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Calling all HIV Negative gay men: ‘This is your time’

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

This is directed to HIV negative gay men. Listen carefully. This is your time.

I’ve lived with HIV more than half my life, and people often praise me far more than I deserve, simply for surviving. They use words like brave and courageous.

You know what takes courage? Getting an HIV test every few months. You, waiting nervously while your most personal sexual choices are literally being tested, waiting to find out if you’ve been good – or if you’re going to pay for a single lapse in judgment by testing positive, when the look on the faces of your friends will say you should have known better.

I have no idea what that must be like. I took the test over 25 years ago. The positive result was traumatic, no doubt about it, and I soldiered on during some awfully frightening times. But I have a significant psychological advantage over my HIV negative friends: I only took that damn test once.

During all these years, I’ve acted irresponsibly at times or taken chances I hadn’t intended. But there has been no further judgment from a blood test. That reckoning was faced long ago.

But you – whether you have been sexually active for a year or a decade – have very likely faced some tough choices and behaved wisely. You keep doing the right thing.

This is your time. The word courageous is for you.

If you don’t define yourself, in large part, by the fact you are HIV negative, start now. It is your accomplishment. It says you are taking care. And it says you are eligible to participate in vaccine trials or mentor someone else trying to remain negative.

vaccineThere is ongoing research now that is focused on HIV negative men like you. Exciting new studies are investigating drugs to prevent infection after something risky has occurred, while other studies have shown promise for a drug regimen that might block infection before it happens.

And right now there are vaccine trials waiting for men like you to help find the ultimate weapon against HIV. They need volunteers, badly.

This is your time. This research is about you. This call to action is for you.

I can already hear the rumblings on both sides of the viral divide. People are so quick to take offense, so afraid of being misunderstood, of being labeled or blamed or ostracized.

My fellow positive brothers are so bruised by stigma that it can be hard for them to lift you up. They’ve been rejected by you. They don’t like hearing “maybe we should just be friends” and they don’t like seeing “UB2” in your online profile. They might be positive as a result of one heated mistake, or due to sexual assault, or by trusting (or loving) the wrong person — and they deeply resent feeling judged.

Maybe they think your negative status is the result of pure luck, or that you don’t like anal intercourse, or you’re lying.

AIDS Walk - CopyMeanwhile, your sacrifices go unrecognized. You’ve seen some positive friends take early disability, hang out at the gym and get help with the rent. They receive so much support and empathy that it must feel like there isn’t much left for you. Every year we all swarm the streets for the AIDS Walk, and you can’t help but wonder if your parade will ever arrive.

These grievances and resentments give me a headache. It doesn’t matter much to me who is most injured. How infinite is our compassion for one another? I don’t care anymore who gets what. What matters most is who does what.

This is your time. This truce, this call to a higher purpose, is for you.

You are fully human, like everyone else, my friend. You are courageous, afraid, selfish and compassionate. You make difficult choices and you make mistakes. And we need you so very badly.

Thank God for you. This is your time.

(This piece was written as part of the GA Voice commemoration of 30 years of HIV/AIDS. I was honored to contribute to their special issue. — Mark)

HobbesIf you haven’t caught up with the blog from gay theologian the Rev. Chris Glaser, his thoughtful posting about the rapture, and what it means to be left behind, is a great introduction.

Chris has a way of bringing Christian teachings back to their essential meanings (in other words, without the hateful language and intent we have come to expect from fundamentalists). As a child he didn’t want to go to hell, but he was afraid of the rapture because of his fear of heights. And who in their right mind would leave this poor doggie behind?

jelloSadly, as the lives of thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS hang in the balance, our federal government has funded numerous “pet projects” — including such programs as Jell-O wrestling at the South Pole, testing shrimp’s exercise ability on a treadmill and a laundry-folding robot, all funded by the National Science Foundation.

These facts, from the ADAP Advocacy Association’s (aaa+) newest blog posting, paint a dire picture of our national healthcare priorities.

The blog also begs the question, “Where is the leadership?” I would urge urge you follow aaa+ and stay tuned for ways in which you can advocate to solve this national disgrace.

A New York Times article on the scientific history of AIDS does a great job of showing how naive researchers were in the beginning of the epidemic (a 1981 New England Journal of Medicine editorial didn’t even allow for the existence of a new microbe), but, more importantly, it highlights the ways in which AIDS activism and research has rewarded all of mankind with swifter drug approval and better patient advocacy:

“The relative speed with which the therapies were developed owes much to the efforts of cadres of activists who demanded that the Food and Drug Administration loosen the rules for clinical trials and speed its drug approval process. Efforts to develop anti-H.I.V. drugs have paid handsome dividends by leading to development of other drugs to treat other viral infections, like the liver diseases hepatitis B and C and certain types of herpes viruses. Also, AIDS advocacy has spurred leaders of campaigns against breast cancer and other diseases to adopt similar strategies.”

As always, my friends, please be well. And I hope you will “share” this posting with your friends and colleagues.

Here’s to a wonderful summer!

© Mark S. King.
For more by Mark S. King, click here, and visit his blog My Fabulous Disease.
Opinions and advice expressed in our Views & Voices columns represent the author's own views and not necessarily those of LGBTQ Nation. We welcome opposing views and diverse perspectives. To submit a article, column or video, contact us here. Due to the volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee publication.

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8 more reader comments:

  1. I find quite interesting this call for us to be tested, when tests find out about one positive per several thousands of negatives… I’m being tested once a year when I see my physician for blood pressure and other light routines though I don’t find myself courageous for doing so, it’s common sense.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 9:00pm
  2. Mhhmm, same for everyone else…you should be tested for STD’s and HIV. I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when waiting for the results of my HIV test after realizing that it wasn’t a good idea to have unprotected sex multiple times with a junkie that shares needles. But yeah, we all make mistakes….some much, much dumber than others…. but waiting for those results can be nerve wracking. Nevertheless, it is important for everyone to get tested.

    Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 9:23pm
  3. I do not get tested, because I do not sleep around… what is the point. Just because I am gay does not mean I am some sort of slut, my partner and I are commited to one another and neither of us have hiv. So there is no point for us to get tested.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 7:07am
  4. @Joshua Laird, I hear ya. Since these organizations usually are in the middle of the ghetto, they seem to think that we all have the same sexual life as they do in that ghetto (and I don’t even believe that they ALL have that same sexual life even in the ghetto). Yes to a good education about the risks and no to the paranoia. HIV/AIDS is not a GAY disease and I won’t spend my life in fear of it for I don’t have unprotected sex with anybody.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 9:44am
  5. Dear Mark, I find it offensive to ask gay men to take or use non-specific “antibody test(s)” often referred to as “HIV Tests” to embark on some meaningless journey into the HIV Paradigm that always results in Iatrogenic harm and death.

    You may “believe in” the status quo and assume that you have “HIV” where questioning your own antibody (prognosis)has never been done.

    I see that some of your viewers have have a sour taste at this “idea” of yours on the basis of what defines gay men and not even the so called tests themselves have been addressed. Gay men feel they must identify with “HIV” but never explain what it means to be “HIV negative” or “HIV Positive” whatever it actually means…

    I have a testimonial too and it must account for something especially in the gay community where the religous phenomena of surrogate lab markers and hyped up test results is the mantra of the day. I stand by the GBLT 1000% and cannot allow this machine to never be exposed. GBLT and Africa is part of a modern day holocaust and The CDC, Robert Gallo, and The Gay Industry are guilty of some serious sins.

    I’d hope with a clear conscience that you would just listen for once. There is no tests for “HIV” and it’s up to you to learn the truth and then shout it on the roof top.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 1:01pm
  6. I know you said you’re in a committed relationship, but I dislike the implication that only sluts get STDs. People can get an STD from just one instance of unprotected sex.

    And as long as you’re with a consenting partner, using protection and not disturbing a monogamous relationship, there’s nothing wrong with being a “slut.”

    Posted on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 1:39pm
  7. @Jennifer, I agree with your point. It’s not about any kind of moral values but about protecting our lives with the right equipment.

    Posted on Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 9:22pm
  8. As they say, better safe (condom) than sorry (HIV+ test)

    Posted on Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 9:23pm