Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation
It is common in the hookup world of today to see people say that they are ‘disease-free’ and/or seeking the same. These are one of the terms that make you wonder about what a strange world we live in. Is it a world divided into the diseased and the disease-free? What diseases are we talking about? HIV? Herpes? Syphilis? The common cold?
Even more perplexing is whether the person asking the question expects the other party to tell the truth when you ask the question that way. Do they expect people to say, ‘I am diseased’? If someone asks the question, does that mean that they are ‘disease-free’? Should we assume that they are asking because they don’t want to associate or have sex with ‘diseased’ people so that they can remain disease-free?
How does a person know if they are disease-free? Were they tested last week or last year? Were they tested for everything? Did they have unprotected sex since the last time they were tested and found to be ‘disease-free’? But, if we assume that in fact the questioner and questioned are disease-free, and they hookup tonight and have disease-free unprotected sex and they like it and want to see each other again, what happens then? Do they assume that neither of them got a disease since the last time they got together and therefore don’t need to use protection?
I am amazed that a man would have more confidence in what a person tells them—a person that they don’t know and have no reason to trust—than they do in having safer sex. Does asking the question of whether he is disease-free afford more protection than a rubber?
Denial is a powerful emotional experience. It allows us to act as if real-world risks don’t exist. And in this case the risks have been vanquished by the simple question: ‘Are you disease-free?’
I’m not even mentioning the nasty stigma that is assigned to the ‘diseased,’ because in the ‘no-muss, no-fuss, I needn’t care about someone that I probably won’t see again’ world, that concept won’t even register. In fact, every sexually active man who takes any sort of risk can tomorrow turn into the ‘diseased’ person they are trying to avoid. In reality, the only way to keep a lid on disease is to abstain altogether, be in a guaranteed monogamous relationship or take precautions and urge others to do the same.