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8 HIV/AIDS Issues You Couldn't Stop Talking About in 2013

December 1, 2013

In our email newsletters and on our site, we regularly highlight the top stories and conversations happening around HIV/AIDS at the moment. Then we move on to the next big thing. That's the nature of a site like ours -- but it's also only part of the story.

The other part of what makes a story about HIV/AIDS important is how you react to it: How it makes you feel, how you choose to talk about it, share it with others and make the story a part of your life. As part of our year in review, we want to do a better job highlighting not just major HIV-related stories themselves, but to call out the articles on our site that you found most compelling, and to highlight some of the things you had to say about them.

Here are some of the pages on that have had you, our wonderful and passionate readers, deeply engaged over the past year.

Table of Contents

Your Mother Liked It Bareback

By Mark S. King

Mark S. King

Facebook Recommends/Likes/Shares: 80
Article & Facebook Comments:: 41

In a nutshell: The year started off with a bang when a study was released finding that gay men on Grindr often have unprotected sex. Mark S. King was royally pissed -- not just at the findings themselves, but at the manner in which our society, and our community, tends to react to them. His words sparked heated debate and revealed starkly different views on the subject.

Quotable: "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."

What our readers said:

"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. ... 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." -- J T (From London)

"Most of our instincts are clamoring -- 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. ... 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." -- RayW (From Australia)

"Using a condom each and every time 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." -- Disgusted (From the U.S.)

"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." -- AJ (From New York City)

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Can HIV-Positive People Have Babies? 7 Myths About Pregnancy and HIV/AIDS

By Olivia Ford

pregnant woman

Facebook Recommends/Likes/Shares: 371
Article & Facebook Comments:: 19

In a nutshell: Despite how far we've come in the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, misinformed and even dangerous myths persist throughout much of the world, including the U.S. We set the story straight on some key facts -- and, in so doing, created one of our most widely shared articles of the year.

Quotable: "Many people who are not living with or otherwise affected by HIV may not be aware of this phenomenal news, so you can be the first to tell your friends: A woman can have a healthy pregnancy if she's HIV positive."

What our readers said:

"I found out I was HIV+ when I was pregnant with my first child. I was told by my doctor to have an abortion, as well as the Internet (WedMD) in 1999. Thank God I didn't. ... The happiest day of my life -- the day(s) my children were born. The second happiest day(s) -- the days I was told they were negative." -- A (From Brooklyn, N.Y.)

"Although we have to do everything to avoid HIV infection, it no more sounds like the end of the world. Now it is possible to live a healthy, long live, and even think of having good, healthy children." -- Ghislaine (From Bamenda, Cameroon)

Read the full article, share it around, and add your comment on or on Facebook.

People Always Trying to Tell Me That God Can Heal Me of AIDS

By Rae Lewis-Thornton

Rae Lewis-Thornton

Facebook Recommends/Likes/Shares: 320
Article & Facebook Comments:: 27

In a nutshell: In her two decades living with HIV, Rae Lewis-Thornton has spoken endlessly in public about her status, and seen and heard most every type of response imaginable. But for the longest time, she had trouble balancing her religious beliefs against the fact that the virus remained inside her.

Quotable: "No sooner than I laid the mic down, a woman rushed up to me: 'You know the Lord can heal you of AIDS.' I got that look on my face, 'Here we go again.' I stood as she rambled and rambled on. ... In an instant God spoke to my spirit, 'I am a wonderful God, even if I never heal you of AIDS!' The testimony is: Hallelujah anyhow!"

What our readers said:

"Thank you for putting a voice to my feelings of faith. While I have been officially positive for over 15 years, I believe that I was infected 12 years before. ... After getting the results all I wanted to do is die quickly, but I didn't. I lived. I asked why was I spared. The answer came as I found faith in God and learning to worship through thankfulness. ... I do not for one second [believe] that God can heal me of HIV or that God caused any of these events to happen. I believe my faith in God is the foundation of my responses to all these events." -- Michael (From California)

"Thank you for articulating my feelings; 19 years living this positive life and I know I'm a miracle!" -- GeeGee (From Louisiana)

Read the full article, share it around, and add your comment on or on Facbeook.

Why Does Mainstream Media Continue to Throw Young Black Gay Men Under the Bus?

By Mathew Rodriguez

red ribbon and headlines

Facebook Recommends/Likes/Shares: 311
Article & Facebook Comments:: 13

In a nutshell: The text of a news article published in the New York Daily News earlier this year highlighted much of what is often wrong with the way mainstream media reports not only on HIV/AIDS, but on people within too-easily stereotyped racial, ethnic and sexual communities.

Quotable: "For me, as a young gay man of color, this piece drives home the reality that I am at the intersection of many identities that are spoken about, too rarely spoken to, and even more rarely spoken with. Since the article discusses young black gay men, the ideal approach would be to allow more members of this population to speak for themselves. Instead, the article speaks about my people, our bodies, our sexuality, the way a person might describe a house as s/he drives by it on the way to work."

What our readers said:

"You have expressed the sentiment of many men of color [who are] bi, gay or questioning. In our heart of hearts we know that we live in a society that will always seek to blame someone other than themselves for things in their lives that they cannot control. Knowledge is key to unlocking the mysteries of being a part of the solution and not the problem. Yet many take the low road to profitability at the expense of others." -- Edward (From Chicago, Ill.)

"I am an older, white, gay man in my fifties. There was a time when we heard from different voices. Now is not that time. I actually want to hear from younger gay men about their experience -- I have no clue what it is like to be gay now for younger men, especially men of color. Whatever problems young, gay, black men have, it doesn't help to have media full of negative judgments rather than stories which work to understand their experience." -- Rob (From Minneapolis, Minn.)

Read the full article, share it around, and add your comment on or on Facebook.

The HIV Cure Chatter Is Real, but It's Only Part of Our Story

By Myles Helfand logo

Facebook Recommends/Shares/Likes: 63
Article & Facebook Comments:: 16

In a nutshell: The first half of this year brought a flurry of news that a handful of HIV-positive people -- from a baby in Mississippi to two adults in Boston -- appear to have had the virus completely cleared out of their bodies. There was an explosion of "HIV cure" attention in mainstream media, which raised a question: Are we potentially paying too much attention to the drive toward a cure?

Quotable: "The recent cure developments -- and those we hope are approaching on the near horizon -- are worth getting excited about and following closely. But it's important for us not to lose sight of the issues that matter in our community today, and not to get so wrapped up in our run to the future that we trip over the present obstacles that stand in the way of our health and our happiness."

What our readers said:

"The possibility of a cure is wonderful to ponder, but meanwhile, my reality must be about getting help to accept my diagnosis and to manage the disease using the lifesaving medications available to me now." -- Adam (From New York City)

"When I hear the word 'cure,' I think some modern miracle of science and medicine has been found that actually cures HIV. ... But that isn't so, is it? No, when someone so nonchalantly throws out that word in a headline, it means nothing to us, the people who are still dying from the wretched little evasive bugger hiding in our bodies, holding us individually hostage."

Read the full article, share it around, and add your comment on or on Facebook.

"Undetectable": Safe or Not?

By Dave R.

Dave R.

Facebook Recommends/Shares/Likes: 90
Article & Facebook Comments:: 27

In a nutshell: The proliferation of research on "treatment as prevention" -- the use of HIV medications to help not only treat HIV-positive people, but reduce the risk of transmission to HIV-negative people -- has inevitably brought us to a critically important question: If a person's viral load is undetectable and they're on stable HIV treatment, can they "safely" have unprotected sex with a committed partner?

Quotable: "The idea that people living with HIV can safely have sex with anyone in the community again sticks in many a craw -- including, astonishingly enough, many HIV organizations, who see it as subversive to all the work they've been doing to promote condom use and safe sex! The word 'undetectable' has already been abused and misused to the point where many claim it to be meaningless. Proof that 'undetectable' means 'non-infectious,' or even proof that undetectable means the possibility of transmission still exists, is essential."

What our readers said:

"I am so tired of being rejected by HIV- gay men because I am HIV+ even though I am undetectable. I really don't think the stigma will change any time soon. Having HIV sucks, undetectable or not." -- Charles (From New Jersey)

"It appears from what we do now know that it may not be a case of undetectable equals safe or not. It seems there are other factors involved that increase or decrease the risk. These include whether there's an STD present ... which increases the risk. Whether the positive person is the insertive person or receptive (more risk if insertive). There may even be a slightly greater risk with the type of sex (vaginal being the safer than anal). Then there's the case of viral blips, which we're still not sure what consequences they have." -- Jeannie (From Bronx, N.Y.)

Read the full article, share it around, and add your comment on or on Facebook.

Getting to Undetectable: People Living With HIV Share Their Stories

By's Staff


Facebook Recommends/Shares/Likes: 88
Article & Facebook Comments:: 18

In a nutshell: We reached out to people across our community to hear them speak, in their own words, about the challenges they overcame and the victories they achieved in their journey toward achieving an undetectable HIV viral load. The stories they shared were inspiring -- as were the many similar stories you all shared in the comments!

Quotable: "I knew I was feeling better after the meds; but after being told what undetectable was and how it would affect my life, I need to say I was on TOP OF THE WORLD and have stayed that way since then. It meant the world to me and changed my life, for the better. I got busy living."

What our readers said:

"While reaching undetectable was a happy day in my life, it happened relatively quickly. The day that I still sit in awe about happened just a few weeks ago. I started meds with a CD4 count of 224, now it's 746. For the first time in my 10 years of having HIV my CD4 count is above where is was when I was diagnosed. ... Thank you to the staff of the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia for keeping so many of us going!" -- Hank (From Philadelphia)

"I'm one of the lucky few on the planet that these life saving drugs are available to. You know, it's way too easy to start feeling sorry for oneself living with HIV and all that comes with that diagnosis. Until you realize that there are millions and millions of people who would love to have my struggles instead of what they're going through. Everybody alive today is trying to overcome something in life." -- Bradley (From Bellingham, Wash.)

Read the full article, share it around, and add your comment on or on Facebook.

My Canine Confidante

By Philip D.

Philip D.

Facebook Recommends/Shares/Likes: 66
Article & Facebook Comments:: 21

In a nutshell: It's hard to understate just how critical the support of others is in helping us cope with an HIV diagnosis and the everyday rigors of living with the virus. As Philip D. attests in this beautiful, bittersweet blog post, some of the warmest support we receive can come in a small, furry package.

Quotable: "Before I could say 'I have HIV' to another human being, I said it to her. That one soul who loved me without a single condition, regardless of the shame I was feeling. It might sound silly ... but saying those words out loud, even to something with a limited mental lexicon, helped me cope with the mind-blowing concept of being HIV positive."

What our readers said:

"I have a chocolate lab who has been trained as a service dog and has medical documentation to go with me everywhere. When I broke up with my partner of 12 years, she was the only thing I took with me. She has been my only faithful and unconditionally loving companion. After I was diagnosed ... my doctor truly felt she was the reason I kept fighting and remained alive. There were many days I couldn't walk or laid in bed crying and wanted to give up, but she made me realize no one could take care of her like I could." -- Wes & Kahlua (Jersey City, N.J.)

"I have my 'Bangel,' an apricot pug, who turned 11 today. ... He has seen me through the absolute worst of my life -- meth addiction after my HIV diagnosis, followed by cancer and other chronic illnesses that remain a challenge. Four walks a day got me up, moving and outside, without which I truly believe I would have died." -- Ron (From Delafield, Wisc.)

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