Monday, February 28, 2005

What Comes Around

If there is an HIV superstrain running around, I hope we won't repeat the awful mistakes of the 1980s. Unfortunately, it looks to me like we might. I know it's hard to accept, but I don't see anyway around the harshest of truths. If you have unprotected sex often (whoopee!), sometime in the next five to seven years you are going to seroconvert. It might be with some irredeemable asshole who knows he's poz but cares less about gay life than the ku klux klan. Or it could just as easily be with someone who, like you, is having unprotected sex and seroconverted within the past year or so and doesn't know it yet. If he's having unsafe sex with you, he's doing it with other guys, so he's in play as far as HIV is concerned.

And it doesn't have to be a superstrain to fuck you up. The only difference between the superstrain and plain old garden variety HIV that's killed 20 million people is the warp factor--you're gonna die horribly one way or the other. Old skool HIV kills at sublight speed (knocked out of warp by protease inhibitors) and the new killer on the block does the nasty at warp factor 12.

It doesn't look like we're going to make the mistake of just ignoring the latest threat to our lives. But it looks like we might fall into the trap of wishful thinking that killed so many gay people. Wishing that all those infected superstrain carriers would just take their mutant HIV johnsons and super-infected booties and go commit mass hari kari somewhere so we can get back to barebacking in peace. That collective fantasy is a blueprint for widespread superinfection if I ever heard one.

I'm not an expert in safe sex psychology, but I know what I went through in finally committing to safe sex forever. I knew HIV was out there waiting to kill me, but I wanted to have my cake and Steve's cake too. So I let my johnson do the thinking. I have a very imaginative johnson. It kept coming up with preposterous ideas to rationalize the risk of unsafe sex. First, there was the theory that 9 out of 10 people were naturally immune to HIV. Then there was the crackpot theory that if you megadosed on vitamin C, you couldn't get AIDS. Then there was the 'life isn't worth living without unprotected sex' bullshit. Then there was the co-factor bullshit. According to that theory, HIV was harmless unless your system was totally worn down from drinking, poppers, coke, pot and ectasy. So just stop drinking and fuck yourself silly, condom and worry free. Doctors bagged that theory around 1987.

There was the non-oxynol 9 bullshit. According to this theory, you could use non-oxynol 9 as a lubricant when you screwed and you couldn't catch HIV. How did I know this? The bartender at the Headless Horseman told me so - I guess he was just moonlighting from his job as head of the National Science Academy. I staked my life on non-oxynol - all I got was a rash. A year later, the manufacturer of non-oxynol 9 publicly stated that their spermicide had no effect at all on HIV.

Then there was the top-bottom dichotomy - only bottoms get AIDS, tops are safe. I read the top-bottom bullshit in an official medical pamphlet in 1983. The author said tops were safe -- except HIV hadn't even been discovered yet so he didn't know what he was talking about. That pamphlet was the Tonkin Gulf resolution of the AIDS epidemic. The top-bottom bullshit was a total disaster. It meant that tops became more aggressive because they thought they didn't have to worry. It also meant that bottoms could delude themselves that their big strong top daddy didn't have 'it'. As if there was any such thing as an exclusive top--what a load!

Safe sex psychology is a funny thing. But what do you expect when you think with your johnson? I staked my life on the top-bottom bullshit for two years, but somewhere in the back of my brain I wasn't so sure about it. So I kept reading, hoping someone would clear up my confusion. I wanted someone to tell me conclusively that, yes, as a topman you can get AIDS. No one wanted to declare that 'plain and simple' as George Bush would say. In 1986, I read an official statement: though the bottom was in greater danger, the top was at 'significant risk'. What exactly did 'significant risk' mean?

Finally I figured it out myself. The 'receiving partner' in gay sexual intercourse was playing Russian Roulette with three bullets in the gun, while the 'inserting partner' was playing Russian Roulette with only one bullet, hence less but still significant risk. Playing Russian Roulette with one bullet may be technically less crazy than with three bullets, but it's still crazy. I don't think that's a material distinction, and there was no good reason to create confusion over the 'relative risk' of topping.

Finally, after all the testosterone-driven fog about co-factors, vitamin C, magical HIV-resistant spermicides and top-bottom dichotomies had cleared away, I committed to safe sex forever.

But as I witnessed other gay guys likewise thinking with their johnsons, I heard other dumb theories on sexual risk. There was the 'only older guys have HIV' theory. That's been shot to hell. Then, 'only black people have HIV, white guys are safe.' So much for that one. Then there was the post-9/11 theory: we're going to die in a plutonium flash anyway, so why worry about AIDS?

Our johnsons are so imaginative. There seems to be no end to the 'lines' we tell ourselves, just like the pick-up lines we use to get in each other's pants. We're all gay players and our raps our strong, but we're just playing ourselves into the graveyard. The latest in a string of risk theories is the negative-positive delusion. If I only sleep with negative guys, I don't have to worry about using a condom. That's just a pipe dream cooked up by your sex hormones. I guarantee you, if you follow that strategy, you will seroconvert in the next five to seven years.

That's because the virus is going to infiltrate the negative population and spread like wildfire. After all these years, its just ungodly dumb to think otherwise. We're gay, we go at it like wildfire, and if HIV finds a way into your extended fuckcircle, it will spread. Like wildfire.

That's why I'm wary of the new hysteria about AIDS-carrying monsters knowingly infecting negative guys. Poz guys doing that are absolute bastards, and yes, they are lower than an Episcopal child molester. But focusing on AIDS monsters can perpetuate the negative-positive delusion and make it psychologically impossible for negative guys to commit to safe sex. As long as there's a dumb theory about HIV floating around, your johnson is going to believe it. It's tempting to think that if only all those AIDS carriers would just go live on a barge in the middle of the ocean, you could just fuck yourself silly, condom and worry free. It's so tempting that the delusion has to be squashed before it kills you. So I will repeat: If you have unprotected sex with multiple guys you think are HIV negative, you will seroconvert in the next five to seven years.

So you have to live with safe sex forever. That takes some imagination and a long, hard, clear look under the hood at what makes you tick sexually. But it is possible and it's really not that bad. And you have to practice putting on condoms in private until you get the hang of it. More later.

1 Comments:

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