"What do you call a gay guy who got infected in the '80s? A victim. What do you call a gay guy who gets infected in 2010? An idiot." Well put by a reader to my gay dating column, but way off the mark.
According to the CDC, new HIV infection rates among gay men keep climbing and this year is no exception. I understand the level of anger a lot of gay guys have about this sobering trend. I've just had two 20-something friends turn HIV positive. Some in our inner circle went ballistic with anger. "Why didn't they use condoms?" seethed one friend. "It's not like they don't how to protect themselves -- they CHOSE not to. And if that's the case don't they deserve what they got?"
Well, no. True, if people were any more stupid about safe sex we'd have to water them twice a week, but the anger has no logic. When emergency workers pull dead or injured people out of car crashes do they blame the victims for not wearing seat belts? Do they refuse to help them?
The standard reasons experts give about rising infections center around "Plague Fatigue" and misplaced "AIDS Optimism" (believing that HIV is manageable and a cure is just around the corner), but there's also a few other reasons:
* Condoms smell awful and feel worse. You know the few times you used a condom and it felt good? It's because it broke.
* Condoms give you a flat tire. Often, putting on a condom makes you go as flaccid as Sean Hayes at a Playboy shoot. You take it off and... SCHWING! You're ready to rock.
* Confusion about condom use. Once, I was advising a rather dim woman who kept getting pregnant. I showed her how to use condoms by unrolling them over a broomstick. "Ahh," the woman brightened up. A few months later the woman's pregnant again. I said, "Didn't you use the condoms?" She says, "Yes, every day I unrolled it over the broomstick before we made love." Trust me, some gay guys have the same room-temperature IQ as this woman.
* "Heat of the moment" lapses. Studies show if you "Date Upwards" (go home with somebody way out of your league) and they don't want to use condoms you're far less likely to insist on them. Logic says, "Use condoms, you idiot!" but Central Command, Underwear Division says, "Screw the condoms! He's so hot I'd bareback him in front of my grandmother!"
* Alcohol and Drugs. Your pants won't be the only thing around your ankles if you get wasted; so will your judgment.
* The submissive dilemma. If giving yourself over to bigger, more powerful men is part of your erotic trigger, and he doesn't want to use condoms, you're in a pickle. Submissives are supposed to take orders, not give them.
* Stress and Depression. If you don't care whether you live or die, condoms are irrelevant.
* The Cute Factor. Guys assume that the young and beautiful aren't infected so they cast their condoms to the wind when they hook up with the flat-bellies.
Bottom Line: Anybody who gets HIV is a victim, even if their stupidity contributed to the infection. When friends suffer, they deserve compassion, not criticism.
Mike Alvear is the author of the gay dating bible, Meet The Hottie In The Corner -- The 21 Day Plan To Overcome Your Fear of Rejection, Master the Art of Icebreakers and Snag Guys You Never Thought You Could Get. Download it here: mikealvear.com.