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July 30, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Bent

Staying safe

I can remember being told I was HIV-. In my first sexual relationship, I was too scared to tell my partner I wanted to use condoms. I found out he was also having unprotected sex with other people, thus putting me at risk. The night I found out I was negative, I was over the moon. I broke down in tears, overjoyed that I’d been given a second chance. I may not have deserved it, but, boy, did I appreciate it!

Let’s say, though, that I’d been infected. Would it change your opinion of me? Of course it would. HIV still carries a stigma in New Zealand, and it’s a stigma that, based on the demographic of new infections, is well-deserved. White men in their 30s make up the majority of those who seroconvert here in Godzone. We’re talking access to sex education, safe-sex information, and, most importantly, condoms and water- or silicone-based lubricant. These men have the opportunity to practise safer sex, but choose not to do so, and, for me, that’s not OK. Life is a precious thing; don’t play Russian roulette with it.

Under current New Zealand law, HIV+ people do not have to disclose their status to their partners, so long as they use condoms when engaging in anal or vaginal sex. However, is safer sex sufficient? Not for me, it isn’t. You have a moral obligation to be upfront about your status, if not a legal one. Failure to disclose amounts to withholding a crucial piece of information that could affect someone’s decision to have sex with you, and that’s not OK. Think of it this way: Would you rather tell your partner you’re positive before you have sex, or after the condom breaks in flagrante? I can’t speak for everyone, but if I was on the receiving end of the latter, I’d be mad as hell!

Sex, and innovative ways to explore it, have long been seen as a right in the men-who-have-sex-with-men community. They’re what set us apart from our straight counterparts.  Well, I’m here to tell you that, wherever you are on the map of human sexuality, sex is a privilege. Whatever mistakes you make along the way, you need to stand up and accept them. Be open and honest. If you don’t play with a full deck of cards, you’ll see Fate deal some pretty rough hands—and that shit’s NASTY!

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