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Friday, November 9, 2012

SL Letter of the Day: Positive Reinforcement

Posted by on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 1:08 PM

I'm on hiatus while working on a manuscript for a new book. In the meantime, please enjoy these classic Savage Love letters pulled from previous columns. I will be back when the book is finished. —Dan

Originally published November 29, 2007:

I'm a single gay male in my late 20s. I've met a guy I really like. We chat all the time and we're attracted to each other. We haven't yet been sexually active with each other, but we're planning to get naked and sweaty (and break out the ropes and blindfolds) over Christmas break. Why do we have a date "scheduled" for the sex? Well, because he lives six hours away and that's when he's next coming to visit.

But here's the "problem"—he happens to be HIV-positive. Before you start yelling at me for calling his status a problem, let me elaborate. The problem isn't that he's HIV-positive, per se. The problem is with me. I've had sex with poz guys in the past, but the thing is, I didn't know it at the time. I've always been safe and sensible and yadda yadda yadda, and my last HIV test (two months ago) came back negative. So while I know the risk is no greater with this new guy than it was with any of the poz guys I've slept with before, I'm still nervous and I'm not sure how I'll react emotionally when we go to bed together.

So here's my question, Dan. Is it fair to him to warn him that I might feel a little nervous having sex with him despite the fact that he's smokin' hot and we really want to fuck each other's brains out? I feel like HIV isn't supposed to be a "deal breaker," and he's got it and can't change that fact, and I'd feel guilty putting another burden on him in the form of my own insecurities about it. What should I do?

Neg Kinkster In The Heartland

Unless HIV has been found to burn fat calories, repair damaged split ends, and act as a natural male enhancement since the last time I Googled the virus, NKITH, your friend's HIV status is a problem. While HIV infection may not be the fatal illness it once was (so long as you have access to life-saving drugs, of course), it's still no fucking picnic. It's better to be neg than it is to be poz—and that's a fact, NKITH, not a thought crime.

Presumably you're aware of this guy's HIV status in advance of his visit because he had the decency and the courage to disclose his HIV status to you. The decent and courageous thing for you to do now, NKITH, is to disclose your nervousness to him. Before you break out the ropes and condoms, NKITH, he needs to acknowledge the risks you're taking on when you sleep with him and do all he can to minimize those risks.

Ask him if he's being treated. Inquire about his viral load. Impress on him—in a good-natured, matter-of-fact way—that you desire to remain negative. Emphasize the importance of condoms and tell him that you apologize in advance if nerves get the better of you the first time out. And if you don't know this guy well, I'd leave the bondage and blindfolds off the menu until you've established a real sense of trust. And guess what, kiddo? You can't establish that kind of trust during your first face-to-face/ass-to-face/cock-to-ass visit.

And finally, NKITH, you have to accept that you could get infected even if you do everything right. If you're going to have insertive sex with this man (or any man whose HIV status you're unaware of)—particularly if you plan to blow him without a condom or let him fuck you even with one—you can only minimize your risks, NKITH, not eliminate them. Condoms break, condoms leak—rarely, if they're used correctly, but it does happen. People get infected giving blowjobs—rarely, again, but it does happen. He shouldn't sleep with you if he can't promise to do his best to keep you negative, NKITH. But you shouldn't sleep with him if you can't promise not to hold it against him if, even after doing everything right, you wind up positive.


Comments (11) RSS

Newest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Dear Dan,

I recognize that the original letter ran almost five years ago, but it would have been nice to update your otherwise excellent advice with a reminder that HIV-negative people with HIV+ partners should be aware of and have access to post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in case of condom failure or other high risk exposure. PEP is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission if it is started as soon as possible after exposure (these are the same antiretroviral drugs given to rape survivors and healthcare workers who experience a needle-stick or other occupational exposure). The LW's new boyfriend's doctor (or nurse-practitioner or PA) could probably prescribe a starter pack.

You might have also mentioned that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is now also available although I know you have concerns about this HIV prevention approach.
Posted by KN on November 12, 2012 at 9:05 AM · Report this
OutInBumF 10
@3,6- Yes- it's really a good thing that you're so petrified of sex (8 years!); no need to foist that fear on anyone else.
Posted by OutInBumF on November 10, 2012 at 4:25 PM · Report this
Pridge Wessea 9
Just for context on Falcor:
"I'm gay and not a virgin but haven't had sex in 8 years and never had a boyfriend."

Gee, I wonder why.

Posted by Pridge Wessea on November 10, 2012 at 12:42 AM · Report this
To be honest I could not see myself having an ongoing committed relationship with someone who was HIV positive. This is not something I am particularly proud of but I think all the ongoing stress about not becoming infected would be beyond me.
Posted by Andrewl on November 10, 2012 at 12:25 AM · Report this
persimmon 7
@3, 5, and 6: Grow up.
Posted by persimmon on November 9, 2012 at 10:21 PM · Report this
Unregistered comment is right, this is the kind of mentality that makes gays look disgusting.

If someone is fucking HIV+ forget about him and inform everyone you know.
Goddamnit, no wonder gays are disproportionately afflicted with STDs with an attitude this letter writer displayed.

Absolutely disgusting and bizarre.
Posted by Falcor on November 9, 2012 at 9:51 PM · Report this
go ahead.

let the guy fuck you.

this is how we get to 20% HIV. so far.....

and if the AIDS kills you, well, we'll just make more faggots.
Posted by Chuckie Darwin on November 9, 2012 at 7:52 PM · Report this
@3. Wow. Dan struck me as very sensible in his response--if anything, he was particularly cautionary, which is appropriate in my view.

Your vitriolic absolutism is fine--for you. You seem like the gay version of 'abstinence only' sex ed, however, whereas the advice Dan dispensed in this case is much more analogous to comprehensive sex ed.

In the real world, comprehensive sex education is proven to be more effective than abstinence-only, by the way, if you judge things by pregnancy rates, abortion rates, STI-rates, and on and on.
Posted by Functional Atheist on November 9, 2012 at 7:39 PM · Report this
I'm gay but it is absolutely horrifying that there are actual gay guys out there so idiotic and brainwashed that they would actually even consider sleeping with an HIV+ guys let alone have such a despicable, spineless, apologetic attitude.

Dan should have come much harder on this guy but I have a feeling Dan and his ilk are to blame for some gays having such outrageously permissive and irresponsible attitudes.

Posted by Falcor on November 9, 2012 at 3:57 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 2
I hope the BF ended it before it started. Sex with everyone terrified is no sex at all, for either party.
Dan is using scare tactics to make a point, but really- blow jobs and HIV infection? Lightening striking has better odds. If the guy's that scared, HE should be the one to call it off- do them both a favor.
Posted by OutInBumF on November 9, 2012 at 3:23 PM · Report this
sissoucat 1
I wonder how their encounter went ?

I've had a HIV+ boyfriend back in the day. He told me he was positive way before, and I trusted him all the way to take every step possible to protect me (he was older and way more experienced) and he did. Condoms, no shared toothbrush, no kiss if he'd hurt his gums, and if there had been oral sex we would have done that with condoms too I guess, but there wasn't. I was still nervous, but he was too, he was very attentive about not contaminating me. The relationship didn't last long for other reasons, but I still remember him fondly. He taught me safer sex.
Posted by sissoucat on November 9, 2012 at 2:54 PM · Report this

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