebratory than wearing a condom. How exactly is that the case?

You accuse pro-condom-use campaigners of a sort of fascism, yet you hypervalorise anal sex without rubbers as if nothing else could possible demonstrate love, intimacy or sincerity. That really simply isn't true: it's an exciting romantic notion, but not a true one. You seem to be saying that boring 'squares' worry about STDs whereas loving free spirits don't worry about them because there'll always be tons and tons of medication they can take that will make it all alright.

I want people to do what they want and be free, but pretending won't make it so: there are consequences to one's actions. Constantly identifying, as you do, barebacking with sincerity, love and passion seems to me every bit as misleading as saying it's about nothing but drunken and drugged stupidity. It's very revealing that you consider wearing a condom 'neutering' - which seems to me a histrionic misperception of not wanting to catch one or another unpleasant venereal disease.
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Comment by: Mark S. King (Atlanta) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm EST
Half of gay men do not use condoms and never have. Your refusal to acknowledge this fact is dangerous and naive. We owe our community truth and candid dialogue about prevention.

Since the beginning of the epidemic, HIV's greatest advantage has been our own judgments about sexuality and how this virus is transmitted. When you waste valuable time and resources badgering gay men and further shaming them, HIV wins.

We can argue all day and it won't changes condom usage figures. Let's focus on actual solutions, shall we? This article commends those who use condoms, AND commends those who are using a variety of other techniques. Why be so threatened by this? Will your indignation make more gay men use condoms? No. So what's your point again...?

As Hillary recently said, some people just won't live in an evidence-based world.
Comment by: Friend (Berlin, DE) Wed., Feb. 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm EST
I just want to point out that a study of Grindr users is hardly representative of all MSM. So when Mark claims in the last reply to this comment that 'Half of gay men do not use condoms and never have,' I find that to be a rather spurious proposition. I also see reason to fault him for glorifying bareback sex. Nevertheless, harm reduction through strategies other than condoms should be promoted among people who will choose to not use condoms. I also find stigma to be a poor tool to promote compliance.


Comment by: Disgusted (Everywhere, USA) Wed., Jan. 30, 2013 at 8:12 pm EST
What an irresponsible and horrible article. Using a condom each and everytime you have sex is not an "Olympian" act. It's a responsible act, towards yourself and whoever you are having sex with. Fortunately, when I grew up we were taught having sex without a condom was dangerous. Imagine a young gay guy just coming to terms and coming across this dangerous article that justifies his urge to have unsafe sex, rather than condem it. No one would have written such an article when I was coming out in the 1990s because everyone was terrified of HIV, as they should be today regardless of the "meds
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Comment by: Mark S. King (Atlanta) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm EST
My piece is fact-based and an honest account of gay male behavior, whether you like it or not. Your shrill reaction could not prove my point more cogently. Your sad time-warped view is frozen in the early 90's, when everyone was "terrified of HIV." They are not as terrified any more, and as someone who lived through AIDS since the beginning, I am grateful for that.

Would you prefer we simply do not discuss this issue, and ignore the 50% of gay men who are using prevention techniques other than condoms? Should they not be encouraged to use whatever means works for them?
Comment by: Anonymous (PA) Fri., Feb. 15, 2013 at 10:10 pm EST
Thank you, Disgusted. I am equally disgusted by this terrible article. That the author chose to bash your comment, the most sane and reasonable one here, is quite telling.

With the HIV rate rising among the gay community, perhaps having common sense and responsibility is a "time-warped view" after all.
Comment by: Friend (Berlin, DE) Wed., Feb. 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm EST
I also think it's poor argumentation (not to mention vaguely misogynistic and transphobic) to dismiss counter points as 'shrill' rather than respectfully engaging with their ideas.
Comment by: jay (my house) Sun., Feb. 24, 2013 at 6:48 am EST
Thank you Disgusted. We need to remember we are talking about the author here and given his responses we see his true colors. A former Meth addict who has found some sick bizarre fame by celebrating his FABULOUS disease. and he claims to have lived this from the beginning--years, location and proof would be helpful. Then he mentions Hillary...LMFAO. Perhaps we should call Hillary in to see what she thinks of his approach. I do agree with him that condoms have been a failure. But his plastic surgery has worked. Frankly Hiv is the least of my worries when I have sex so I use what's available to protect me against the numerous other STDS running rampant out there. What I see (thinking of Hillary) with this line of thinking is an Aids free generation where everyone is on treatment for HIV. In the mid years of this virus Act Up did a poster comparing Bush to Hitler. Google to see and read it--it's chilling to read what it says and what has happened and continues to happen with this virus. People are not using condoms. I do. No those that get infected now should be treated with dignity but I am treated by my Dr's at Fenway Health in Boston like I did this to myself-mind you my Dr is young enough to be my son (and younger than this virus) and has NO training at all with regard to the history of this illness...So perhaps we could get some Drs on board with some compassion and more importantly an ACCURATE telling of the history of this virus from the late 70's on. We have failed miserably with education around this, but the answer is not to encourage unsafe sex I don't think...yes care with deep compassion those that get infected, but then again why compassion if it's such a non issue that it's actually ok for a Poz person to intentionally infect another person. I agree -- this guy is DESTROYS this site....and is further demonizing Poz people as those that are not Poz surely see what he has to say as pretty scary--i am scared. Yikes. This guy has got to go


Comment by: Jack (Edmonton,Alberta) Tue., Jan. 29, 2013 at 4:24 pm EST
Great article, people seem to think that barebacking is black and white. Either you are stupid and bareback or you are smart and cover up. There are too many variables, too many different reasons why someone may bareback. For me I was trying to reach an elusive high, trying to deal with bad feelings I didn't know how to deal with. I discuss this on my blog havinghiv.blogspot.com
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Comment by: jay (my house) Sun., Feb. 24, 2013 at 6:50 am EST
those are YOUR feeling that you unknowingly PUSHED on unsuspecting people? ick--ever try thinking of other people before yourself?.


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