Saturday, January 15, 2011

How Honest Should One Be About HIV Status

These are thoughts that came to me on reading an HIV positive friend's blog post for POZ magazine, about his affair with a guy who was HIV negative, about how frank to be, about the necessity of total honesty. He began by reflecting on telling truth to one's parents, as seen in an episode of Valerie c. 1981, where her son wanted a condom:

How old was Valerie's kid supposed to be? and presumably he didn't want the condom for receptive anal sex? and what teenager with anything to tell is totally frank with a parent? Truth in such cases is surely on a "need to know" basis (as when I went to my physician father with an STD).

I often wonder if I'd tell the truth to guys I lusted after, if I were HIV positive. (If they happened to ask. Or if they didn't - another question entirely.) I think I would tell them the truth, if they asked, if they didn't ask. I'm not at all sure. When guys tell me they are HIV positive, I say, "That just means we won't do things (i.e. unprotected anal) that I don't do any more anyway." I remember a handsome fellow in a bar in Munich in 1991 who told me he'd just been flirting with someone else, and the someone else walked away as if offended when he'd mentioned his being positive, not even saying something polite. I found that incomprehensible. And this was a sweet guy who didn't have to tell the truth.

But sometimes, in a casual flirtation leading to bed, neither of us brings it up. Which is hot, but also ... nervous-making. Do they not care? Do I not care? Do they not care what I think? Do they assume I'm the same status as themselves? It raises all sorts of questions later on that I prefer not to have raised, so I usually mention my status. But not always. It's very hard to set up rules on this sort of thing. It's more human to go by the situation. And the oral stats are ... imprecise. (And I've been doing it for a long time since the epidemic started.)

Ages ago, twenty years or so, I had a big fight at the NYC AIDS clinic where I'd gone for an annual HIV checkup. I'd admitted I didn't use condoms for oral sex. The testing guy was furious at me. We got briefly heated. But the kicker was the expression on his face when my results came back: Negative again. (and I was doing a lot of casual sex in those days, undoubtedly with many positive guys) He looked so defeated. I never went to that testing place again.

Defeated. But whose victory?

Hell (or, FML)

What would Hell be for me?

Being obliged to watch a very long movie (no refreshments, no intermissions, no potty breaks) of my life, my every move, my every moment, my every betîse, my every humiliation, working itself inexorably out. Not suffering the pains perhaps, but all the embarrassments and humiliations.

Around me - silence, darkness? Emptiness? or - would this be worse - more Hellish - if the darkness were filled with the rustles, the yawns, the coughs, the candy wrappers and slurps (even sounds of making out) of a vast anonymous audience? or would it be worse to know that audience, to have them be everyone I've ever known and cared for? I think that would be Dante-esque (without the terza rima.