Does HIV status really not matter in 2015?

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Of all the gay drama, controversy and debate in matters of HIV, the most tongue waggable of the year so far may be the assertion that, if you know what you’re doing, your sex partner’s HIV serostatus weighs little to none on your personal future with the disease.

Prolific HIV blogger Mark King, who makes his home in Washington, DC, after decades as an AIDS activist in gay Atlanta, hits some knees right where they jerk again in a recent column in his ongoing My Fabulous Disease series. He details how HIV today can be rendered irrelevant to your sex life in Five reasons his HIV status doesn’t matter any more

1. What you do in bed is up to you.

2. Someone may be taking PrEP.

3. He is positive and undetectable.

4. HIV isn’t the only game in town.

5. When does his HIV status absolutely matter? When he isn’t dealing with it.

“I wrote the post because I like providing basic HIV info to Queerty's huge audience of youngish, sexually active gay men,” King tells Project Q. “There isn't any 'going too far' when it comes to writing about gay sex, because when we don't speak up or we make assumptions, HIV wins. We've got to keep the conversation going.”

It worked; conversation came fast and furious when King’s latest hit Queerty. Critics lashed out at his provocative premise as irresponsible at best, evil at worst.

“People are threatened by talk of sex and HIV. Period,” King asserts to us. “So when you don't promote whatever their agenda is – use a condom every time, all poz guys are sluts or negative guys are lucky bastards – they react with some hostility. …

“People read things into what I say all the time! They think by sharing information on PrEP that I am anti-condom. They think I “favor” people who are HIV positive because I am – and they don't see their own prejudice in that assertion.”

But what about people arguing that King is “allowing” or providing ready-made excuses for people who bareback or make other decisions with higher risk? Bullshit, the writer tells us.

“People have accused me of 'permitting' unsafe behaviors, as if I lead an army of marauding bare-backers who are awaiting the signal from me,” King responds. “I don't have that kind of power. … Talking openly and trying to help people lower their risk on getting or giving HIV within the reality of their actual lives can and does lower risk.”

One more thing: Ruffling feathers may be all in a day’s work for King, but he says that the vitriol does get old.

“People feel more comfortable towing a strict party line or trying to demonize those of us who write honestly,” the blogger says. “I just want us to understand behaviors and reduce the risks to our health as much as possible.

“I have some very hostile followers. I mean, like, seriously,” he adds. “The same people pop up on every site where my works appears, with the same gripes and god awful criticism. Like the guy who called me a “vile merchant of death,” but keeps following and posting. … I'm glad to keep issues of sexual health brewing online. I don't mind ignorance; we should all stay teachable. But hostility does get tiring.”

But with all the hubbub over King's confessions of a teenage slutpuppy or 20-something phone-sex worker, or his HIV dustups about bludgeoning people with our history or shocking sero-sorted opinions, what comment does he actually hear most? 

“'Thank you for saying what we're thinking,'” King says.



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