Seth, a dirty blonde with sparkling green eyes and perfect teeth, has been your dance partner all night. Both of your bodies were rubbing together on the dance floor. The lights, the heat and the music are all thumping through you. Seth's erection is pressed so tightly in his snug designer jeans that you can feel it against your back. No one else notices; there are too many people in the club. There is too much bliss around. Hopefully, you think, this will move into the bedroom, and with that you get caught up in a timeless place of Eros.
You start to see things through the lens of someone who has had enough to drink. You haven't lost your sexiness; you still have your edge. The night has been amazing: full of friends, laughter and fun.
A few hours and several drinks later your bedroom will turn into an oven of lust. Thirsty for him to be inside you, it is only minutes and he fills you with paradise.
Days turn into weeks and weeks into months. You never asked yourself whether Seth might be carrying a laundry list of STIs or STDS. He had great abs, his skin was so healthy and tan, there is no way he was carrying HIV.
And since you were tested for STDs just days before the encounter, you somehow fool yourself into believing that you're fine. When people talk about HIV in passing, you think to yourself how horrible it must be to have a virus like that.
You are in a new relationship now. Considering that your last test was negative for any kind of infection, you must be safe. So instead of retesting to be sure, you go about life as though nothing could have changed. This line of thinking does not seem flawed, so you have great and passionate bareback sex with your new boyfriend. After all, you two are monogamous together.
All of the news you've read about the prevalence of HIV raising among homosexual males aged 18-40 hasn't really sunk in.
Seth had acute HIV, in fact. His viral load, or the amount of the virus that he had in his blood was at its peak. A minuscule tear took place the moment he initiated. He didn't even know he had the virus, and he unknowingly passed it to you.
You eventually get a test and the floor drops out beneath you when you realize that you are now a statistic. Your test came back positive for HIV. Now you are wed to the healthcare system forever, assuming you are very lucky and you have access to antiretroviral therapy. You may go into denial. A million things may happen.
Your partner has to get tested and retested to make sure he dodged a bullet. The last thing you want is to hurt a person you love. When his test comes back (HIV) negative, you breathe a sigh of relief as if the test were your own.
If only you had a Jiminy Cricket to remind you, in the most heated of sexual situations, that being safe and aware might save you from a lifetime of dealing with a dreaded disease.
HIV and other STDs are very real and affect almost everyone they come in contact with. If Seth had known he could have properly informed you. You could have had great sex without consequences, if only you had just been safe.
Now, infected with a ticking time bomb, that if untreated will turn into AIDS, you wish there was a place where you could get solid information and help.
The Internet is littered with all kinds of information on the epidemic, but there is nothing that relates to you. That is, until now.
There is a group of sexy, young, ambitious folks who have decided that since HIV continues to disproportionately affect young gay males, ages 18-35, in South Florida, they will bring the message to those most at risk.
The Fort Lauderdale Chapter of IMPULSE GROUP is hosting a pool party to foster awareness of the HIV epidemic. Their ad campaign and message is in your face, sexy, realistic and important.
People will drink. Sex will take place. Folks will become HIV positive and will still have a love life, or sex. We must all practice safer sex and those who are affected must get treatment, know and communicate their status.
The group, which has chapters from New York City to Los Angeles and beyond, hope that their realistic approach to educating about this epidemic and promoting knowledge, treatment and prevention, will go a long way to reach those most at risk.
IMPULSE, which has found artful, entertaining and engaging ways to intelligently talk about HIV, is hosting a pool party in two weeks, on March 16, in Fort Lauderdale.
Says Adrian Vargas, who is the marketing coordinator for IMPULSE of Fort Lauderdale:
This is more of a socializing event and not as serious as other events. Of course, we will be talking about HIV and safer practices. We will launch our campaign and get people talking about IMPULSE.
Vargas explains the reasoning and effectiveness of these events:
The purpose of these events is to create a lively, fun atmosphere where young gay men can interact while at the same time be exposed to safer-sex and HIV awareness messaging.
Through the attendance at these events, IMPULSE will systematically target groups of young gay men who are influential in their community to invite to smaller events where the topic of HIV/AIDS will be discussed in-depth. In this setting, IMPULSE will educate the men on risk reduction with the intent of instilling safer sexual norms that they will then diffuse throughout their communities.
This methodology is similar to the Popular Opinion Leader (POL) model that has shown to be effective in promoting safer sexual behavior and currently utilized by the CDC.
If you are in the Fort Lauderdale area on March 16, 2014, you should consider coming out to this free event. There will be an open bar, food, sun and bathing suits. You can come in any shape and size, as long as you come ready to have fun and take in IMPULSE's message.
The only exception is if you are outside of their demographic. Anyone over the age of 35 will pay a $50 cover, which will help IMPULSE Group continue to send its important message to those most at risk.
Disclaimer: Seth (as described below) is not a real person and this is not an actual event.