AIDS/HIV | News | Peter Staley | Truvada

HIV And Gay-On-Gay Shaming

As HIV becomes a more and more managable disease and the horror of the 80s AIDS epidemic slides further into history, younger gay men are treating the disease as a divisive stigma rather than a uniting issue, writes Peter Staley at the Huffington Post:

StaleyHere are salvos from a new battle: Calling a young, HIV-negative gay man a "Truvada whore" simply for choosing a prevention option with a higher efficacy rate than condoms. Becoming indignant when someone says AIDS is still a gay problem. Turning to the police when you find out the guy that just jilted you is HIV-positive. Putting "I'm clean, ub2" in your online profile. Joining digital stonings via online comment sections when a 20-something dares to come out as HIV-positive. HIV-negative guys barebacking with those who tell them they are negative and shunning the few brave ones who admit they're positive.

Staley analyzes this internal war among gay men, concerned that the war against HIV-related stigma is lost and can only be prevented from getting worse.

He adds:

It might surprise today's younger gay men to learn that there was very little HIV-related stigma between us during the early years of the crisis. If anything, I felt the opposite of stigma when I publicly disclosed my status in the late '80s. Gay men with HIV received communal love and support. Once the gospel of safe sex was firmly entrenched, even sexual shunning became rare. Maybe it was our numbers, with upwards of half of New York's and San Francisco's gay men being HIV-positive by 1985. Maybe it was because many of us couldn't hide it, as our HIV painfully manifested as AIDS. Maybe it was our communal fighting back, as we rose up against a government that was ignoring our suffering.

Regardless of the reasons, we felt like one community. We were all living with HIV, regardless of status. I realize this view is skewed. I lived in a city where the social norms were being heavily influenced by ACT UP and other community responses to the crisis. The beginnings of gay-on-gay HIV-related stigma could be easily found in other cities and towns back then. But now it seems to be the norm, regardless of location.

Staley does offer some hope and suspects that while the fight against ignorance-induced stigma is lost, the fight against HIV itself is not, citing the eradication of smallpox and near-eradication of Guinea worm disease as a future outcome for HIV provided ALL tools of prevention are used.

In the end, after HIV is defeated, he says,

[T]here will be two kinds of people remembered: those who fought to end it, and those who slowed us down.

What do you think? Is there a way to end HIV stigma? And are there more elements contributing to stigma than the ones Staley has named?

Read Staley's full piece here.

(image - Peter Staley in the HIV Equal campaign)

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  1. Boo hoo hoo, nobody wants to get AIDS, it's so unfair!

    Posted by: Knock | Mar 2, 2014 9:46:08 AM

  2. I still wish men would use condoms. It won't spoil the passion. Taking care of yourself is never stupid.

    Posted by: Matt27 | Mar 2, 2014 9:50:22 AM

  3. So, I'm all about not shaming Truvada users, but right off the bat, this guy states an incorrect fact:

    Truvada does NOT have a higher efficacy rate THAN condoms; it has a higher efficacy rare when COMBINED WITH safer sex practices (including correct and consistent use of condoms).

    When you start off an article by providing factually incorrect information, you lose credibility.

    Posted by: Marcus J. Hopkins | Mar 2, 2014 9:58:52 AM

  4. His piece is spot on, but the sad part is that it isn't just the 20 somethings, it has become most of the community, including those who are old enough to remember the beginnings.

    Posted by: Kenneth | Mar 2, 2014 9:59:59 AM

  5. Stigma, stigma, stigma. Whine, whine, whine. And then go bareback some more.

    Posted by: Douglas | Mar 2, 2014 10:19:26 AM

  6. I came out in the early 90s, and I did not see much of the communal support that Staley remembers from the 80s. I had friends who contracted HIV in the early 90s, and the level of judgment against them by other gay men was astonishing.

    Posted by: bravo | Mar 2, 2014 10:28:05 AM

  7. You want to know why stigma is worse than ever? Look in the mirror! The over 80% of us gay men who don't have a 100% preventable disease are sick of hearing about it!
    "By all means, let's keep fighting it, if only to keep it from getting worse."
    I hate to break it to you but your fighting is what's making it worse. If PWH were dealt with more compassionately in 80s than now maybe it's because THERE HAS BEEN 30 YEARS OF KNOWING HOW TO PREVENT IT! I think what I'm most sick of is the selfishness and entitlement. So many poz are trying to trick and guilt neg guys to have bb sex with them not giving a damn about the public health, just their own desires. "Stigma" is the trump card used to get their way. Then there's the poaching of limited medical services and funds because HIV demands it be prioritized over far worse diseases that aren't preventable. While you're demanding insurance companies and government agencies cut you your disproportionate slice of the pie, you're online bragging about how you're healthier than most neg guys!

    Posted by: andy | Mar 2, 2014 10:38:12 AM

  8. People like @Andy, who inaccurately generalizes about big groups of people from the actions of small numbers of the group, and @Douglas and @Knock, who think in narcissistic or right-wing sound bytes, are examples of the problem.

    There have always been gay men who have had a difficult time working out how to have gay sex in a way that they can be comfortable with, because of the attitudes about sex and other bodily functions they retain from their upbringing.

    Those men with narrow definitions about what's acceptable sex for themselves also tend to condemn other gay men who have different sexual habits. The words they use sometimes sound like quotes from their mommies or their sunday school teachers.

    I don't think that's going to change - the prudish young men who try to shame other gay people today are thinking in the same ways as the prudish young men who tried to shame their fellow gay men 45 years ago, when I first came out. I was told back then that the same behavior had been happening for at least the 40 previous years, and I suspect it goes back for centuries.

    Posted by: Edgar Carpenter | Mar 2, 2014 11:22:38 AM

  9. @Andy - most men I've known who got HIV in the last 30 years got it from men they believed were HIV negative. Often from men who they believed they were in a monogamous relationship with. They were not acting irresponsibly or badly given the facts they thought were true.

    The fact that there are some narcissistic poz guys out there spreading it around only means that those specific guys are out there, and gay men need to be wary of them.

    The fact that someone is HIV does not mean they are irresponsible, immoral, sluttish or otherwise wicked. It just means that somehow they contracted HIV.

    Posted by: Edgar Carpenter | Mar 2, 2014 11:32:48 AM

  10. Totally wrong about there being no HIV-related stigma between gay men back in the early days of the epidemic. There was a movement in the mid 80's in S.F. wherein younger guys tried to segregate themselves from the older, disease ridden gay men by having private "boy parties". You couldn't get in if you were over 25. They also tried to differentiate themselves from the older guys by rejecting the "Castro clone" look, replacing it with a clean shaven, clean cut GQ look. Fortunately, this kind of stuff ended with the rise of ACT UP, & younger activists joining their older brothers.

    Posted by: Grady | Mar 2, 2014 11:35:49 AM

  11. People with HIV deserve respect and love like anyone else in this world. It's a shame that the stigma continues. I remember being a boy and having my father's friend, who was dying of AIDS, lash out and berate the world over their silence and hate. It will always stick in my mind the depth of the stigma.

    Posted by: Manroar | Mar 2, 2014 11:46:22 AM

  12. You have a duty to disclose your HIV status to a person you want to have sex with. The routine of "I think that everyone should always protect himself and assume that others are HIV positive." is something you are entitled to do for yourself, but you have no right to put another person at a known risk.

    Simply put: safer sex is better than unsafe sex. Safer sex with a responsible person who was HIV negative on recent examination is safer than safer sex. Safer sex with a known positive man is more dangerous than safer sex with a man who has been tested and is negative.

    Posted by: enchantra | Mar 2, 2014 11:50:17 AM

  13. If an HIV positive person has unprotected sex, it's attempted murder.

    Posted by: enchantra | Mar 2, 2014 11:50:50 AM

  14. The gay community (especially gay men) has been tearing each other down for decades. If you are not hiv-, young, pretty, smooth and look like you stepped off the pages of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog, then you are not worth knowing, admiring or befriending. God forbid somebody might be a little different. Just read the comments on this blog from day to day. Lots of nasty, shallow, shallow, shallow people on here and in our community. We need to pull together rather than judge each other. But my experience tells me, I might as well be speaking to a wall.

    Posted by: B | Mar 2, 2014 11:53:52 AM

  15. How sad to read an article denouncing ignorance, while not correcting the citation from Peter Staley in the Huffington Post, about Truvada being more efficient THAN condoms. As Markus J. Hopkind points out, this is incorrect. Truvada is a new name for old drugs, which big pharma tried to impose to ALL men having sex with men, by making lots of media noise around a study about serodiscordant (where one has HIV and the other not) Heterosexual couples.... I don't remember the exact figures but it was in the order of: out of 2000 serodiscordant couples, you got 20 seroconversion among the 1000 couples using condoms and 1 out of 1000 among those using Truvada.... This was converted into a false 95% more efficient because 1 / 20 = 5%, hence ... Nothing. This is not science, it is marketing promotion. You don't have 20 times more chance to get HIV using condoms compared to using Truvada. First the study was about heterosexual couples..... Second they where allegedly faithful : not surfing craigslist. Third 1/20 is NOT 95% better. In one group you got 20/1000 = 2% seroconversion, in the other group you got 1/1000 = 0,1% seroconversion. The experience among these groups, over the period, was : 2% risk with condoms (98% efficient) .... 0,1% risk with Truvada ( 99,9% efficient...for HIV only) - a 1,9% improvement of risk... for HIV only.
    Now do you want to take a highly toxic drug, with huge and increasing so called side-effects, for the rest of your life, for a 1,9% improvement of your risk ? (and I'm not mentionning the costs).
    The Truvada campaign is made over misrepresentation of the true meaning of propabilities and over fears. Most people don't understand probabilities (including all politicians and most doctors) so it is easy to focus people's attention on seemingly true but scientificaly false conclusions. In the case of Truvada it creates another pharma money grab, it lowers the confidence in condoms efficiency which is bad for public health. Remember only Condoms ARE without side-effects.

    Posted by: Mark Twain | Mar 2, 2014 11:54:19 AM

  16. This conversation proves one point and one point only: The lack of compassion between human beings.

    We wonder how certain countries cannot just live in peace. How people feel the need to pick on petty things and stir up hatred, and how governments vote easily laws denying basic human rights. Simply put, because some feel the need to pettily prove their superiority over others.

    This is how hate speech starts and feeds into the prejudiced monster living within us, how It could easily grow so powerful as to change powerful rulings, and unapologitically cause harm, even "justifiable murder" in the eyes of the prejudiced law.

    This stupid division within the gay community over who's sicker and who is healthier is ridiculous and absurd. We all know this could be used against the community to persecute us, to take us back to the days where being gay was a shameful secret, for gay equaled diseased.

    So stop your damned stupid bickering, get your heads out of your asses, and stop acting like the damned GOP you love ridiculing on this site: does it take a member of your family suffering for you to finally manage some f**king Empathy?

    Posted by: Mags | Mar 2, 2014 12:05:14 PM

  17. @enchantra you say "Safer sex with a known positive man is more dangerous than safer sex with a man who has been tested and is negative."

    I always use condoms and gloves, but if I were going to go bare I'd rather do that with a poz guy who has an undetectable viral load than with a sexually active man who was recently tested and came back HIV negative.

    Why? Because there is at least an 8 week time-lag between being infected and testing positive on the antibody-based tests that everyone thinks of as HIV tests. So my chances of getting HIV from a recently infected man who also has a recent negative HIV test result (these guys are VERY infectious) are higher than getting HIV from a man with his HIV under good control.

    This is not a theoretical situation or a theoretical conclusion - I've known around 20 men over the years who've contracted HIV from men who had also had very recent negative HIV test results.

    As for your claim that an HIV person having unprotected sex is actually attempting murder, with HIV as the weapon - well, that's just a hysterical response to your own fear, it's not a rational response to a real situation.

    Posted by: Edgar Carpenter | Mar 2, 2014 12:08:06 PM

  18. hey my fellow gay boys, I'm trying to get this for my photography hobby, any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

    Posted by: Shawn | Mar 2, 2014 12:16:25 PM

  19. How funny and sad it is that Staley lists as an example of HIV stigma "Putting "I'm clean, ub2" in your online profile."

    What is so utterly pathetic about this is that Staley just assumes that it is completely normal for gay people to have "your online profile" which you use to facilitate multiple, loveless sexual encounters with complete strangers. He doesn't feel the need to qualify this or explain it, nor does he say "an online profile." No, he simply refers to "your online profile" as if every gay male reader will know what he is talking about and identify with it. For Staley, that's just how life is for a gay person.

    He is a sick product of a sick subculture. When the history of HIV is written, it is folks like him - urban, gay males from the 1970s and 1980s - who created a subculture grounded in loveless sex with multiple partners, who will bear a lot of the blame.

    Posted by: Bill | Mar 2, 2014 12:39:35 PM

  20. @MAGS Very well said!! I agree 100 percent!!

    Posted by: WTF21 | Mar 2, 2014 12:49:38 PM

  21. How sad it is to read these comments, as if the way to live a healthy life is to have sex with HIV-infected persons with an undetectable load, or to take Truvada or to sero-sort or to simply erase the problem by declaring everyone HIV equal or to follow any of the dozen other tactics tossed about.

    If you have a slab of deadly plutonium in your living room, the way to deal with the problem is to get rid of the plutonium or get out of the house for good. The solution is not to treat the plutonium as a fixed feature of life and work around it by wearing a face mask or taking meds for radiation sickness or touting the plutonium to guests as a unique feature of the house.

    You cannot live a life f'ing large numbers of people you don't know. It will make you sick. It was causing early death pre-AIDs and it is what turned what might have been a minor outbreak into a pandemic. You can accept this and change or you can spend your shortened life looking for ways to live next to plutonium.

    Posted by: Neil/Portland | Mar 2, 2014 12:56:42 PM

  22. Being HIV negative is morally superior to being HIV positive. The same way having an 8 inch penis is morally superior to all those with less than 8 inches and those with 6 pack abs are morally superior to guys beer guts. So lets shame everyone that has HIV, less than 8 inches or a 33+ inch waist. Now, who are those horrible a**holes that think gays are shallow?

    Posted by: KevinSF | Mar 2, 2014 1:05:20 PM

  23. @WTF Thank you.

    @Kevin, I'm about to confiscate your gay-licious card, for every b*tch loving peen knows that an 8-inch d*ck is not worth sh!t if you don't know how to use and move it.

    That being said and fun snark aside, Human Beings living with AIDS or are HIV pos are not things like plutonium. These are not the Stone Age nor Dark Ages, we treat sick people with respect and dignity, and we teach them how to go on with their lives living theirs fully with respect.for themselves and others. HIV is now a fact of active sex life. You use protection when you opt for casual sex, thinking that casual sex isn't healthy is quite at odds with

    Posted by: Mags | Mar 2, 2014 1:28:20 PM

  24. Wow, my comment got oddly ... Cut off. Quickly now, casual sex is healthy, so is abstinence if that is your choice, so is monogamy. To think differently and that casual sex is punishable is quite at odds with the times.

    I am straight and use protection until I am in a monogamous relationship where both my partner and I have been tested. The thought of not using condoms is beyond me. I don't care if you think you are positive or negative, for I am quite positive that we wonct be having sex if you won't agree at keeping me safe. Period. Why isn't everyone doing the same? Or being encouraged to do the same?

    Posted by: Mags | Mar 2, 2014 1:35:33 PM

  25. I used to be the type of liberal who would eat articles like this up, and I'm not saying that it doesn't have merit, but I am getting very tired of article after article telling me how I should feel and react toward things. Huffington Post is particularly egregious about this. Let me form my own opinions, please, and if you want to change my mind about something, do it with your actions.

    Posted by: Zell | Mar 2, 2014 2:18:15 PM

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