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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 survey 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 man.

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.

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