Please Don’t Infect Me, I’m Sorry

Courtesy of  Rich Juzwiak for Gawker.

The first guy I ever turned down on Grindr for having HIV, my patient zero if you will, is all kinds of hot: hot in the face, hot in the body and hotheaded. In May, he asked me to come over and make out. We chatted a little bit more, he told me about his status and I slipped out of the conversation, just like that. Randomly in July, I noticed him at a movie theater: On Grindr and online, people lie with pictures all the time, choosing ones that distort their appearance in a captured second, but I was able to pick Miguel right out of a crowd. His picture is a symbol of habitual honesty, maybe, but also because he’s so attractive, he has no reason to lie.

“This always happens: someone will feel bad and then they’ll see me out and they’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, you’re so fucking hot,'” Miguel told me while we waited for our table outside of a Chelsea brunch spot one Saturday in early July after I reconnected and asked him to talk to me.

Miguel told me that being turned down for sex because he’s HIV-positive is something that happens “all the time,” and that “almost every time, the minute someone gets to know me, their mind changes.” Exposure to a gay friend often converts homophobes swiftly; the same can be said of an HIV-positive guy meeting others who are fearful. It’s somewhat reassuring that that’s all it takes in many cases, but it also underlines the exponential burden put upon positive guys. They are either in a constant state of proving themselves socially or they are sitting on a secret.


As a gay man in New York with an active, multiple-partner sex life, the chances are that I have hooked up with an HIV-positive guy or five and didn’t know it. Maybe I didn’t know it because he didn’t know it. Maybe I didn’t know it because he was a liar. Maybe I didn’t ask.

Granted, I generally play it safe, keeping fluid exchange at a minimum, using condoms, opting for oral over anal almost every time, and especially with strangers. (Although, as we are coming to realize,  oral sex maybe isn’t as safe as we’d like it to be). Even with that in mind, getting tested is never less than horrifying, no matter how regularly I do it. There have been times, especially after suffering from a weird flu-like bug that no one else around me seemed to contract, that I have been sure that I would test positive.

I haven’t yet. I think I’m HIV negative, but since the virus can take three months to show up in blood, I can’t really be sure. In fact, none of us who are sexually active can be sure – except for those who are HIV positive.

Therein lies the hypocrisy in turning down a potential hookup who a) knows his status, and b) is honest about it in favor of one who doesn’t or is lying about it. That kind of discrimination is motivated by fear of the known while taking an agnostic approach to the unknown. It’s especially foolhardy considering that guys who know they are HIV-positive tend to be healthier and with lower viral loads than guys who don’t know they have it and are going untreated. The kind of optimism that assumes someone’s word is as good as a hard copy of a test result is potentially life-altering.

And yet, I’ve turned down guys who are open about their positive status. I watched the onset of AIDS in the ‘80s through the confused eyes of a child. I had it drilled into me that this was a disease to stay far, far away from. I also know better than to sleep with someone who announces himself as HIV positive. Or knew. Now I’m not exactly sure what to think. I feel guilty and scared, but not necessarily in that order.


I forgot to ask Giovanni* his status on Grindr before he came over. I remembered once he was inside of my apartment, discovered that he was HIV positive and asked if he’d like to be interviewed instead of hooking up. He agreed.

One of the first things we talked about was what complicates the situation the most: The widely held idea (at least among the HIV-positive guys I talked to for this story) that antiretroviral medication, which reduces the amount of HIV in a person’s blood to undetectable levels, is a contagion cure-all. That is to say that many people believe that it is virtually impossible for guys who identify as “poz but undetectable” to transmit HIV to a sex partner.

“I feel a little bit discriminated against just because if someone is taking care of themselves, there’s no risk on it, unless you have cuts or you’re bleeding,” Giovanni said. “But even then, you have to have a high viral load. If your status is undetectable, it’s very rare that someone else can catch from sucking.”

Giovanni contracted HIV about three years ago from his boyfriend who lied to him about his status: His partner said he was negative, they repeatedly had bareback sex, it turned out his partner was positive and it destroyed their relationship. “I blame myself,” he told me. His regard of personal responsibility is also present in his current philosophy regarding disclosure. If he’s not asked directly, he doesn’t open up about his HIV status.

“There are people that never ask me about my status, so I just go and assume that they have it,” he told me. “If you don’t ask me, I assume something’s wrong with you.”

I found this point of view disturbing, but most of what else Giovanni said was endearing. He told me that he empathizes with the people who are too scared to hook up with him and who turn him down: “I was there before it happened to me…I know how a person feels. When someone says you’re positive, your world changes.”

And so does the world of the person who has it. “It’s not hard to find somebody that accepts me the way that I am, but I don’t know…” he trailed off.

Before he left, I gave Giovanni a big hug. We were intimate and raw and we never took our clothes off. We talked about staying in touch and getting together again soon but it never ended up happening.

Continue Reading on Gawker…

  1. This is not the 70s any more try have meds and the pep pill people with HIV can have a neg partner and still have bb sex and keep their partner HIV – my ex is a infectious Disease Specialist. People are ass not properly informed about HIV . If some one did not want to date a person based on their HIV Statius they are simply a idiot .

  2. I’ve been a top for years and never got it yet???If your a POZ bottom take care of yourself and your meds though…”I don’t play the judgment game, I’m an adult and I took the risk, if I didn’t ask if your HIV+ before I topped you I didn’t want to know.” Its natural to want to come inside? Remember its your job to ask your partners status too, don’t just assume he’s negitive

  3. cum dump? pig? drug addict? nasty degraded men. yeah, seems that HIV destroys people and makes them become major sluts… get aids and just die.

  4. Wow… this goes to show Americans still so hung up on HIV status even after all these years and so much education. I suppose no one asks the real question, what is your Hep C status? Get educated make informed decisions, not ones based on fear.

  5. I, personally, have no issue with a man who is HIv+. In fact, a former lover thought I was a douchebag because he thought I did have an issue with it, but truly, did not. We wound up dating a few weeks after that, and the sex with him always led me to wonder how he (a Puerto Rican man) and me (a Cuban man) never set the bed on fire. We dated for almost a year, never used condoms and I remain HIV-. Also, he ended his relationship with me last April. I was even tested for HIV three months ago, and remain negative.

    1. I dont have problems with guys with HIV. but you obviously didnt care if you contracted the disease. This is merely a story of great luck and chance. It shouldnt be considered a model for dating guys with HIV.

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