National HIV Testing Day is Thursday, June 27, and there is no better time to praise the many HIV-negative gay men who are making smart decisions to remain that way. Hooray, HIV-negative gay men! Let's show some love for our negative brothers. Who's with me?
Oh, Lord. Now I've done it. By showing support for negative guys, I am clearly demeaning HIV-positive men. But wait! I'm HIV-positive myself, so that must mean I'm being sarcastic in my support of negative guys, because there's so little room for sincerity and goodwill in the chasm between HIV-positive and HIV-negative gay men. That space is already so crowded, what with all the stigma and simmering resentments.
Some days I just want to go back to bed.
When I produced the quick video above three years ago, my intent was to celebrate the accomplishment of any gay man who is sexually active and has managed to remain HIV-negative. It was produced by me and my gay, HIV-negative older brother to spread a little love across the viral divide and encourage HIV testing. That was it. No other agenda.
While initial reactions to the posting from both HIV-positive and HIV-negative people were quite good, the pendulum swung quickly. Comments began to label my overly theatrical style (ouch!) as "sarcastic." Some found the message demeaning to HIV-positive people. Some found the message demeaning to HIV-negative people. My goodwill became shrouded in a fog of distrust and what-about-me?-ism.
You can watch and decide for yourself (now that I've tainted the thing, darn it). But I stand by my sincere intentions to offer a hearty pat on the back to HIV-negative men and support for their personal set of challenges and anxieties. I hope you'll share it with an HIV-negative friend you care about. (The direct YouTube link is here.)
However, I would do it differently today. At one point in the video, I suggest that HIV-negative guys might like to have unprotected sex, but that they shouldn't "do that." That's an outdated and judgmental mandate. Today, with new tools such as pre-exposure prophylactic treatments, and new understandings about what it means to be HIV-positive and undetectable, what constitutes "safer sex" is a much broader list than simply whether or not you engage in sex with a condom.
Or, as I like to say, your mother liked it bareback.
Oops. I stepped in it again. Release the Kracken!