This was the message of a gay community awareness campaign back in the mid-90's in Australia.
Australia has been a global leader in HIV education and research since 1982. Per capita, Australia has spent more on education, prevention and research than any other Western country.
The above campaign had a flip side - "R u positive towards negatives?"
The whole campaign focused on sero-discordant interactions. I.e. Positive men having sex / relationships with negatives and vice versa.
It was a campaign that was incredibly confronting for the time. Many people were annoyed by the fact that we were using yet ANOTHER measure of labelling in the gay community - and many saw it as being divisive i.e. yet another measure to DIFFERENTIATE people.
Others saw it as a necessary discussion that had to be engaged in.
Positive people are treated differently. A paper cut in the work-place for me is very different than for a positive person. I don't have to have the "Chat" with the first aid chief in the workplace like a positive person does.
But more personally, if a positive person meets a negative person and there are fireworks - how does the relationship progress?
For some of you - you are insulted by now - "How dare he treat this issue in such a moronic, outdated fashion?" - Well....... perhaps you haven't been paying attention to me over the last year, but I challenge EVERYTHING. And if that is an issue for you, please surf away now.
The issue of sero-discordance is one that is negotiated every day for those people who are engaging in safe sex. I have several people I know who are positive and for them - "going up for coffee" - after a date is a two-tier conversation. "Yes I would love to." "I am positive, is that an issue?"
For many negative men it is an issue. Not because these people are bad people, but simply because negative people have "avoided" the virus (as much as they can CONCIOUSLY know) but now the virus is front and center.
For many, it is the VISIBILITY or the virus becomes something that they can not ignore. NOT the person........ the virus. And it comes down to a simple statement "I have remained negative to this point - how do I remain negative from now on............."
Well - it is quite simple - continue your safe sex practices.
That is it.
HIV - whilst a very dangerous virus once it is inside the body - is in reality a difficult virus to catch. There are many circumstances that must be in place. And they are.............
- Infection route - There has to be easy access for the virus. That access is known as "Micro Trauma". This is the everyday microscopic cuts and abrasions that we all get. When you brush your teeth - micro-trauma on your gums and cheeks. Pooing - micro-trauma on your sphincter. Blowjobs - micro-trauma on your lips. Fucking - LOTS of micro-trauma on your sphincter and the anal walls.'
- Viral Load - There has to be enough viral load for your immune system to be overwhelmed. Yes, it sounds strange - but there is a LIMIT before you get infected. NO - doctors can not tell us what it is. It seems to be different for everyone. Another reason why HIV is confusing us.
- Sexual Practice. Kissing and blowjobs - perfectly safe. There has only been ONE documented case of infection via semen ingestion through the mouth - and that was because the person concerned was an idiot who went looking for cum only two days after a wisdom tooth was removed. Really - so stupid I do not know where to begin.
- Safe Sex - if you practice safe sex - condoms with water based lube - the chance of infection is so small - the mathematics involved contain so many zeros it will blow your mind.
HAVING a positive partner is easy - having other PEOPLE knowing you have a poz partner may not necessarily be as easy. Why? Because as I have stated many, many times before......... most people do not have three functioning neurons firing in the same direction.
Sad - but true.
We like to think that we are all accepting and understanding. The reality is though, that not all people are. For many, the stigma is far more of an issue than the risk of infection. I have known many sero-discordant couples and indeed, we are talking couples who have been together since the 80's. Their primary issue has ALWAYS been the perceptions of others.
These people have lost friends, family access, and, in some cases, their jobs. Thankfully, these days at least, we have laws that protect positive people. But the real issue has always been how WE as the community at large, treat these people.
ALL of the poz friends I have had have NEVER wanted their status front and center, ONLY because it is a medical issue and NOT an issue of personality.
For me - my Asthma has never been something that I have wanted to label me as. My depression on the other hand HAS been something that defines me. This is because of the impact that it can have on my every day life. It can affect my job, my relationship, my ability to take care of myself, and - in extreme cases - even my ability to properly toilet. That may sound gross - but it is the reality.
The reality of positive people includes medication regimes - side effects - periodic testing - viral loads - nutritional regimens - counselling - and 24/7 vigilance when it comes to a duty of care to others.
I can not POSSIBLY begin to imagine how life is like for a poz person - my only contribution can be to treat them as a person. NOT a poz person, but a person. Yes, I will be cognizant and aware of their issues - but I will not allow it to affect how *I* interact with them.
After all - I must ask myself - "Am I negative towards positives? Or am I feeding a negative perception?"
Ask yourself that.
That's my 2 cents worth - and I just spent it.