My Fabulous Disease
In Praise of HIV-Negative Gay Men
A Video Blog
By Mark S. King
October 5, 2010
Sometimes it seems there is a silent, wary truce between those of us who are positive and our friends who remain negative. We won't make them feel guilty about being negative if they don't blame us for being positive.
But there are other problematic differences. HIV-negative gay men hear a lot about what they should be doing (or not doing), and not enough about what they are doing well. Meanwhile, those of us living with HIV have been provided services, placed in positions of leadership and exalted in sometimes strange ways. We've certainly needed every bit of support we could get.
By contrast, HIV-negative men have had to plod along, making the best choices they could to remain negative, fearing every blood test, and often watching friends become infected with HIV. It is crucial that people living with HIV have a strong voice in this pandemic and that (our) needs are met, that's clear. I just wonder if HIV-negative gay men get a little tired of being overlooked because they ... never became infected?
So in the spirit of everyone getting the attention they deserve in our community, allow me about two minutes to throw a party for HIV-negative gay men.
Episode 22: In Praise of HIV-Negative Gay Men
Finally, do me an important favor. Please share this video with an HIV-negative friend you care about. Let them know you appreciate the choices they are making. I speak from the perspective of a gay man, but everyone could use a little encouragement!
Meantime, my friends, please be well.
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Comment by: Mark S. King
(Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Sun., Nov. 7, 2010 at 10:45 am EST
@Bert T. Thanks, Bert. I always thought that there was enough empathy, support and encouragement to go along. I still do.
Comment by: Bert T.
Sat., Nov. 6, 2010 at 12:20 am EDT
Dear Mark, Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to write & post this item, which is just about the 1st & only good thing about being HIV- I've ever seen! Isn't that WEIRD? You would think that would be the GOAL of AIDS prevention efforts -- preventing AIDS. Duh? Apparently not. No, the message has been the opposite: that all gay men are eventually going to seroconvert, & you should wear a condom because you might infect your partner unknowingly. Oh, and you shouldn't go to baths/backrooms/bookstores, no matter if what you do there is safe sex, and you should only have sex with someone you love, even if it isn't safe, because HIV can tell where you are & whether you feel committed to your partner! I'm only surprised that everyone is so surprised that gay men keep getting HIV! How about SUPPORTING negative men in doing whatever it takes to STAY THAT WAY! But nobody even TRIES to do that bcz of being shouted down by people like Dave & Don! Newsflash: REINFORCING the endlessly-repeated CHOICE TO STAY NEGATIVE DOES NOT TAKE AWAY SYMPATHY OR SUPPORT FOR POSITIVE PEOPLE. IT IS NOT A ZERO SUM WORLD. And in the meantime, people keep dying! Keep up the good work, Mark. There's at least ONE person out there who gets & appreciates what you said: ME.
Comment by: Don S.
(Los Angeles, CA)
Fri., Oct. 29, 2010 at 4:02 pm EDT
Living in a distant western outpost of this city, normal (i.e., Gay) men living, behaving publicly in more or less the same manner as straight people, are no longer a part of life. To reconnect with my bro’s, I signed with several dating sites and have had mixed experiences with men who are HIV-.
This began when I was referred to the old Craig’s List and would answer ads with a simple indication that I was intrigued by what the advertiser described. Of course, anyone who has stumbled upon CL sees the joke--horny men, most drunk or tweaking, demanding “DDF” partners with which to engage in a litany of life-threatening sexual practices. Count was lost of men who, before I could introduce myself or condition, would be self-stimmingly describing how they’d breed me with cum, rim or eat it out of me, or drill me ’til I cried then cause me to squirt in their mouths, etc. etc. When I was given opportunity to divulge my HIV+ status, almost always it would result in a belligerent hang-up.
On those sites where actual dates are made, the situation seemed easier by having the opportunity to announce one’s status in one’s profile. Uninfected men would contact me, enumerating the activities they intended for our amusement. As dates grew closer, safer sex would become more a part of the conversation, first sensibly but gradually sounding shrill, defensive until it seemed they would arrive at my home dressed to handle Uranium. More often than not, HIV- men cancelled the very night of our scheduled encounter, apologetically admitting that “I just can’t go through with this.”
Being poz has not enhance my life in any discernible way, except that I’ve now resigned myself to Barebacking, and only date HIV+ men. Exhilarating, awesome, but said to be dangerous.
Of course, the characters I described are no doubt the exception rather than the rule, but still it seems to me that being negative is, like Virtue, its own reward.
Comment by: Dave
Thu., Oct. 14, 2010 at 12:01 am EDT
To david,Fargo Ind. I have been HIV positive since the 80's and trust me I still do not feel exalted. At times I have many of the same feelings you experience. There is still such a stigma associated with this disease an that is awlful. But people like Mark are able turn this horrible disease into something positive and share what works for them. So the take away message is that there is hope in the future and we have to strive to cope. Good luck to you
Comment by: Mark S. King
(Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Thu., Oct. 7, 2010 at 12:22 pm EDT
@David in Fargo: That's a good point about how the newly diagnosed may not have the same experience as those of us who lived through early AIDS and felt all that compassion from the community. However, your experience with stigmatization doesn't negate the fact that HIV negative men are under-appreciated. Yes, I acknowledge that luck could well play a role in their remaining negative. But can't we throw them a bone, a moment of support, for those who have continued to make tough choices?
I remain convinced they need to be "patted on the back." I devote most of my blogs celebrating and supporting HIV positive people. I have enough compassion to go around. I'd like to think we all do. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, David.
Comment by: David
Thu., Oct. 7, 2010 at 10:57 am EDT
Mark, I admire your leadership in HIV and the way you live your life with honesty and compassion. BUT I think this post illustrates a cognitive divide between gay men who are recently infected and long term survivors. I tested poz in June and have found myself anything but "exalted", and don't personally know anyone with it who has found the virus to be a passage into a leadership role. Words that might better suit my situation? Hunted. Accused. Villified. Check out the scores of commentators on HIV issues on sites like queerty.com, or even other HIV sites with less rigorous moderating, and you'll see that for a lot of people who haven't walked this path for long, we are anything but exalted and those who are "clean" only feel left out if they're masochists. Their "good choices" are, in many instances, mere variations on luck. They don't need to be patted on the back.
Comment by: Happiness
Tue., Oct. 5, 2010 at 7:41 pm EDT
"I just wonder if HIV-negative gay men get a little tired ...". Right on ! 25 years of condoms, fear and escape strategies (read: sex restriction) had got me tired. Yet, I wished I still be neg.
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My Fabulous Disease
Mark S. King has been an active AIDS activist, writer and community organization leader since the early 1980s in Los Angeles. He has been an outspoken advocate for prevention education and for issues important to those living with HIV.
Diagnosed in 1985, Mark has held positions with the Los Angeles Shanti Foundation, AID Atlanta and AIDS Survival Project, and is an award-winning writer. He continues his volunteer work as an AIDS educator and speaker for conferences and events.
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Mark King Looks Back at the AIDS Epidemic's Darkest Hour in the U.S. (May 14, 2008)
This Month in HIV: Crystal Methamphetamine and HIV (August 2007)
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Meth Burial (May 2008)
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Outliving My Father (May 22, 2001)
Mark recounts how years of caring for friends dying of AIDS prepared him for taking care of his dying father
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