The Political and Legal Power of Identity: Coming Out as HIV-Positive

There is reason to believe that coming out as HIV-positive would be a great boon to acceptance of HIV-positive Americans. In addition to all the benefits discussed above — concretizing discrimination, turning esoteric concepts into real world examples — coming out as HIV-positive is necessary for any otherwise silent or hidden group to stand for its rights. Making coming out an essential part of a civil rights strategy, then, has social and political benefits.

If the example of the gay community is any indication, there are also substantial legal benefits. As much as we would like coming out to be the stuff of slow news days, the truth is that as long as conservatives insist on making our sexual orientation a basis of their hatred and discrimination, our coming out is a political act, entitled to protection under the First Amendment. 

Some members of the HIV-positive community challenge the comparison to the gay community. Being HIV positive is, if anything, more stigmatized than being gay and it always has. They argue it is still socially acceptable to ostracize people who are HIV-positive, whereas it is increasingly the stuff of the fringe to hate people just for being gay. They also argue that there is too little support for the HIV-positive community among the rest of the population.

Maybe that's true, but then it's only a matter of degree. Under this theory, there is nothing different about coming out as gay and coming out as HIV-positive other than the fact that, as gay persons, we have been coming out for longer. We have the benefit of 30 years of being out and proud during which time, the American people not only got used to us, but also started actively supporting our quest for equality.

CambaBut, there is one way in which coming out as HIV-positive is significantly more problematic than coming out as gay. And, it is a product of the HIV/AIDS awareness movement itself. Public health organizations focusing on HIV/AIDS in America have recently been focusing on two goals: eliminating the stigma associated with being HIV positive and reducing infection rates among young men in the gay and other minority communities. Achieving these goals often requires us to educate the greater population about HIV transmission and amazing new medications that make living and thriving with HIV a long-term reality. At the same time, we have to target susceptible communities with reminders that HIV is still a burden. When that message is filtered through a media focused on sound bites and allergic to nuance, it could sound like a mixed message: HIV is bad, but not so bad that you should stigmatize those who have it. That's a delicate balance to maintain. In a world where we still have to persude young gay men that HIV is still something they should try to avoid, coming out as HIV positive will always be difficult.

At a minimum it is incumbent upon us — the gay community, lesbians, heterosexual allies — to support our brothers and sisters to make it easier to come out as HIV-positive. Just like we support the younger generation's desire to be out and proud in schools, we should support the similar desire of those who happen to be HIV-positive. Here are a few simple steps we can all take to do that:

1. End the stigma. The level of disrespect some members of the gay community have for members of the HIV-positive community is staggeringly upsetting. When I was in San Francisco last year, I conducted an informal (admittedly unscientific) survey of passersby in the Castro, asking them if an employer should be allowed to fire someone simply for having HIV. Ninety-seven percent of respondents — 319 out of 329 — said either "no" or "of course not" or some derivation thereof, with the few contrarians saying something about health care costs for small businesses. Yet, more than 60 respondents insisted on saying, unsolicited, that they were not HIV-positive. This should sound familiar: "I'm totally straight, but we shouldn't hit gay people." That helps no one. It suggests that we accept that being HIV positive is somehow something to be dismissed or denied.

2. Learn your history. An increasingly cavalier attitude toward unprotected sex is just one manifestation of the younger generation of gay men failing to appreciate what the generation(s) before us went through. Survive a Plague is an informative and well constructed documentary that teaches us about a particularly meaningful (and devastating) part of gay American history. The more younger gay persons understand where they came from, the more likely they will appreciate their indelible connection to their HIV-positive comrades. The team responsible for How to Survive should also make more of an effort to screen the film for university students and straight allies rather than preach to the choir.

3. Get tested. The best way to fight HIV stigma is to stop hiding. The only way we can do that is to get tested. Of the 1.1 million Americans estimated to have HIV, more than 20 percent don't know it. This kind of willful blindness is risky to sexual partners and to the community as a whole. 

4. Invest in the community. As my friend James Loduca, Vice President of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (the country's largest AIDS services organization), told me, "An awareness day is great — in fact, I'd like 365 of them. You see, HIV stigma and shame are powerful foes, and it's going to take a lot more than awareness to overcome them once and for all. We must invest heavily in programs that increase self-esteem, community connectedness and resilience while reducing shame about STIs, substance use and mental illness." An awareness day cannot, without more, encourage more people with HIV to come out. Awareness is a small part of the calculus; you are a bigger part.

What else do you think we can do to make it easier for our friends in the HIV-positive community to come out?

***

Ari Ezra Waldman teaches at Brooklyn Law School and is concurrently getting his PhD at Columbia University in New York City. He is a 2002 graduate of Harvard College and a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School. His research focuses on technology, privacy, speech, and gay rights. Ari will be writing weekly posts on law and various LGBT issues.

Comments

  1. Mark says

    I’m sorry, but the best way to avoid HIV is to be safe, not to be tested. Of course, if you have multiple sex partners, you should get tested even if you are being “safe” (i.e. using condoms), but getting tested if you’re not using condoms will do almost nothing to avoid HIV.

    I think we should work to decrease HIV stigma, but like lung cancer and diabetes, HIV is entirely avoidable if you make smart choices and are responsible for your own body. The most important thing we can do is work to dramatically decrease the instances of HIV, and despite what people say, ending stigma won’t do that (HIV rates are rising among gay men after falling and then remaining steady for years) and don’t tell me that that’s because of increased stigma.

  2. Secrets81 says

    @Sister I certainly hope your ‘haters’ comment isn’t directed at Mark’s comment because he’s 100% correct. Anyone who disagrees is a complete naive moron.

    I have no sympathy for anyone who contracts HIV these days via irresponsible unprotected sex. You brought it on yourself, deal with it!

  3. Asher says

    @Mark and @Secrets81, you are yet two more reminders of why I’ll be staying in the closet about my HIV status. You are all judgment and no compassion. I guess neither of you has ever made a mistake in your life?

  4. steve says

    I realize that HIV is avoidable nowadays…but when you have a culture that celebrities the abuse of alcohol…mistakes are bound to happen when people’s inhibitions and reasoning skills are lowered. I imagine the statistics for people getting DUI’s and contracting HIV are similar. I personally think it should be a law that gay night clubs are required to distribute condoms or have condom dispensing machines available on site. (not to mention lube). I don’t know, everyone makes mistakes…and HIV is just one of those mistakes that is much less forgiving than others. I’d be curious to know the statistics between alcohol use and contraction of HIV.

  5. oliver says

    @Asher, Mark and Secrets81 are a couple of idiots. The common cold is completely avoidable…just don’t every leave your house and you won’t get one. Lung Cancer, not so.
    Ditto HIV.

  6. Matt says

    When you destigmatize something, you get more of it.

    “The best way to fight HIV stigma is to stop hiding.”

    The best way to fight HIV is to stop having unsafe sex. But increasingly even that message is controversial or is seen as asking too much of people.

    No wonder 20% of American gay men are infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

    This whole post is mindboggling. It doesn’t surprise me that barebacking is so rampant these days, that such sizable percentages of gay men in numerous surveys say they do it. It doesn’t surprise me that HIV rates are rising again among gay men. We are apparently making a collective decision to excuse ourselves from *any* kind of responsibility for the sexual decisions we make, and instead are deciding to affirm the consequences of those decisions as something to be proud of.

  7. Matt says

    These pieces never mention the fact that we are infecting each other with HIV. That is, we aren’t just victims of infection, we are the perpetrators.

    Every new HIV infection is the result of someone, already infected, who infects someone new. It may not be done deliberately, but if you don’t know your status, you are putting someone else at risk when you have sex with them.

    This piece never explains how fighting the stigma of HIV will reduce HIV infections. But I suspect that’s not the point. The point is that apparently everybody has to be affirmed by others for everything. No one ought to ever feel bad about themselves, ever. And since most of the people who work in AIDS and HIV service organizations are already positive, what interest do they have in reducing infections? It makes a selfish kind of sense for them to instead focus on reducing the stigma of being HIV positive, even though when you destigmatize something, you get more of it.

    I feel bad for all the young gay kids out there who endure homophobic abuse and bullying only to come out and enter a community that is more interested in affirming and celebrating every kind of sexually dangerous activity than is interested in actually keeping people healthy.

  8. steve says

    I think HIV among gay men is probably a cultural problem surrounding the abuse of alcohol. I think that gay bars and nightclubs are profiting off of getting gay men drunk while not necessarily providing safety measures for their clientele. Plus, perhaps there needs to be more alternatives to bars where gay men can meet eachother? I don’t know. I would hope that as a gay men come out earlier and have healthier self-esteem that the need to binge-drink will lower accordingly. I would like to see surveys on how many gay men contract HIV while they are drunk and/or high.

  9. DB says

    Probably the most important approach we can take to end the pandemic is to better enforce laws punishing those who infect people with HIV. Any person who has HIV or an unknown HIV status should be criminally liable if he or she has vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom, has intercourse without telling his partner his status, or infects a partner with HIV. If any HIV-positive person who violated these laws was imprisoned for life in solitary confinement, then we could eliminate the HIV pandemic.

  10. David Hearne says

    Matt – I am given to believe that people are less careful or deliberately careless because they now view HIV as something you take drugs for rather than a terminal illness.

    When I was misdiagnosed with “gay cancer” thirty years ago, they said I would die in a matter of months. That was terrifying. These days death comes slowly and young people still can’t imagine themselves at 50 or 60 so they don’t experience the kind of fear I did.

  11. Matt says

    @ David Hearne:

    “I am given to believe that people are less careful or deliberately careless because they now view HIV as something you take drugs for rather than a terminal illness.”

    Sure, I agree. That’s a part of it. But it suggests that “re-stigmatizing” HIV, not destigmatizing it, might help reduce new infections.

    If we don’t want to stigmatize HIV, then we need to stigmatize unsafe sex. But between gay pornographers and aficionados pushing barebacking, to the recreational drug culture, to the “I should be able to do whatever the hell I want sexually and if you disagree you are exactly the same as Focus on the Family” crowd, good luck with that. Some sizable minority of gay men want to be able to do what they want, and if it means infecting other gay men with a virus that they will have inside them for the rest of their life, too bad.

  12. says

    nobody gets HIV from being “promiscuous”

    sexual transmissions come from not using protection.

    you can be a promiscuous and always use condoms.

    you can be a vestal bloody virgin until you finally “give yourself to the right man” whom you naively neglect to use protection with and end up with HIV.

    and stop with the “they have no one to blame but themselves” bunk.

    lord awmighty. young Ryan White (google him if your memories are weak enough that you’ve forgotten him) had the integrity to insist that there’s no differentiation between who gets HIV, and how. there are no “guilty” and “innocent” victims of HIV – there are only HIV positive people.

  13. Derrick from Philly says

    “If any HIV-positive person who violated these laws was imprisoned for life in solitary confinement, then we could eliminate the HIV pandemic.”

    Wouldn’t you rather just send them to the guillotine? Just watch out for the splattering blood.

  14. Matt says

    Yeah, Little Kiwi, you *can* get HIV from one sex act with one person. But you’re a hell of a lot more likely to get it if, say, you use meth.

    There’s a reason you offer the example of Ryan White by name. HIV transmissions like the one that infected him are really rare, and nowadays are basically nonexistent. I would guess that he’s the ONLY person you can think of, off the top of your head, who got HIV through a blood transfusion. But 20% of gay men are infected with HIV, according to the CDC. 20%! Stop pretending that everyone’s equally at risk.

    If we could get the likelihood of gay men becoming infected with HIV down to only 3 times the likelihood of hemophiliacs being infected with it, that would be an awesome success!

  15. Matt says

    “young Ryan White (google him if your memories are weak enough that you’ve forgotten him) had the integrity to insist that there’s no differentiation between who gets HIV, and how. there are no “guilty” and “innocent” victims of HIV – there are only HIV positive people.”

    Every guy looking for bareback sex on grindr or craigslist right now is Ryan White. Every guy who infects someone else with HIV because he doesn’t care about getting tested and can’t be bothered to wear a condom is Ryan White. We are all Ryan White. I see now! How did I ever fail to understand that?

  16. says

    meth? what on earth are you talking about?

    you can also be *promiscuous and not only always use condoms, but never use meth. ever. i’m living proof.

    *anyone else get the feeling that those who use “promiscuous” pejoratively are those folks who think their inability to ever get laid makes them noble?

  17. says

    and i mentioned Ryan White because unlike a lot of the anonymous cowards who troll here pathetically (that would be you, “Matt”) he refused to make distinctions between who “deserved” to have HIV and “who didn’t”

  18. Matt says

    Never mind all this garbage about destigmatizing HIV. It would be good to see some more *anger*. That’s what ACT-UP was about, and Larry Kramer, right? “Stay angry,” and all that? Here we are, a good 30 years after HIV arrived on the scene, and we are still infecting each other so often that 20% of us are HIV-positive. How about some anger at that total failure in prevention? HIV rates are increasing again after plateauing for years. How about some anger about that? How about some anger at those among us who are infecting others among us at the rate of 30,000 per year? How about some anger at ourselves for putting our own sexual desires ahead of each other’s health?

  19. Matt says

    Teens and guys who’ve just come out — are they even being told to use condoms anymore? I feel like more and more, the message from so-called “public health” folks is similar to the one here: the most we’ll ask you to do is get tested. We won’t even advocate wearing a condom! This site linked recently to a study in which some “public health” guy in Canada actually seemed to accept that it’s too much to ask the 47% of the grindr users in the study who bareback to wear condoms.

  20. chad says

    Matt you should go to a current ACT UP meeting. It’s unrecognizable from the Larry Kramer heydays. ALL you ever hear about is stigma. They’re practically encouraging people to get HIV with their attitude.

  21. Matt says

    @ Chad:

    I wonder what % of the people in ACT-UP have HIV?

    All the prevention and care orgs are full of HIV-positive people. I can understand why that is, but there’s a huge moral hazard/conflict of interest problem, too: all too often, these are people who have much more of a vested interest in lowering the stigma of having HIV (even though when you destigmatize something, you get more of it) instead of trying to prevent new infections. Even Dan Savage has noted that the surest way to get a job in an HIV treatment/prevention org is to be a recovering meth addict with HIV. If such people are serious about actually, you know, working to prevent new infections, which is why they are being paid, then that’s fine. But plenty of them are quite obviously not.

    As a community, we’ve decided that since HIV is no longer a death sentence (and thank God it’s not) we’d rather risk our own and each other’s health than make the hard choices that would be necessary to bring the infection rate down from 20% (1 in 5!) — and what’s more, what really grates, is that we pretend that self-serving, selfish attitude is actually noble and affirming (see the moral preening in this article). We’re so “nonjudgmental” and “accepting” that we apparently think we should affirm treating each other’s bodies like trash receptacles for a virus that has no cure.

  22. says

    how about you show you own towering integrity, Matt, and be the change you want to see?

    make a video where you share your thoughts and views, and put it in youtube, and provide the URL here for us all to share.

    when can we expect to see it?

  23. chad says

    couldn’t agree more Matt. I’ve said everything you’re saying ’til I was blue in the face. I’m gonna keep saying it too because it looks like a vaccine will come before a cure. All this kids who get HIV and just think they can take a pill a day until there’s a cure are in for a rude awakening. Who knows if the current meds will even be available 20 years from now much less any new and better ones. How many people do you think are working for a cure for polio now?

  24. Matt says

    @ Chad:

    couldn’t agree more Matt. I’ve said everything you’re saying ’til I was blue in the face. I’m gonna keep saying it too because it looks like a vaccine will come before a cure. All this kids who get HIV and just think they can take a pill a day until there’s a cure are in for a rude awakening. Who knows if the current meds will even be available 20 years from now much less any new and better ones. How many people do you think are working for a cure for polio now?

    Rotary International is doing good work to eradicate polio worldwide, though it’s Rotary International– who joins groups like that anymore? They may cease to exist before they finish their work.

    As for HIV in the gay community, what really scares me is the possibility that the HIV virus, which is very good at mutating, will become untreatable, kind of like the way we’re seeing antibiotic-resistant strains of other STDs out there. The approach we’re taking, “let’s just accept 20%-and-rising of American gay men will get HIV and even affirm it as a totally neutral thing” cannot continue. Evolution is real. Something else bad is going to come along if we keep risking our health and each other’s health like this.

  25. ReallyGay says

    I’m kind of tired of the HIV/AIDS industry, and that’s exactly what it is, an industry, corrupting everything it touches.

    The HIV/AIDS “non-profits” – they are funded by big pharma, pay often outrageous salaries, and accomplish exactly what ? If they’re so successful, why is it always a crisis, and why isn’t it time to do something different if what they’ve been doing isn’t working ?

    The “activists” that take money in various forms from pharmaceutical companies. Your paid vacations and perks don’t make you activists, it makes you whores.

    The politicians and wanna be media whores that try so hard to make HIV/AIDS relevant to everyone, when it isn’t relevant at all to anyone that simply takes personal responsibility.

    There is, and has been no “epidemic” of AIDS int he US. under 9k “AIDS deaths” a year isn’t an epidemic. And it’s not just not OK to count someone as an “AIDS death” when they suicided or got hit by a bus or never even tested positive. The degree of fraud and lies and corruption involved in HIV/AIDS propaganda is absolutely disgusting, and making excuses for it needs to stop.

    I don’t know anyone in my life that gives a crap about HIV/AIDS. It’s irrelevant. It’s not rocket science. We’ve known how to prevent it for decades. It’s not part of our gay identity. We don’t feel compelled to repeat obvious lies about how “everybody’s at risk” and how it’s so necessary to “get tested often”. And we don’t feel the need to make lame excuses for people that did know better, but CHOSE to put themselves at risk.

    At this point, you’re doing it to yourself. Just stop it. Being drugged up and self destructive and addicted to high risk sex isn’t the definition of “gay” anymore. You don’t have to be a professional patient.

    Evolve or extinct. Choose wisely.

  26. says

    I’m a conformist pretending to be savvy and intelligent.

    That’s why I can’t entertain any ideas or observations of reality that run contrary to my childish and insular assumptions about people.

    Show your faces, you cowards, show me what real men look like !

    Check out my blog. Oh, and look at the pictures of me at dance clubs high on meth with fake bruises on my face made of masquera and lipstick. Aren’t I hot ? You know you want me. I’m so sexy and young.

    Meeee. Meeeeeeeeeeee. Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee !

  27. WhatWhat says

    Something I don’t get, if people are barebacking as much as everybody says they are, why are we not seeing a really huge explosion in HIV infections ?

    I don’t get it. It just seems that someone has been crying wolf now for a long, long time. This all sounds really familiar, oh, like the same $hit we’ve been told year in year out for how long now ?

    Somebody enlighten me. Or does everyone have amnesia ?

  28. Doug says

    The stigma of having HIV and the problems many people have accessing competent medical care prevent people from getting testing and treatment.

    Being in active treatment is important because a person under successful treatment is much less likely to infect another, as the amount of HIV circulating in the body of a person with undetectable viral load is very low.

    A virus has no morals. It has no preference for anything but perpetuating itself. Any activity by humans that enables the passing of the virus is counter to the public health. This includes not only unprotected sexual liaisons, but also the continuing stigma and blaming of those with HIV for their affliction.

    Blaming those with HIV for acquiring it is like blaming a person for getting lung cancer, or a girl for getting pregnant. It may make the blamer feel morally superior, but it does nothing to address the problem of the continued spread of HIV. This blame game, while making those who are negative feel better, is in fact perpetuating the spread of HIV by extending the stigma of HIV and causing people to avoid and delay getting tested and into treatment if they have acquired HIV.

    Similarly, criminalization of HIV through the laws of many states does not assist the fight against HIV, but rather perpetuates the spread of the virus. This is because if I get tested and find I am HIV positive, any intimate contact I have from that day forward is criminal, regardless of whether or not I engage in an activity that MAY transmit the virus, or whether or not the person I am with actually acquires HIV. By not getting tested, I am free to do as I please without any possibility of criminal charges being placed against me, regardless of the actual damage I do to myself, others and society.

    We abandoned the criminalization and stigma for other STD’s 20 years ago, and the battle against these, while ongoing, is more promising than the battle against HIV. It’s time we treated HIV as it is: A blood-borne virus that requires treatment and whose propagation can be avoided through education and treatment.

    Although much less so than in the 1980’s, coming out as HIV positive still has many risks for those choosing do do so. I would never suggest that anyone blithely tell others that they are HIV positive. The immediate expected costs far outweigh the long-term potential benefits on the personal level. Although some are in a position to be this open about their status, most likely can not afford the risk of the probable backlash.

  29. Zlick says

    Kiwi, your demand that everyone post a YouTube video of whatever they want to say is getting old. How is that any different than just TYPING what you want to see here, or on facebook, or twitter, or anywhere else online, or in any forum or manner in which such communication is appropriate? Is video that much more valuable as a communication tool? And even if you think so, give it a rest. I personally have access to a keyboard and not a camera. Sorry to be off-topic, but sheesh.

  30. SickOfHIV says

    “Coming Out” as HIV positive is as important as “Coming Out” as having hemorroides. It’s not revolutionary, it’s not my problem, and it’s not that big a deal. Give it a rest. We know how HIV is spread, and most people int he US diagnosed ain’t gettin’ it from transfusions. Trying to come of as innocent victim is BS.

    Not buying into the pity party.

    What state is HIV positivity criminalized in ?

    Give me a freakin’ break, and stop the lying.

    If you feel a stigma, STFU about it. Nobody is buying into it anymore. Yeah, it’s tragic people have it, unconscionable that some a$$hats are still spreading it, but no, you don’t want to talk about THAT, you want pity and money. THAT’S what it comes down to.

    You NEED HIV, I don’t, and I reject the kind of attitudes that spread it. It’s not “feeling superior”, it’s recognizing cause and effect, and being responsible. Try it sometime.

    The hypocrisy is palpable when you whine about how “criminalized” HIV is in some states, and claim making the spread of it equal to the spread of “other STD’s” is some kind of solution is the most grievous idiocy.

    Doug, you are an absolute idiot.

  31. Chevytexas says

    Oh jesus someone just had to invoke that spitty old angry queen Larry Kramer. Like John McCain, he is not the only vet, just the noisiest. Invective, read in these comments, reflects Larry’s self hatred and failure. If you don’t like redu ing the stigma because “those others with HIV” seem to be criminally infecting innocents you’re worse than any straight hate. Rhe point of any defeat of a disease is to make public awareness increase. No day will do that, or we’d have Leprosy Day. But, I digress lol.

  32. Stefan says

    @Little Kiwi–I don’t get your reaction to what Matt is saying. Being sex positive is one thing, but your reaction seems a little over the top (what is it? “virginity shaming”? “monogamy shaming”?). Just as monogamy isn’t a guarantee against infection, neither are condoms. Does everyone use condoms during oral sex? During hand jobs? During frot? You might be smarter than average, but a ton of gay guys are simply not that smart about sex and disease vectors. A lot of transmitting fluids are around during sex. A lot of stupid decisions are made during sex, driven by actual neurological changes.

    Sex is never totally “safe” or “unsafe.” Statistics don’t lie–condoms are a big help, and being closer to exclusivity than one night stands on the sex spectrum helps too. Just look at the transmission rates among monogamous couples versus all others. Why not tell guys that condoms are really important, but that it’s also important to know–as well as possible–who you’re having sex so that you can calculate how much trust you want to invest in that person? It’s not about guarantees; it’s about management of risk. There is no magic bullet.

  33. SFChris says

    @Matt I’d rather die of Kaposi Sarcoma than listen to your apoplectic horsesh1t about HIV. HIV on proper meds is about as dangerous as smoking a pack a day. Do you breathlessly browbeat smokers on the sidewalk, too? It’s only life, stop taking it so seriously. No one gets out of it alive. *yawn* That all said, I’d rather live healthy than be dead and there is much promise from Sangamo to functionally cure HIV. If only governments would commit resources for a cure instead of treatment, but I digress. Keep on clutching your pearls on top of your soapbox if that makes you happy but you can count me out. I’d prefer to die with dignity.

  34. David Hearne says

    Blaming pornography for HIV infection rates (other than the actors) is like blaming video games for thugs killing each other on the streets of Chicago.

    The illusion of unprotected sex in pornography isn’t to promote unsafe sex, it’s because IT”S A FANTASY. And in fantasies there are no deadly diseases.

    PS- You can’t really jump off the roof of a building with an umbrella and drift slowly and safely to earth.

  35. David Hearne says

    I have always maintained that a person who lies about his HIV status to a sex partner is guilty of attempted murder.

    An HIV positive person has a moral obligation to disclose his status BEFORE a person has sex with him. It should be the choice of the other person if he wants to take the additional risk of having sex with a person known to be HIV positive.

    You would be surprised at how many people refuse to accept the obvious, ie that having sex with a person who has HIV is a higher risk than someone who doesn’t have it or doesn’t know. Of the three, one is playing Russian roulette with a semi-automatic.

  36. leatherman says

    @DB and @David Hearne
    if you going to criminalize those WITH HIV then you better be criminalizing the dolts that don’t protect themselves. While I agree to the principle that the HIV+ person has a higher moral responsibility to inform their partners and take precautions, ultimately it is up to each individual to protect his/her own status. When someone gets infected with HIV is is their own fault for not taking the precaution.

  37. DB says

    Leatherman, If a criminal points a loaded gun at a victim and shoots the victim, who is responsible for the murder? Is it the criminal shooter (i.e., the HIV-positive person having sex without a condom) or is the victim (i.e., the HIV-negative victim) liable for not wearing a bullet-proof vest? Yes, anyone having sex with someone who is not a long-term known-negative partner has a responsibility to use condoms every time. However, there is a separate responsibility for an infected person not to murder others. If a person who is HIV-positive EVER has unprotected sex, has sex without informing a sex partner, or passes HIV to a sex partner, then that person should be criminally liable for murder without exception.

  38. says

    actually, cowardly troll who just proved he’s a cowardly troll, why not do what i suggested?

    perhaps because you’re merely just a cowardly troll, and not someone who actually cares about any of the things you claimed to care about?

    to come on to a site like this, and then ramble on and on about how little people are doing to…well…do things “your way” is rather useless.

    what’s stopping you from making a youtube video where you share a message that you feel the ACT-UP crowd are missing or neglecting? why not do something proactive, for once, and use your voice to do what you wish others were doing?

    oh, right. that would require an amount of personal integrity.

    and rather than do that, you prove yourself a ninny and post under my name. same old story.

    @Zlick – it’s very simple: look at the specifics of who is complaining on here, and how, and why. discernment, please.

    feeling like there’s a message not being shared? feel like the ball is being dropped? what use is it, then, to anonymously complain about that on a site like this when one has the gift of the digital medium at their disposal where you could get YOUR chosen message out to those you could benefit from it?

    well, of course, that would require people to actually care about what they claim to care about. and as we all know, most folks don’t actually care. they just pretend they do. anonymously. it’s not as if they’re actually prepared to do any of that real work – they’d rather complain that…uh…everyone else isn’t doing it, either.

    fail.

  39. GB says

    It all sounds very “strategic.” Aids never went away, it has better drugs to treat it now. The marriage mavens want to try and hide it away like it doesn’t exist. It’s still a factor — and a factor that works against “equality” People should be able to live with HIV, but if it can throw up any roadblocks to the “we’re perfect and respectable marriage crowd” it is a welcome double edged sword. My brother died of Aids and I know many many who did. Their pain has obviously been lost on this generation. It lingers to remind some people that sex is a gay priority above — exchanging rings.

  40. Bill says

    Although there’s no simple solution, it’s a process and starting the discussion is the first step. The stigma surrounding HIV really comes from two separate camps; the gay community itself and the overall society at large. The more immediate and damaging stigma is that from within the gay community itself. Although we can work at decreasing stigma from both camps simultaneously, before we can successfully tackle it from an overall societal standpoint, decreasing the stigma from the gay community itself would have the most immediate impact.

  41. MGC says

    Stigma doesn’t spread HIV; barebacking does.

    “Sex is never totally “safe” or “unsafe.” Statistics don’t lie–condoms are a big help, and being closer to exclusivity than one night stands on the sex spectrum helps too. Just look at the transmission rates among monogamous couples versus all others.”

    Over two thirds of new infections are from steady partners. Anal sex is too dangerous to practice without a condom.

  42. Acronym Jim says

    Stigma contributes to the spread of HIV. In order to avoid the stigma, a person who has engaged in risky behavior may be less likely to get tested. Similarly, a person who is knowingly HIV positive may be less likely to report their status to a potential partner, even when safe sex is practiced. Removing the stigma would increase the number of people who get tested and who report their statuses. It would also increase the use of safe sex practices (including, but not limited, to condom use).

    Surprisingly, I find myself in agreement with David Hearne when he cites the efficacy of HIV meds and the resultant decrease in mortality among those infected as a factor in the increase of unsafe sex practices and the rise of infection.

    Destigmatizing HIV and practicing safe sex are not mutually exclusive solutions. One would lead to the greater use of the other.

    and “MATT/CHAD” sockpuppetry is just pathetic.

  43. PositivelyHappy says

    There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding in this thread (directly related to a lack of education about HIV and people living with HIV) that has led a lot of you guys to be fearful of HIV… And fear leads to hate and confusion… which only helps to further stigmatize the disease, which in turn spreads it. Perhaps, Matt, if we channeled our “anger” into “acceptance” and began having a more open dialogue about HIV, infected people would be more willing to be open about their status and others would be more willing to get tested. I think rubbing someone’s proverbial nose in their HIV infection by calling them “bad” or “selfish” or “irresponsible” is childish in that it completely lacks empathy and comes from the place of fear. Like the new ad says “Spread the WORD, not the disease”… Let’s LOVE our Positive brothers and sisters with encouraging words to ensure they protect themselves and others from HIV with medication, safe sex, and RESPECT!!!

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