lazarus 2: radiation poisoning
I thought long and hard before publishing
this one in its original form. For two reasons.
Firstly, I donít feel the
same as I did when I wrote this (in 1999). Iím not as angry
about the anticipated rejection for being HIV positive. Some
little relay in my brain has finally gone Ďclickí and I found
that, after about 16 years of living with HIV that finally I became
able to routinely disclose my status to potential sexual
partners, and weather any rejection I get. And I also think I've
got less selfish.
The second consideration, of course,
is that since I wrote this four UK men and a woman have got thrown in
jail for transmitting HIV. The story I tell in this column is in
theory the admission of a criminal act. Even if I, as I thought
when I wrote this, am 99.99%
incapable of transmitting HIV, (and
recent data show I may have been wrong, you can have virus up
your bum even if you donít have it in your blood), the courts
tell us thereís such a thing as psychological GBH; and I sure
scared this boy. In some states of the US,
not to mention Austria, Australia, Canada and Sweden, this
column could get me jailed.
Which takes me back to the first point. A recent
found that 40% of HIV positive men never disclose
their status at first shag. If it takes me Ė a supposedly
sorted, educated gay man whoís an expert on HIV Ė 16 years
before he finally gets the oomph to routinely disclose to any
and every sexual partner Ė how realistic is it to expect it of
all pozzies, and how
constructive is it to jail us if they donít? Hmm?
lazarus 2: radiation poisoning
Stupid, stupid, stupid Gus. You donít
reveal youíre HIV positive to a bisexual Italian boy whoís not
out to his girlfriend, and who fucked you without a condom last
week, without expecting some drama, do you?
The way the tears started from the blue
eyes was not a good sign. Nor was the shivering fetal crouch he
adopted on the sofa.
ďOh my God oh my God! Why did you do it? Oh
my God! Iíll have to get a test tomorrow. You shouldnít go
around doing that sort of thing. Oh my God! Donít say anything.
Donít touch me. I think youíd better leave now.Ē
I felt like a louse as I traipsed back across
London. For me, just another fickbuddy lost - but for him,
I suspected, three months of sweating body-panic and avoiding
his baffled girlfriendís advances till he got his result. Yes,
it takes two to do the bareback tango, but I had known something
he didnít, and just because he was a foolish man, it didnít mean
I wasnít a bad one.
Then, as I crossed the river, my mood
changed. I was still guilty about him but I got angry about his panic. Sod the lot of
them and their Oh-my-God itís the End of the World. Not because
Iím some bitter AIDS Mary who likes polluting young neggies with
his poison seed. No, but because I knew I hadn't harmed this
I encountered him on a phone line. The
conversation, which in itself provided several daysí worth of
fantasy material, centred on the unfeasibly huge size of our
members (oh get over it - this was a one-handed conversation),
how horny he got when heíd been cycle-racing, and how he kept
thinking of (Brit soap star) Grant Mitchellís bum when he was
doing his woman. All good edifying stuff. He was to turn up on
his bike in full Tour-de-France rig on Friday night.
And what a nice surprise. Hard body, classic
Mediterranean face, brilliant blue eyes with long lashes, and an
engaging, puppyish enthusiasm about the whole blind-shag thing.
So there we are. Heís doing young straight
athlete whoís in danger of drowning in his own sperm unless he
puts it somewhere, anywhere, and Iím doing the one I know Iím
just sooo good at, this one about being this East End
hardnut skinhead who is nothing pouffy you understand, all man,
but just happens to like having his brawny backside rammed by a
big boy, and out come the condoms, and he stuffs it in, but
almost immediately loses his hardon. Well, thatís no good. Iím
on heat and heís in danger of losing it altogether. So he whips
off the condom with an oh-what-the-hell shrug and slides in nice
and sweet, and we just dock like Soyuz into Mir, andÖ
Except it wasnít all amyl-fuelled
recklessness. Because at the same time Iím calculating certain
odds in my head. What is it, one chance of infection in 80-100
shags if Iím on top, I saw quoted recently. Ten times less
likely if he is. One in 800, say. But Iíve an undetectable viral
load, and if thereís virtually no virus in my blood Iím damn
sure thereís precious little up my bum. Letís say one chance in
10,000 if weíre very unlucky. That's not my figure. It's the
latest estimate for infecting anyone if your viral load's under
1500. Mine's been under 50 for three years.
Pretty good odds, donít you think? Iíve been
busier than many but even I havenít racked up 10,000 shags.
Thereís probably less chance of me passing on HIV to him than
there is of him getting run over as he cycles home. And he does
that every day and doesnít get the screaming habdabs about it.
At this point the chorus of tutting and
teeth-sucking from the health campaigners becomes too loud to
ignore. Itís because of people like you that the HIV figures are
going up, they say. Then they go into the one about you canít
tell if youíre infectious from a viral load test.
Will you listen? Iím not saying tell,
Iím saying calculate. The problem about never and
always and you can never tell is that it turns
positive men into human nuclear power stations. Those of us on
successful combo therapy are, in reality, pretty tightly run
leak-proof establishments, but the sheer public horror at the
deadliness of our contents, and the fact that a leak cannot be
predicted, leads everyone to want to maintain weíre more
dangerous than we are.
Yes, there are times in our HIV career when
weíre more like Chernobyls, when first infected or when the
treatments start failing and we begin the slide to AIDS. But a
positive man on combo therapy is rarely spraying virus into the
environment or into anyone, and a lot of us know this - or bank
on it. You can reason your way into unprotected sex, as
opposed to just doing it in self-loathing and desperation.
Itís not just about reason, though, I grant.
There is also the fact that while negative men still feel that
getting HIV would be The End Of The World, we pozzies are living
proof that it isnít. Weíve been through the Big Crunch and weíre
still here. Thatís an immovable difference in attitude. Positive
men are post-scared.
Which leaves the question, so why did I tell
him? Why not just keep shtum? Because, after the balling was
over, I microwaved him a Sainsburyís ready meal and he sat on
the bed and thanked me for it and I thought maybe, just maybe,
this has some kind of future, at least as a regular bit of fun.
But if it is, then you've got to tell, haven't you, and better
now than because, after two months of delirious, guilt-edged
barebacking, he discovers the HIV pills in your desk drawer. So
you say, and suddenly youíre a two-headed mutant. You canít win.