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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who's to Blame?

I saw this piece in Poz saying that 65% of US gay men think anyone HIV+ who barebacks (has unsafe sex in other words) without disclosing their status should face criminal prosecution. In other words, if two or more guys decide to go without condoms, and one is Positive and hasn't told the other(s), he has committed a criminal act.

Now in NZ, if you know you're Poz, you don't have to disclose your HIV status to sexual partners, so long as you take every reasonable precaution to protect them. That means use condoms. But we should all use condoms.

I'm just a little bit torn on this. On the one hand, yeah, if you know you have HIV, (and remember, about 30% of HIV + people DON'T know they have it )  you do, I believe, have a greater moral responsibility to protect the people you have sex with. So, in the first place, if you're poz you shouldn't be barebacking anyhow, unless maybe it's with someone else who is poz too, but even then, it's not recommended. And most HIV+ guys are very careful and concerned about protecting their partners.

But it takes two to tango, and if you believe you are HIV Neg, what the hell are you doing having unsafe sex anyhow? It's not all our fault or responsibility. HIV Neg guys have a duty to look after themselves - if you take the risk and get infected, I think you have to accept some of the responsibility here. It's as if they think they should be able to fuck without rubbers because they are HIV Neg, like it's some sort of a right, and HIV+ guys should exclude themselves from the sexual scene.

And here's the trouble with this approach. It breaks our world in two. There are those of us on the one side who know we have the virus, and we are supposed to act in one way, according to this logic, and those on the other side, who are allowed to act in another. This weakens the whole idea of safe-sex, that it's not just about protecting yourself, it's about protecting the community, and not picking on people with HIV to carry the whole burden. The original safe sex message was for everyone to use condoms, HIV+, HIV Neg, no matter what your status. That way everyone can have fun, and people with the virus aren't singled out. I still think it's the best approach.

Turning one part of the population into criminals for doing what the others do just leads to stigma and injustice.

But what about when someone knows you are HIV+ and has unsafe sex with you anyhow? That's happened to me, I've been fucking with guys who know I have HIV and then realised that he's no longer wearing a rubber. It pisses me off when that happens, immensely. But it has happened, and more than once. Usually they justify it with things like "Your viral load is low and I've read..." or "You look so well..." . It feels like a violation to me.

Am I too blame if he gets infected? And how would we prove it any how?

If someone knowingly sets out to infect others, lies about it, and persuades them into unsafe sex, that's a different story, and thankfully it's a very rare story too. But even then I think that if you are HIV Neg and take that risk, no matter how charming and persuasive he is, you have to take some level of responsibility.

The simplest and best answer: Use a condom.

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