What Does It Mean to Be HIV-Positive Today?

Can we talk about HIV when health educators are out of touch with reality? Two recent articles graphically illustrated this, one in the Advocate and the other by a health educator.

The two articles present divergent views: One discusses the importance of openly discussing HIV status and med compliance, while the second regurgitates the politically correct message of "safe sex only." Unfortunately, the second message resonates from gay health centers and has been woefully ineffective in reducing HIV infections for over 12 years. It is as if they thought gay men actively engage in behaviors because we want to become HIV-positive. Basically, nothing could be further from the truth. What is generally called "reckless behavior" is hormone-driven sex.

Online ads for bareback sex among only "negative" men are becoming more and more common. In fact, on one exclusively bareback website, the incidence of "negative" seeking "negative" partners continues to increase; this site also boasts that their bareback sex parties are now in 19 cities across the U.S. every month. Who is addressing the serosorting of "negative" men with other "negative" men for bareback sex? This critical discussion needs to occur, because 61 percent of men who thought they had a risk reduction plan for avoiding HIV test positive! And for 12 years, new HIV infections have continued to occur at the rate of 50,000 per year.

The HIV epidemic is real. The lack of education and dialogue is appalling. Too many health professionals ignore educating those who last tested negative on any valid risk reduction strategies. The reality is that more and more gay men have a false sense of security.

It is time for dialogue. It is time to educate. And most importantly, it is time to initiate strategies that will significantly reduce HIV infections, not only in the gay community but in the U.S. as a whole, from 50,000 per year to 1 percent of that within five years.

So what does it mean to be HIV-positive today? It means that gay men's health agencies fail to recognize who are the responsible individuals for spreading HIV. The onus remains on those who are HIV-positive and ignores responsibility to educate HIV-negative men on valid risk reduction strategies.