I am HIV positive.
Since 2005, I have been largely open about my HIV status. While I do not generally wear a t-shirt that declares my status nor do I have a bio-hazard sign tattooed on my body, if you know me, if you have read any of my work, if you Google my name on the Internet, then you will be aware of that fact.
I haven't always been open about my status. When I was first diagnosed, I went into a deep and shameful self-hate spiral. Before long, I was half strung out on crystal meth. I have often wondered why I found meth so exciting and so addictive. As a college student I had tried most popular party drugs: X, GHB, ketamine, and pot. I hated weed, and the rest I enjoyed but I could take or leave for long periods of time and never had any “cravings” for them.
Then I tested positive.
I had never tried crystal meth on its own before, it had always been in a mix with other party drugs. So I had no idea its potency or its effect. I could walk away from all of its effects but one: it made me feel touchable and desirable for the first time since testing positive.
When I first tested positive, I became asexual. I refused to have sex with my boyfriend at the time. I went into a deep depression, and I was completely lacking in a conscious awareness of what was going on. I eventually broke up with my boyfriend, I was unemployed, and I gained a tremendous amount of weight. I told two people about my status, both of whom lived more than 2000 miles away from me. Not even my best friend, who lived across the hallway from me, had any idea of what was going on in my life.
I can't remember the first time that I tried crystal meth by itself. I don't remember who I was with or what I was doing. But I do remember that something changed, and I felt wanted and desired and touchable. I turned to the online cruising sites: Manhunt, Gay.com, and Adam4Adam. I began spending almost every weekend on meth binges and having sex.
And in that world where everyone is high and everyone is looking to have wild sexual adventures, no one ever asked about your status and no one ever used a condom.
Eventually the guilt and shame at having rampant unprotected sex and putting my community at risk gave way to a mind crushing guilt, and I had a snap with reality. On a plane ride from Albuquerque to Minneapolis, I believed that the FBI were out to arrest me and were going to arrest me specifically for having unprotected sex. I spent a week as a guest of the Fairview Riverside Hospital, where every day, I literally looked out of the window and could see my university. I wondered how, in just a few years, I had gone from being a star student with invitations to parties at the university president's home at one of the largest and best colleges in the United States to sitting staring out of a mental ward window just trying to make it through another day.
Since that time I have been sober and I have relapsed. I have dealt with massive guilt and shame at risky sexual behaviors. I am not proud of myself for my behavior during addiction, and I am not happy about the risks that I took with my life and the lives of others. I apologize to my community for what I have done.
Having said that, I am pissed off.
I am pissed off because not only have I had to deal with the outrageous stigma attached to being HIV positive. Not only do I have to live with the guilt and the shame of my own behavior during my times of drug abuse, but also I am expected to carry the burden of the sexual health of others as if somehow by being positive I am also responsible for making choices for others.
Let me be clear, it is my duty and responsibility to inform sex partners of my HIV status. BUT that does not now or ever abrogate the responsibility of another person to take necessary precautions to protect themselves. Also...and this is directed towards the negative folks in the community...if we have not HAD sex...if all we have done is made out or fooled around and no orifices were penetrated, then I have absolutely no obligation to disclose anything to you. CHECK yourself and your prejudicial stigma. THINK about how your reaction to a friend or a potential sex partner is going to land when you find out that he or she is positive. This is 2009, there is NO excuse for ANYONE, especially a queer person, living in the United States to have any kind of fucked up ass backwards response or reaction to an HIV positive person. Period. And if you do...if you have the NERVE to treat positive people how YOU were treated in high school gym class or when the neighborhood kids suspected that you were gay...then YOU need some serious fucking help.
I have NEVER raped anyone. All of my sexual partners have been fully willing. I will no longer bear the burden of the choices they made or did not make. I have enough guilt and shame to deal with that is linked to my own behavior and my own fucked up choices. I don't and won't carry the guilt and consequences of your choices anymore.
Even if your partner smiles at you prettily and bats his eyelashes and tells you that you are wonderful and swears that he is negative...if you choose to have sex without protection the ultimate burden of your sexual health is on YOUR shoulders.
This doesn't lessen my own culpability for the choices I have made, but I am tired of reading rants in the media or on the chat sites about men who go out and WILLINGLY look for bareback sex....and then blast the positive community for continuing to have unprotected sex. Log into Manhunt or Craigslist...peruse the ads there...and you will see ad after ad after ad after ad of “Bareback bottom looking for Negative Top.” All that says to me is that is another person attempting to put the burden for his sexual health on the shoulders of another person. So if the top that comes over swears that he is negative, and fucks you, and isn't...and you test positive, who is at greater fault? The asshole that lied? Or the asshole that opened up and took an uncovered dick and let a stranger ejaculate inside of him?
If you have unprotected sex, whether you are high or whether you are sober, and if that sex was not coerced through the use of force, then your sexual health is YOUR responsibility.
I am deeply sorry for the actions that I have taken during periods of drug use. No one in the world can even approach a level of anger with me that I have had and continue to have with myself. But if you think that somehow the positive community is responsible for your sexual choices, then you have a twisted sense of privilege akin to white privilege and gender privilege and like all privilege the only way to maintain it is through oppression. Fuck that.