A few months before I started taking Truvada for PrEP, I got hit up on Manhunt by a gorgeous HIV-positive guy who wanted to fuck me bare. He was frank about it, telling me that his viral load was undetectable and had been for years and that he wouldn’t cum inside me. In all honesty, I blanched at his frankness.
For years, I had been telling friends (and anyone else who would listen) that choosing to only have sex with guys who think they’re HIV-negative wasn’t really an effective prevention strategy for guys in areas of the country like mine. Where I live, there are plenty of guys who think they’re negative who are actually positive because they haven’t been tested in eons. Transmission is mostly likely going to occur with these guys – not with guys who know they’re HIV-positive.
That may seem confusing at first, but the science behind it is straightforward. When you’re diagnosed as HIV-positive today, most doctors immediately recommend you start taking medication to treat the virus. HIV treatment can fight the virus so effectively that it makes the virus “undetectable” in your system. If the virus is undetectable in your body, it’s virtually impossible for you to transmit the virus. Guys who don’t yet know they’re infected aren’t taking these drugs. Without treatment, there could be tens of thousands or even millions of those tiny little critters in just one milliliter of blood. Having that much virus in your system dramatically increases the odds that the virus will be transmitted during sex.
This isn’t just my “opinion”: a recent study estimated that the majority of new HIV-infections in the US are the result of having sex with someone who didn’t yet know that they were poz. The CDC estimates 20% of HIV-positive people in the US don’t know they’re infected – yet it’s this 20% that researchers estimate account for between 54% and 71% of new infections.
The hard-to-swallow truth is that, for guys with a lot of partners (like me), fucking poz guys with undetectable viral loads is actually safer than fucking raw with guys who think they’re negative.
All right, so I’ve known these numbers for years – and yet I was still having trouble wrapping my head around the idea of condomless sex with an HIV-positive guy. I had been trained my entire life to think of that as anathema, akin to reckless self-endangerment. The kind of thing only a crazy person would do. I knew the science had totally debunked that kind of stigmatizing fear-mongering, and yet here I was, faced with an enticing proposition from an HIV-positive guy and feeling downright anxious. It was then and there I decided that it was time I put my money where my mouth was; it was time for the rubber to hit the road.
Unfortunately, the guy ended up being a creep, so I didn’t get to test my metal. It wasn’t until I started taking PrEP (about two months ago) that I started to seriously think about what it would mean to fuck with poz guys. Because I liked to fuck raw, I had pretty much organized my sex life around the rubric of “serosorting” (or, only fucking other guys with the same HIV-status) – but I knew that this system was flawed and bound to fail. With PrEP at my side, I started to incorporate poz guys into my sexual community. I started messaging them online. I joined BarebackRT, where the bulk of guys are poz. I began to open myself up to the possibility of sex across the sero-divide.
As it turns out, seeking out sex with poz guys raised a new set of issues that I didn’t anticipate. First, just as I had spent years telling myself that I wasn’t supposed to be fucking poz guys, many poz guys are simply not interested or willing to have sex with HIV-negative guys. Why concern themselves with my limits, when they can find sex with poz guys who don’t have to worry about transmission?
But more importantly for me, I had to learn exactly what my limits were. This is more of an ad hoc process than I anticipated. Do I let poz guys cum inside me? And what about poz guys whose viral loads aren’t detectable? I learned my answer to both of these questions recently, but not until my legs were already in the air. Before having sex with the first poz guy I let fuck me raw, I had a lengthy discussion about viral loads and safety. He reassured me that his partner of eight years was negative, and that “I know how to keep my bottoms safe.” It was, in fact, reassuring. As he was about to cum, though, I was faced with a dilemma. I love for guys to cum in my ass, but I could feel the nerves running through me that told me I wasn’t so sure I was up to it. He asked where I wanted him to cum, and I told him to cum on my back. You gotta take your harm reduction where you can find it, I suppose.
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