Thursday, 21 February 2013


In the last couple of weeks I have become aware of five guys I know either online or in the real world who've been diagnosed with HIV, every one of them under 30 (and only one over 25).

This brings on several, perhaps contradictory, reflections.So here's a bit of a stream of consciousness of the thoughts going through my mind.

It's daft for anyone to contemplate unsafe sex. The original discovery of HIV/AIDS in the early 80s coincided with my own sexual awakening and I remember being shit scared every time I went close to a gay venue. Every single one of my age peers, gay, straight or otherwise, knows someone who died of HIV/AIDS, in the most ghastly circumstances. 

DON'T DIE OF IGNORANCE intoned the doom-laden government campaign, and many of us took that to heart. But it seems that like in most areas of life, the younger generation has forgotten the lessons learned by their forebears, and whilst HIV is no longer an immediate death sentence, it remains seriously unpleasant and IS a sentence to take a cocktail of drugs every remaining day of the infected person's life, and forces them to sacrifice many things.

To paraphrase a tweet from one of those guys, I knew the risks but I engaged in unsafe sex anyway. Hang on, you fucking moron, maybe YOU knew the risks, but was every one of the invariably VERY young and impressionable  guys you fucked and allowed to fuck you without protection aware of the risks? I don't expect you to give them a health lecture before jumping in the sack with them but behaving like a slag is NOT the behaviour of a responsible adult who is aware of the dangers of his actions to himself and others.

At least he made his status public as soon as he found out. But one of the others didn't admit to it for several weeks, all the while sleeping around and being very active on gay dating apps and websites. There is precedent for such behaviour to be considered criminal activity.

Nothwithstanding the above, these people have learned a hard lesson a very hard way and moral lecturing aside, they deserve our support. Shouting them down in public and avoiding them is not the right thing to do, and more often than not, they are victims of difficult circumstances. HIV positive people are not immediately contagious outside of intimate direct contact with their bodily fluids, and stupid as they may have been, they deserve our support as people. They need help and hugs and need to be allowed to continue their lives.

They certainly don't deserve to be ostracised, unless perhaps they have been proven to be wantonly and deliberately spreading a barely-treatable but incurable disease, but even so, the rest of us also need to educate ourselves about the dangers and frankly, there's no reason for us to behave any differently towards them.

I admit I find it difficult to be a true friend to someone I know has behaved recklessly and stupidly, but they are going to get plenty of shit from everyone else so the very least I can do is support them and educate myself and others.

I'm still coming to terms with what this news means to me and some of my personal relationships so I'd welcome any input from well meaning people to help me work out a position in which I can be true to my friends while also being true to my own conscience, and being able to condemn their stupidity while at the same time unstintingly supporting the in their time of most need of true friends.