HIV has not disappeared

"Too many of you are living as if HIV suddenly disappeared from the planet," say Gayly Columnist Mary Turner.

Another year is coming to a close, and the festive holiday season is upon us. The great news this year is that several states saw their bans on same sex marriage struck down as unconstitutional. Same sex couples who have been living together as partners are now able to officially marry and enjoy the same benefits (and downfalls) enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

The really egregious news is that too many of you are living as if HIV suddenly disappeared from the planet. This is so unfortunate, and it makes me both sad and angry, because HIV is forever once you contract it, but you don’t have to contract it! If you’re not one of the folks who has found your forever love and you’re out on the hot sex circuit (or the occasional get it where you can find it circuit), then do some things to help bring down your risk of infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the best thing you can do for yourself is to engage in behaviors that are less risky (engaging in sexual activity outside of a committed monogamous relationship involves risk).

So, what exactly does that mean? For one thing, reduce the number of sexual partners you have, especially if they are simply random people whom you don’t know. Maybe there’s something exciting and erotic about the idea of meeting an attractive stranger, bedding him down, and then never seeing him again, but when was the reality of that sex on par with the fantasy?

Probably never (or, at least, seldom). Consider this: Every time you have sex with someone, you are also having sex with everyone he/she has ever had sex with. Unless you are going for some kind of Guinness record, that’s really not a pretty thought. If you like getting your freak on, narrow the playing field down to just a low number of people whom you know, like, and trust. It will serve you better in the long term.

With respect to how you have sex, oral is less risky than vaginal or anal (I know that some of you are really sad to hear that – wink, wink). That doesn’t mean that any sex act involving the exchange of body fluids is without risk, so keep latex condoms handy. Condoms won’t prevent the spread of infections spread by skin-to-skin contact, but they are effective against the spread of infections like HIV that involve body fluids.

Regardless of your sexual orientation, if you’re engaging in non-committed casual sex, you need to use condoms every time. In addition, you should reduce or eliminate the behaviors that increase your likelihood of having risky sex.

Alcohol and many other drugs suppress your ability to make good decisions for yourself. In the days before HIV, this might have meant, “Oh, crap! I’m pregnant!” or “Oh, crap! Will my boss find out I’m gay?” Today, it might mean, “Damn! I’m HIV+!” Remember that great sex doesn’t always have to be just about penetration. There’s a whole lot of touching, kissing, squeezing, and rubbing that can send a person over the top without the focus on just sticking something in a hole. There are also things that can be stuck in a hole safely. Get creative, okay?

For my Christmas, I want for you all to be happy, healthy, and well. I want you each to find that special someone to love and care for and have for a lifetime. I want our predominant culture to move away from discussions of gay couples or lesbian couples and instead just talk about couples. I want young people who are struggling with their sexual identities to find adults and resources to help them feel safe and loved. I want parents to understand that their children’s orientation isn’t a punishment from God, but simply a part of who they are. I guess some would say that I want a lot from our state and our nation, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for, is it?

By Mary Turner, HIV Health Columnist

The Gayly – December 15, 2014 @ 6:25am