Saturday, October 22, 2011

Safe Sex...Defensive Driving

I came upon a good article recently and wanted to share it. It's about safe sex and how important it is to still practice it. Just because there are drugs out there that are keeping people who have HIV alive, doesn't mean all is well and there's nothing to worry about anymore.

These HIV drugs (ARVs) cost thousands of dollars a month even if you have good insurance, and most don't these days. These drugs have endless side effects and people with HIV are on them for the rest of their lives, daily. I have two close friends who are HIV positive and I know this first hand how difficult it is for them.

I also get into this in my next novel, FOUR GAY WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, where one partner in a longterm gay relationship is HIV positive and the other isn't. I will get into this in more depth in future posts because I think it's important that people realize it can happen no matter how monogamous you think you are. Your partner might not be.

I always like to think of safe sex the same way I think about defensive driving. Whenever I get into my car, I always drive with the mindset that everyone else on the road is an idiot, that I can't trust them, and that I can't assume they are responsible drivers. And I think the same thing goes for sexual partners.

When it comes to sex, how much are you willing to bare? The decision to bareback is not always easy, especially when the situations and individuals involved change. If you are having anal sex with a steady partner, a regular sex buddy or a number of individuals, chances are you've been faced with the decision of whether to bareback (or have anal sex without a condom) or practice safer sex. That decision can have a lasting effect on your future. Unprotected anal sex can drastically increase your chances of contracting or transmitting HIV and other STDs.

So, why do some men still have unprotected sex? There are a number of possible reasons:

Increased Apathy Over the Transmission of HIV. Some believe the myth that, as a gay man, contracting HIV is nevitable or unavoidable or that the virus can been controlled with advanced HIV medications. HIV is still alive and well and should not be thought of as a long-term illness. Remember, there is no cure for HIV or AIDS and HIV medications do not protect you from the virus.

Anxiety Over Contracting HIV. There are instances of some men either deliberately transmitting the virus or willingly receiving HIV. The terms gift giver and bug chaser are sometimes used to describe these men, respectively. It's theorized that bug chasers willingly attempt to contract HIV due to an overwhelming anxiety over catching the virus. A bug chaser may believe it is just a matter of time before they are infected. This is a false belief. Many gay men live long and healthy lives without contracting HIV.

Both Partners Are HIV Positive. Some HIV positive men believe that since they already have the virus there is no need to have protected sex with another HIV positive man. However, HIV positive men run the risk of reinfection, which occurs when a person living with HIV gets infected a second time while having unprotected sex with another HIV infected person.

Some "Live for the Moment." There are always those that either adopt or already possess fearless "live for the moment" mentalities–accepting whatever consequences may result from their actions. Sure, sex without a condom may increase sensation or feel more spontaneous, but the risks of unprotected sex are far more real and dangerous. A moment of pleasure can lead to a lifetime of illness.

Low Self-Esteem. A person with lower self-esteem can often run the risk of following the direction of a more confident sex partner. Protect your health, even if your partner claims that he can't get erect with a condom on or urges you to have unprotected sex for just a while. Also, keep your own self-confidence in perspective. Thinking you may lose a chance to be with a great guy or that you'll ruin a sensual moment will only put you at increased risk of contracting an STD or HIV. Part of him respecting you and part of you respecting yourself is protecting your health.

Drug Use. Using drugs like ecstasy, viagra or crystal meth can impair judgment and has been shown to increase the chances of having unprotected sex. The moment of a drug high may seem unforgettable, but majority of men remember little, including the sex, after coming down. Don't be caught in a situation where you have to remember an encounter that may have given you an unforgettable disease.

Sure, there are benefits to having bareback anal sex, like increased sensation in the penis, greater feeling of closeness to partners, and increased spontaneous. However, the benefits don't outweigh the potential dangers. Not only is there risk of infecting a partner, but you put yourself at risk, as well.

What If Both Partners Are Negative?

When it comes to barebacking partners should be cautious, even when they are both HIV negative. According to About.com's former HIV/AIDS expert Mark Cichocki, R.N.:

"While it is safe to bareback when both partners are disease free, the key is making sure both partners are disease free. The only way you can be 100% sure that is the case is by getting HIV and STD tests," Mark warns. "You cannot just go on someone’s word with this one. Many people don’t know they are infected and unfortunately people are not always 100% truthful when it comes to their sexual history."

Monogamy is also an important factor in maintaining a disease-free relationship. Bringing up the topic of monogamy and commitment are not one time couple conversatoins. You have to check in with your man often.

Even in the midst of a good monogamous bond, the headlights of life can blind us from the potential potholes of a relationship. In reality, some (and I stress some, not all) guys do cheat. We hope that they won't, but some do. There are no guarantees and you don't want to be surprised, especially when your health is at risk.

Always keep talks about safer sex and monogamy in your relationship current and relevant. As Mark advises, go get tested together before barebacking. Remember, there are other pesky bugs besides HIV, so get tested for STDs as well. Then, talk about monogamy in your relationship. Be clear about each others' expectations. For the sake of your health, both partners need to be open and honest with each other at all times. Set the tone early and maintain it throughout your relationship.

Even if you aren't in a relationship, you can never be too cautious when it comes to your health. Never simply take someone's word when it comes to STDs or HIV. The risks are too great and are never outweighed by the pleasure of barebacking.

5 comments:

mary gresham said...

Wow Ryan, I had to respond to this. You already know I have a friend that is HIV positive and how I feel about it. Randy and I were talking about it a few days ago. He wondered why gay men seem to get it way more often than women. I had to patiently explain it's because when there is anal sex, there are more likely to be tears and mixing of fluids than there is with vaginal sex. He was watching some porn at the time and that is why it was brought up, because the man in the video was not using a condom, which I think is downright stupid.

I follow several gay porn stars on Twitter and a couple of months ago I was friends with one named Brandon Hawke, was also a friend of a young man who was thinking of going to do a video with Brandon. Problem with that, is that Brandon is positive and all of his videos are bareback. The young man I was talking to, had no idea what he as getting into. Thankfully, I was able to put a stop to it before it happened. I do not see how this man gets away with still doing porn without using condoms. I know that it is illegal not to tell someone you are going to have sex with that you are positive, but whether or not he would have admitted it to the kid, I have no idea.

Quite honestly, I have no idea how I came through the 80s and the way I acted without ever catching anything myself, I find myself feeling pretty damn blessed that I didn't and it's something I will not take for granted.

I did learn something new from what you wrote, I had no idea that you can be infected a 2nd time. Thanks for letting us know about this. And thanks for posting about it at all, it's really important to all people, both straight and gay.

ryan field said...

Thanks for commenting, Mary. The article I pasted below my own copy is from the link I supplied above. I didn't write it and I don't want anyone to think I did. I just put it in italics to show it was from another web site. I do this because I know people don't like to click on links and I figure I'd rather get the information out there.

mary gresham said...

I knewthat you didn't write it, but I am still appreciative that you posted it, because I did learn something. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I figured you did. I usually write something like "Here's the article," and this time I didn't. I used to be able to colorize the copy and now I can't unless I use internet explorer. And I hate using quotes all over the place. So I started using italics.

Thanks for commenting!!

ryan field said...

I don't know why it says anonymous. It's me, Ryan.