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Monday, November 12, 2012

SL Letter of the Day: Positive Reinforcement

Posted by Dan Savage on Mon, Nov 12, 2012 at 10:29 AM

I'm on hiatus while working on a manuscript for a new book. In the meantime, please enjoy these classic Savage Love letters pulled from previous columns. I will be back when the book is finished. —Dan

Originally published November 29, 2007:

I'm a single gay male in my late 20s. I've met a guy I really like. We chat all the time and we're attracted to each other. We haven't yet been sexually active with each other, but we're planning to get naked and sweaty (and break out the ropes and blindfolds) over Christmas break. Why do we have a date "scheduled" for the sex? Well, because he lives six hours away and that's when he's next coming to visit.

But here's the "problem"—he happens to be HIV-positive. Before you start yelling at me for calling his status a problem, let me elaborate. The problem isn't that he's HIV-positive, per se. The problem is with me. I've had sex with poz guys in the past, but the thing is, I didn't know it at the time. I've always been safe and sensible and yadda yadda yadda, and my last HIV test (two months ago) came back negative. So while I know the risk is no greater with this new guy than it was with any of the poz guys I've slept with before, I'm still nervous and I'm not sure how I'll react emotionally when we go to bed together.

So here's my question, Dan. Is it fair to him to warn him that I might feel a little nervous having sex with him despite the fact that he's smokin' hot and we really want to fuck each other's brains out? I feel like HIV isn't supposed to be a "deal breaker," and he's got it and can't change that fact, and I'd feel guilty putting another burden on him in the form of my own insecurities about it. What should I do?

Neg Kinkster In The Heartland

Unless HIV has been found to burn fat calories, repair damaged split ends, and act as a natural male enhancement since the last time I Googled the virus, NKITH, your friend's HIV status is a problem. While HIV infection may not be the fatal illness it once was (so long as you have access to life-saving drugs, of course), it's still no fucking picnic. It's better to be neg than it is to be poz—and that's a fact, NKITH, not a thought crime.

Presumably you're aware of this guy's HIV status in advance of his visit because he had the decency and the courage to disclose his HIV status to you. The decent and courageous thing for you to do now, NKITH, is to disclose your nervousness to him. Before you break out the ropes and condoms, NKITH, he needs to acknowledge the risks you're taking on when you sleep with him and do all he can to minimize those risks.

Ask him if he's being treated. Inquire about his viral load. Impress on him—in a good-natured, matter-of-fact way—that you desire to remain negative. Emphasize the importance of condoms and tell him that you apologize in advance if nerves get the better of you the first time out. And if you don't know this guy well, I'd leave the bondage and blindfolds off the menu until you've established a real sense of trust. And guess what, kiddo? You can't establish that kind of trust during your first face-to-face/ass-to-face/cock-to-ass visit.

And finally, NKITH, you have to accept that you could get infected even if you do everything right. If you're going to have insertive sex with this man (or any man whose HIV status you're unaware of)—particularly if you plan to blow him without a condom or let him fuck you even with one—you can only minimize your risks, NKITH, not eliminate them. Condoms break, condoms leak—rarely, if they're used correctly, but it does happen. People get infected giving blowjobs—rarely, again, but it does happen. He shouldn't sleep with you if he can't promise to do his best to keep you negative, NKITH. But you shouldn't sleep with him if you can't promise not to hold it against him if, even after doing everything right, you wind up positive.

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