Ten things HIV positive guys want negative guys to know

From Queerty

Mark S. King has a blog: MyFabulousDisease.com

Mark S. King has a blog:
MyFabulousDisease.com

By Mark S. King
When Donald Sterling dissed Magic Johnson for being promiscuous and unworthy, it was nothing new for people

living with HIV. They’ve heard it all over the years. A lot of those misconceptions persist today, even (or maybe especially) among gay men. Our attitudes can be hurtful, stigmatizing, and even contradictory. Let’s give HIV-positive gay men the chance to set the record straight, and break down ten things they would like the rest of us to know. This list may not represent the views of every positive guy, but they definitely echo many of their most common frustrations.

  1. Not all positive guys are barebacking drug addicts

It’s probably human nature to try and find fault in the actions of those becoming infected. If we see them as extremists it helps the rest of us feel more secure in our own choices. And yet the truth is that the majority of new infections occur within “primary relationships,” such as a lover or boyfriend, and usually because one partner did not know he was infected and then transmitted HIV to his partner. That’s why there’s such intense focus on getting tested and doing it regularly. New infections are typically not the result of some insane night at a meth-fueled sex party or a boozy night at the baths. It happens, sure, but that doesn’t make good ol’ fashioned sex any safer. Leather or lace, it’s all the same to HIV.

  1. Living with HIV is not a toxic horror show of medications

Yes, HIV usually requires medications and doctor visits. So does every chronic condition. With so many options for HIV drug therapies, side effects have been reduced drastically and ones in development will reduce them even further. Poz guys are not weeping every morning as they chug down pills with their morning coffee.

  1. HIV infection does not automatically turn guys into dangerous liars

One of the most unfortunate misconceptions about positive guys is that they outright lie about their status just to get laid, or worse, are on a mission to infect others. Can we dial down the rhetoric about intentional transmission, please? What is true is that positive men often have trouble disclosing because of the very stigma that results from sensational rumors like this one. It is unfair to blame all positive men due to the reckless behavior of a relative few.

  1. “Drug and Disease Free, UB2″ is every bit as stupid and non-productive as it sounds

If you are using this dangerous phrase as a filter for potential sex partners, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. We know positive guys who are undetectable are not infecting their partners, so rejecting people based on their status can be more discriminatory than practical. Besides, labeling someone as damaged goods or unworthy sucks, and if you’ve been on the receiving end of this practice you know how demoralizing it can be.

“UB2″ also sets you up for a false sense of security, because as one British study suggests, the risk of sex with someone who thinks they are HIV negative is higher than sex with an undetectable positive person. This is because the viral activity in a newly positive person can be incredibly high, and he may not even know it.
 Of course, either way you have to know who you’re dealing with. So hold off on any risky moves until you know him well enough to be sure he’s negative (get tested together!) or be sure he’s taking his meds and is undetectable.

If you are compelled to demand your sex partner’s HIV status up front, consider a more respectful way to do it (“I tested negative as of this date. What about you?”). Asking if he’s “clean” or “disease free” just makes you look like a dick, especially since you don’t know what STDS you may have if you are sexually active at all.

  1. Our health and risk behaviors are up to us and no one else

After decades of scientific and treatment research focused on those with HIV, new options are now available to sexually active negative men, such as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). This advance puts negative guys in control of their own infection risks. Yes, there’s been some concern about the toxicity of Truvada, the PrEP medicine, although new reports suggest that these have been overstated. Your own health is always in your hands through the choices you make – and they have nothing to do with the status of your partner, whether known or unknown. The blame game has never benefitted anyone, and the playing field has always been level, whether we acknowledge it or not.

  1. Guys with HIV are not promiscuous… or have a rotten sex life… or no sex life

All of these are usually false, if you’re using the typical sex life of a single gay man as a barometer. We all have our moments. Sometimes our dance card is filled, sometimes there’s a drought, and sometimes the sex we have sucks, and not in a good way. And just like the rest of us, positive guys are getting their share and having satisfying, balls-to-the-wall sex when they’re lucky. Judging guys for the degree of action they are getting feels like an old, worn argument against all gay men that we could really do without. This is just another example of trying to distance ourselves from positive guys by judging them as different from ourselves. They’re really not. Some are prudes, some are sluts. After all, it only takes one time. And isn’t a slut just someone who has more sex that you do?

  1. How they got it and who gave it to them is none of your business

The details of someone else’s infection isn’t your personal soap opera or cautionary tale, no matter your good intentions. If poz guys feel like sharing it with you sometime, they will. Chances are they came to terms with it long ago and it’s probably not very interesting, anyway. They probably had sex and got HIV. The details are not yours for the asking.

  1. If you need an HIV educator, go find one

Having HIV doesn’t come with a master class in epidemiology and HIV transmission. Every person with HIV is not an expert or a prevention specialist – or an activist. They are simply living with the virus. And if they do find themselves having to educate you about the simplest facts of HIV prevention, don’t be surprised if they are the ones that decline to have sex. Nothing kills the mood like HIV 101. And most positive guys aren’t going to be put into the position of talking anyone into bed. They probably have hotter, more enlightened options on their smart phone anyway.

  1. Positive guys aren’t going anywhere soon

Recent studies suggest that someone becoming infected with HIV today in the United States has the same odds of living a normal life span as anyone else. Some research even suggests a life expectancy that is longer than average, because people with HIV see a physician more often and other health concerns can be identified and addressed sooner. They are also more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol, eat well and exercise regular, the keys to health and longevity.

Positive guys know this, and are living their lives with appreciation, joy, and an eye towards the future. There’s no reason for them to settle for second best. As infections continue and treatment improves, healthy HIV positive gay men are a growing population. It might be better to try and understand and respect them than hang on to outdated fears or biases.

10. Even more breakthroughs are coming

There is research underway that will continue to change the landscape and make life easier and less risky for both positive and negative. Rectal microbicides (lubes and douches that kill HIV on contact) are being tested. More medications to be used as PrEP are being developed, including injections that could offer protection from HIV infection for months rather than the regimen of a daily pill. Condoms are getting a makeover with new designs and sensitivity profiles. Before long, even modest risks of infection could be eliminated for those who take advantage of new technology. Treatments for HIV infections will become even less toxic and even more effective. All this progress isn’t only significant in terms of HIV transmission rates. It could help bridge a viral divide that has troubled our community for well over a generation.

Mark S. King produces the award winning video blog MyFabulousDisease.com about life as an HIV positive addict in recovery. He can be reached at Mark@marksking.com. This article was originally written for Queerty.com

Fighting stigma: Increasing infection rates among young gay men a cause for concern

Anthony Siegrist and Roy Gomez listen to Andrew Brandon of Family Health Centers of San Diego talk about STDs

Anthony Siegrist and Roy Gomez listen to Andrew Brandon of Family Health Centers of San Diego talk about STDs

From UT San Diego

by Paul Sisson

At a time of ever-increasing treatment options, and the promise of a cure on the horizon, HIV infection rates for gay men age 24 and younger have increased 132 percent from 2002 to 2011. The numbers, which recently appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, highlight an important challenge: Beating HIV is not just about better drugs. It’s also about altering cultural practices that are allowing it to spread.

Observers say an erosion of safe sex behavior, coupled with a stigma that reduces the social opportunities of people who are HIV-positive, has created an environment where many do not admit they have the disease or avoid getting tested. Peter Staley, an AIDS activist whose story was featured in the 2012 documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” has blogged often on what he calls “gay-on-gay shaming.” He said the situation feeds on itself. “All of the negative guys are walking around thinking they don’t know any positive guys. The silence feeds the stigma which feeds more silence,” Staley said.

Many gay men who survived the early days, when HIV had no treatment, are quick to say that a lack of fear of HIV is feeding the increase in infection rates. But younger men, like Michael Manacop of Hillcrest, who are in the middle of the quiet crisis, say it’s not that simple. “All my close friends, they’re still afraid of it. Some are too afraid of it to even get tested. They think it’s better to not know whether they’re HIV-positive or not,” he said.

Continue reading on UT San Diego.

Designer Mondo Guerra: “telling you my story will help you or those living around you to be careful about your health”

From the Advocate

Designer Mondo Guerra

Designer Mondo Guerra

By Mondo Guerra 

I have been living with HIV for 10 years, and what I have learned is this: having this virus is not easy. Living with a lifelong condition presents incredible challenges that not everyone sees. No one hears the difficult conversations you have to have with your partner, your family, or your doctor throughout the multiple appointments you must maintain for the rest of your life. I believe these moments that people don’t see make many misinterpret the reality of living with HIV.

When I look around me, I think the reason there has been such an increase of HIV infections among young gay men is that HIV is no longer viewed as a death sentence. While I am overjoyed at how far we have come since the early 1980s when the disease emerged, I fear the younger generation may no longer view HIV as something serious.

The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a major increase in the number of new infections among gay and bisexual men who are between the ages of 13 and 24 — a 132.5 percent increase between 2001 and 2011.

It is important to remember that one irresponsible or uninformed move can result in a lifelong condition. Not only do those with HIV have to live with the responsibility for their own health, as does everyone else, they must ensure they are asking the right questions, being safe, and staying responsible with their partner or partners. New treatment options make it possible to live an active life with the disease. But these treatment options can provide the younger generation with a false sense of security, as perhaps they are no longer fearful of what may happen if they act irresponsibly.

A lot of this confusion can be caused by the media. The conversations in the news surrounding HIV must be revamped to focus on the extensive steps needed to protect oneself as well as the difficulties of living with HIV. In addition, the younger generation should speak with those who have been living with HIV into their older years to get a firsthand account of how the disease affects people over the course of a lifetime. 

Continue reading on the Advocate.

Hispanics make up 21 % of new HIV infections despite being 16 % of population

From the Latin Post

The Center for Disease Control rolled out a new campaign to target Hispanic and Latino communities in addressing HIV/AIDS, citing a high number of new infections each year. Annually, the CDC reports, 500,000 people become infected each year in the U.S., and the Hispanic and Latino population — which is 16 percent of the nation’s population — constitutes 21 percent of new infections.

Introducing their new campaign, accompanied with two videos highlighting the information, the CDC said, “We all have a role to play. We can stop HIV one conversation at a time. Together, all of our conversations can help protect the health of our community and reduce the spread of HIV. ” The “one conversation at a time” tagline is the being promoted ahead of the National Latinos AIDS Awareness Day, which coincides with the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, on Oct. 15.

The CDC said that 1 in 36 Hispanic/Latino men and 1 in 106 Hispanic/Latina women will be diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lives. “Because there is no single Latino culture, the factors driving the epidemic in this population are as diverse as the communities themselves,” the CDC said.

Despite prevention methods and measures, the Latinos continue to bear a heavier burden than most when it comes to HIV/AIDS. Where Latinos live also affects the numbers of infected men specifically. HIV diagnosis in the Northeast is more than twice that of any other region in the country, mostly from male-to-male sexual contact and intravenous drug use. In the South, those with HIV are more likely to have been affected by male-to-male sexual contact, according to the CDC.

One of the campaign videos by the CDC titled Sin Verguenza, or “Without Shame,” starts off like a soap opera — introducing the main characters, each with a somber face as their names flash across the screen. It is intended to engage the audience as the 8-minute video begins with an introduction to the fictional Salazar family. Once over, one of the characters comes into the camera frame and asks the audience if they can identify which of the family members may have HIV/AIDS.

This is the first installment in the campaign, which promises more episodes. “It may not always be easy to talk about HIV/AIDS, but we must talk openly about it to protect our community. By learning the facts about HIV and talking about ways to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our community, we can help increase HIV awareness, decrease stigma and shame that are too often associated with HIV, and play a part in stopping HIV in the Hispanic/Latino community,” the CDC said.

 

Mental health and HIV

From AIDS.gov
By Guy Anthony

As someone who has been living with HIV since 2007 and was recently diagnosed as having bi-polar disorder, I understand what it’s like to operate from an emotional deficit.

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Guy Anthony

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem within their lifespan, and I happen to be one of them. There has been research that has demonstrated the heightened prevalence of depressive and anxiety disorders among Black gay men. Imagine the added layers of stress one is subjected to after an HIV-positive diagnosis. As AIDS.gov’s HIV Basics page on HIV and mental health explains, mental health refers to your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Your mental health affects how you think, feel, and act, and it also helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. That’s important for all people, including people living with HIV. When you have positive mental health, you are often able to function better in life and especially in relationships. You’re also often better able to decipher what may be hindering you from experiencing the types of relationships you deserve. When I began to realize that the emotionally fulfilling relationships I desired were escaping me because I hadn’t unpacked my “stuff” yet, I subsequently reached out for help, which allowed me to make healthier choices for myself in regards to love and who I allowed in my life intimately.

It was especially important for me to acknowledge that I needed help and that it was OK to seek it. I understood that I wasn’t equipped with the necessary tools to discern between what was good for me and what was just good to me. That’s the problem with having an unhealthy perception of your reality; you make decisions that rival your best judgment. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been surprisingly empowering to realize that neither HIV nor mental illness defines me. I define them both by reclaiming my narrative and putting a face to the disease and illness that has plagued my community for decades. Today, I want you to ask yourself the hard questions: Do I honestly feel good about myself and do I feel good about the decisions I’ve made? If you answer no to either of these, I challenge you to do something about it!

Visit the HIV/AIDS Basics page for more information on Mental Health and HIV.

‘A Day With HIV 2014′ addresses HIV stigma

logoFrom the Huffington Post

HIV stigma needs to be a thing of the past, and there’s an awesome way you can help change public perception.

For the fifth year in a row, Positively Aware and TPAN are sponsoring “A Day with HIV,” an HIV photo campaign. The initiative invites people from all around the world to take and submit a photo from their life at some point during the day on Sept. 9 in order to raise awareness about what it means to live in a world with HIV.

“A Day With HIV” provides a unique opportunity for individuals to make an impact through visual storytelling and contributing to breaking down stigma surrounding HIV.

This year, in an effort to extend its “A Day With HIV” virtual photo sharing initiative, Positively Aware and TPAN are working in partnership with Let’s Stop HIV Together, an HIV awareness and anti-stigma effort of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With parallel goals aimed at raising general HIV awareness and addressing the often-associated stigma, it was really a natural fit for these two campaigns to join forces,” Jeff Berry, Editor of Positively Aware, said in a statement. “By coming together, we are building an even larger community of support and ensuring that we reach each and every corner of society, particularly those people who may not have otherwise experienced the power of the virtual campaign.”

For more information on where to submit your pictures head here. Participants are encouraged to take their photo on Sept. 9 and submit it to Positively Aware by Sept. 12.

Check out a slideshow of images from last year’s “A Day With HIV” on the Huffington Post.

Hornet Gay Social Network launches ap to locate HIV testing and services

hornetFrom the Washington Blade

The Hornet Gay Social Network has launched a feature that will help users locate HIV testing services and learn more about PrEP and other topics, the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reports. The app’s creators have partnered with aids.gov to power the feature, which was used about 30,000 times its first day, the article said. Hornet is a gay-owned location-based dating and social network.

The gay community has made progress in reducing HIV infection rates, but new trends among young people show that HIV rates are increasing once again, 132.5 percent from 2001-2011—a much higher increase than older gay men and a significant contrast with the drop among the general population. Studies show that public concern about HIV has decreased, yet the number of people living with HIV in the U.S. exceeds 1.1 million and continues to increase, the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News article said.

In a news release, Hornet said that in order to end the epidemic, help is needed to promote HIV services in ways that are far-reaching and lasting. Traditional advertising does not reach all users in need of health services. Sophisticated geo-specific resources are powerful. Within the Hornet app, social network members can use the tool to find the 10 closest HIV locations. The widget is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is available for free, the article said.