If I hear one more HIV-positive man tell me he's "grateful" for the disease because it made him a more peaceful, loving, open, honest person, I'm going to scream. Those afflicted by disease, any disease, whether it's cancer or HIV, have taken a pernicious slide toward rationalizing their conditions as something "necessary" for them to achieve some kind of enlightenment. And we can lay that awful trend on the likes of Louise Hay, Deepak Chopra and all that positive-thinking guru crap that passes for spiritual insight.
I don't want to be mean to my friends and acquaintances who carry the burden of a medical condition, but I just can't be silent anymore. I simply can't listen to anyone who tells me he's embraced the virus as a gift because it's made him a better person.
Just last week an acquaintance said, "HIV has given me a new life. I needed it to open my eyes to the joy of living. I'm emotionally stronger, and I have a new sense of priorities."
What a crock of caca. HIV as the path to God? The virus as your friend? Disease as a gift you should be grateful for? Who thought that up? Probably the same people who tried to console me when my 24-year-old brother was killed in a horrifying car accident by telling me, "It was God's will."
Apparently, just as I should be grateful that my brother was included in God's plan, HIV-positive people should be grateful that their virus led them to God's path.
Do you see what's going on here? By blotting out the randomness, the pain, the injustice of, say, a car accident or an HIV infection and putting meaning into it, you can pretend there was a reason for it.
Yes, I learned a lot about loss, family and love from my brother's death, but to be grateful for it? That's grotesque. It's the same with HIV. Yes, you can learn lessons and become a better person, but to be grateful for it? That's obscene.
This kind of uranium-enriched B.S. has been handed down by luminaries from Oprah to Deepak, but the very worst one is testicular cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, who once said, "Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me."
Excuse me, Lance Armstrong and everyone else with corkscrew vision, but disease is not your connection to the divine. It is not a rite of passage or a path to God. It's a freaking tragedy, an injustice heaped on innocent victims.
Look, it's not just the flawed logic that burns my butt more than a three-foot flame; it's the danger this kind of thinking represents. See, if HIV changed your life for the good, if it is the way to God, then shouldn't you therefore aspire to get it? Because look! Infection = salvation! Wow, you mean all I have to do is get a deadly disease and enlightenment is mine? Screw those condoms, boys. Let's go raw.
Here's what I say to all my HIV-positive friends: Don't be grateful. Don't carry the burden of trying to make HIV your friend. Like all friends, it'll expect you to be loyal and introduce it to your other friends.
While HIV is not your friend, it isn't your enemy either. It just is. Learning to deal with it is an admirable accomplishment, but please, don't tell us it's a gift, or that your grateful.
Michael Alvear is that author of How to Bottom Like a Porn Star: The Guide to Gay Anal Sex.
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