One of the most important qualities about sex is the treatment we receive afterward. It’s what truly defines a person’s character (at least for me). Even if the sex wasn’t great, manners and decency will make anyone believe it was. But in today’s hookup culture, getting dismissed unceremoniously becomes part of the regime.
When you're living with HIV, you pay special attention to the way you're treated after sex, especially when your status has been newly disclosed. Hookup apps like Grindr force those gay men living with HIV like us to observe how they're being treated before sex — you think we’re not going to notice what happens after?
Social stigma is everywhere, which makes many people either hesitant to disclose right away, or choose to only enter sexual relationships with people who educate themselves on PrEP, condoms, and what "undetectable" actually means. With so much access to HIV education, no one wants to play teacher anymore.
While there are many things to remember, there are a few fails that stick out in particular when talking to someone who's HIV-positive. If you can indulge me, allow me to point out the major no-no’s:
Stop Asking: “Are You Sure You’re Undetectable…?”
Social stigma has created a phobia around HIV and STIs. Even though many people know what undetectable means, they ask it the same way they ask the atrocious “Are you sure you’re clean?” question.
Trust people when they say they are undetectable. We ought to know, right?
Don’t Be Paranoid.
If you’re going to be weird and awkward the whole time, I’d rather us not have sex at all. I can’t tell you how many guys tell me stories of people who upon hearing their status instantly crawl into a shell. HIV turns into an invisible elephant in the room too awkward to mention.
Just because you hear the word “HIV” doesn’t mean you need to: a) feel sorry for us, which kinda turns into pity sex; b) start asking a million questions as if you were their doctor; c) get quiet all of a sudden as if your silence is going to reverse the not-so-fluid sex you just had; or d) feel the need to quickly escape while holding your breath as if you're going to breathe in HIV on the way out.
Don’t Project Your Lack of Knowledge on Them.
Just because you haven’t taken the time to educate yourself on HIV and STIs doesn’t mean you have to use me as your brochure. Don’t get me wrong, HIV-positive people are well-versed in how to talk to people about the virus and how to protect others from contracting it, but never should you depend on them to be your Wikipedia.
For your own education, start by reading:
Trust me, poz people come equipped with knowledge and supplies. Don’t try to make them feel guilty for enjoying casual sex. We know our status. We’ve suppressed the virus and we know how to protect you. Can you say the same for yourself?
Don’t Give a Lecture.
The emotional strength we have built for themselves cannot be broken by your attempted lecture. Because people living with HIV need to have an open communication with their doctors, chances are we’re probably the healthiest person you’ve ever slept with — and I’m including that group of people you had sex with who claim they “know” their status, even though they haven't been tested in a couple years.
HIV-positive people take control of our health because we have to. They know the status of their bodies and come well-equipped with knowledge about how to make safer choices with sex partners.
Trust me, we're the last ones who need a lecture.