Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Recently on Grindr—a gay dating and hookup app—I saw a posting that said, “Negative as of 2/7/12.” I found it interesting that this was the main thing that the person said about himself. I got to thinking: What did this message mean in this context?
It could mean that he is negative and is looking for other negative men who have the test results to prove it. Maybe he plays safely and uses condoms but still prefers to play with other negative men. Perhaps he wants more than a hookup and doesn’t want to get emotionally involved with someone who is positive. Alternatively, he could be advertising for men who want unsafe sex and think that a negative test result is enough to protect them. Or, he is lying.
We live in a sea of denial. We have the most elaborate system to justify things that we do that we know are unhealthy. So, if you have already decided that playing safely is off the table, then you start strategizing how to reduce the risk. The problem is, if you have enough unsafe sex with enough people, eventually you are going to get unlucky and become infected.
Testing is not a form of prevention. You can test negative today and be in a window period and not know that you are positive. The immediate period after initial infection is the time when a person is most infectious to others. Also, you could have tested negative on Feb. 7, get infected on the 9th and pass it to someone else on the 13th. The primary purpose of testing is to find out if you are positive and to get treated if you are. Most men who test positive have had a previous negative test result. Testing doesn’t miraculously make you safer.
Bargaining with a life-long infection isn’t smart. Bragging about your status and saying that you are “clean” doesn’t mean a thing. It just means your number hasn’t come up yet. Thinking there is a magical way to protect yourself from “them” is silly. The illusion that if the gay community segregates itself between the positives and the negatives that it will lessen the tide of infection is unproven.
Knowing your HIV status and getting tested for other STDs is a necessary part of modern life for all people who are sexually
active today, and you can justifiably take pride that you take care of yourself in this way. If you are negative, testing can reaffirm your own commitment to stay negative. If you are positive, you can get the benefits of treatment. And, you can make sure that you are not infecting anyone else, because that will haunt you forever at some level. One thing that testing is not—is a pick-up line.