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Gay-on-Gay Shaming: The New HIV War

Here are salvos from a new battle: Calling a young, HIV-negative gay man a "Truvada whore" simply for choosing a prevention option with a higher efficacy rate than condoms. Becoming indignant when someone says AIDS is still a gay problem. Turning to the police when you find out the guy that just jilted you is HIV-positive. Putting "I'm clean, ub2" in your online profile. Joining digital stonings via online comment sections when a 20-something dares to come out as HIV-positive. HIV-negative guys barebacking with those who tell them they are negative and shunning the few brave ones who admit they're positive. These are just some of the examples of the new HIV war, with its gay-on-gay shaming.

2014-02-26-StigmaProject.jpgHIV-related stigma is worse than ever. Not the external kind, where a society is panicked about the new plague. Thankfully, the days of being shunned by hospital orderlies or funeral homes are over. But I'd prefer that kind of stigma over today's brand. At least I knew how to fight the external kind. Today's internal stigma, where a community shuns its own, is seemingly intractable and far more destructive.

It breaks my heart that the worst of HIV stigma comes from my own community: gay men. It wasn't always this way. It might surprise today's younger gay men to learn that there was very little HIV-related stigma between us during the early years of the crisis. If anything, I felt the opposite of stigma when I publicly disclosed my status in the late '80s. Gay men with HIV received communal love and support. Once the gospel of safe sex was firmly entrenched, even sexual shunning became rare. Maybe it was our numbers, with upwards of half of New York's and San Francisco's gay men being HIV-positive by 1985. Maybe it was because many of us couldn't hide it, as our HIV painfully manifested as AIDS. Maybe it was our communal fighting back, as we rose up against a government that was ignoring our suffering.

Regardless of the reasons, we felt like one community. We were all living with HIV, regardless of status. I realize this view is skewed. I lived in a city where the social norms were being heavily influenced by ACT UP and other community responses to the crisis. The beginnings of gay-on-gay HIV-related stigma could be easily found in other cities and towns back then. But now it seems to be the norm, regardless of location.

Now that you can take your pills and hide it, and now that we've had at least one generation of gay men who never witnessed AIDS, the sense that we're all living with HIV is long gone. A culture of safe sex, where you always presume the person you're sleeping with is positive, has been replaced with a culture of barebacking, where risk is magically reduced by deeply flawed attempts at serosorting. The flaws are hidden because HIV is now hidden, by inadequate testing, or the very crowded HIV closet in which many now choose to live.

The result is a vicious cycle where HIV-related stigma leads to more HIV while hiding its damage by instilling fear and shame in the newly infected. Their resulting silence makes HIV seem rare and avoidable, giving space for the next generation's stigma. AIDS activists have been trying to break this cycle for years now, to seemingly little effect. There have been countless ad campaigns, online and otherwise, but they fall on deaf ears. Avoiding HIV also seems to mean avoiding a discussion about HIV, turning the page, not bothering to click on a graphic or link that even hints at that plague fought long ago. The stigma protects itself.

Can anything be done to change this sad status quo? Given our now-entrenched state of AIDS fatigue, I'm beginning to think the war on HIV-related stigma is lost. By all means, let's keep fighting it, if only to keep it from getting worse. But here's the important thing: We can still win the war against HIV. Recent history offers ample evidence that persistent public health interventions can overcome remarkable levels of social resistance.

An international push to wipe out polio has yielded stunning results since 1988, when it was endemic in 125 countries. Now it's down to just three, with total elimination possible by 2018. Thanks to the leadership of the Carter Center, Guinea worm disease is set to become the second human disease in history, after smallpox, to be eradicated. The campaign against it was launched in 1986, and incidence of the disease has since dropped 99.9-percent. It will be the first disease eradicated without the use of a vaccine or medical treatment. If we can wipe out polio in India with its extreme poverty (no cases reported since 2011) or eliminate Guinea worm in war-torn Afghanistan (no cases since 2007), then we can wind down HIV incidence in the U.S.

All it takes are concerted public health interventions and the money to fund them. We have the tools to reduce HIV incidence ("treatment as prevention," or TasP; flattening the "treatment cascade"; pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP; etc.); we just have to apply them. Some localities are already proving this. Washington, D.C., launched an all-hands-on-deck effort in 2006 and has shown very promising results. New HIV infections have dropped 46-percent since 2007. By all accounts, HIV-related stigma is still alive and well in our nation's capital, but they've worked around it.

We need to plow through the continued apathy, ignorance, and stigma. While the gay men who moralize and finger-wag will most definitely slow us down, AIDS activists and their public health allies will ultimately win this war. So if you're fighting the good fight and getting any stigmatizing pushback, then push ahead even harder. Give a good smack to that finger in your face, ignore the moralizing idiots online, and find strength from your allies in this fight. And know this: When this crisis is finally over, there will be two kinds of people remembered: those who fought to end it, and those who slowed us down.

Peter on:


Show Comment(s)

Comments on Peter Staley's blog entry "Gay-on-Gay Shaming: The New HIV War"

Well writ, Peter. History is subjective, and often fleeting. Young gay men today can't relate to the dozens, scores of friends some of us lost. They don't know about ACT UP or don't relate to how it got things done. And they don't have the fear of imminent death behind an HIV diagnosis, since the folks they've known with HIV/AIDS can take medication for years and still be relatively healthy. Young gay men today don't even care about Stonewall or how our transgendered brothers and sister fought along side of us (often in FRONT of us) in earning our rights to simple human dignity.

I keep taking my medications and keep staying well despite having cd4 counts in the double figures.

Am i disease free? Yes, at least as much so as the poz-phobic guys if not more so. So the phobes better watch what they ask for, I'm clean, I'm disease-free but I'm poz. It all depends if they ask the right non-stigmatising questions.

Suck it up phobes.

WOW. You said everything I have been feeling more eloquently than I ever could. Thank you!

Well said as always Peter and thank you for all you have done in the past and all you continue to do in the fight against HIV/AIDS, you are one of my biggest heroes. I, like you,tested HIV+ in the 80's and have been very public and outspoken about my disease. Like you, I plan "to fight to the end".

DDT - if you are poz, you are poz. Better you know that, for sure, but NO taking meds absolutely in no way makes you the equivalent of negative "or better" as you imply. The virus level may be reduced in your blood, but it's still there. It's also still elevated in your semen where it counts. What you are doing is trying to feel superior to negative guys. While emotionally understandable, it's ultimately no better than the HIV shaming.

How sad is it that we gay folks have to be such snippy bitches to each other when we have more against us coming from everywhere. This is a sad commentary on caring for our own. SAD and WRONG!

After having been left at a restaurant, on the dancefloor, and twice in my own apartment after disclosing, despite my tall, muscular and well-endowed good looks and great sense of humour, sero-sorting is the only option. The heart can only take so much. Condoms are great for action at the baths or for one-night stands, but anyone with any life experience knows that during an extended relationship, where early mornings and late nights lead to real intimacy and foggy brains, they are only frustrating and ultimately lead one to set the other free to find a love where fear and prevention are not the lowest common denominator. Why did the Minotaur live in the labyrinth? To keep himself away from the rest of the world.

i hate to say it but gay males are the worst excuses for men..i really dont care what they do or what they say..after 50 years being gay im sick of them all.

Great article. But I would like to add that stigma is alive and well in a great many facets of our society. It's definitely alive in many workplaces. Reference the aspiring TSA worker that was denied employment due to his status. People are still being denied the opportunity to gain employment, put food on the table and gain access to employer provided health care and therefore HIV care due to their status. Refusal to promote for reasons of health status is still quite prominant. There are many articles out there about how progressive the military has become regarding HIV. Hogwash. Maybe some carefully crafted cases suitable for a good PR release but the military remains very HIV phobic and will do everything possible to get rid of their HIV+ 'dead wood' (actual quote from a commander.). Hetero stigma remains every bit as high as gay/gay stigma. I think it can or does have the same effects so eloquently articulated by the author of this piece. The religious right is still out there with many of the same twisted ideas about sex, women, homosexuality and yes, HIV.

I think this article was fantastic and the author did an exemplary job describing the theme of gay on gay stigma. But I think it may be useful to remember it continues to exist is many aspects of our world.

Wow! First bug-chasers and gift-givers, and now this?! This almost makes me glad I dropped out of the gay subculture decades ago. Besides, nobody wants you when you're old & gay.

Very, very sad commentary. :-(

Thank you Peter for your courage, compassion and charge to make it better for us all. The move to continue to mobilize our communities should also include a celebration of those learning to live, love and raise each other up regardless of HIV status. Your article reminds me that we have much work to do but our contribution in this century will be memorable for all times.

This article is spot on!

I am so tired of having to see men on line say they are "std and diease free-you be too"or "no poz men please" and yet I will see the same guys from these ads at cruise areas,even participating in public sex at out our local leather bar,having multiple partners,never asking once if who they were participating with,if they were poz or neg.The truth is for a lot of gay men.....if you don't ask or tell its safe and assumed you'll wont pick up anything....this is convient denial,but when you come forward and actually admit to being poz,then there is a total rejection,to even having safe sex.The gay male community is still demonsating hyprocracy reguarding this thinking.It is damamging,unsafe,and continues to keep all of us apart.
Mark Lee

very insightful article..i agree, i've had hiv since the early '80s..and people today r quite different in their reaction to hiv..used to be I had great sex , safe of course, not you've gotta say if yur hiv + or face a probable criminal charge..naturally this just about eliminates any interested party...sorta sad as i'm keeping in great shape..but feel the "stigma" more not than ever before when we all had "safe sex"..i hope they can knock this virus out..but don't think so as the pharmaceutical cos. r making more $$$ on these drugs...hell I've lived w/it 4 over 25 yrs....hard to believe....

Mr. Stanley, it is clear you are a little upset with the behavior of our Gay Community or men in the gay community that are mean to us HIV-positive people. Yes, for all communities I have learned can be shallow in thoughts and deeds in unacceptable behavior that in not in their moral mirror. I learned some in the Gay Community can be bullies, like most packs within sub cultures and can form meanness to another level against their own. I for one am very open about my HIV and mission, with hopes more will not be HIV and hope that the person with AIDS can face a brighter tomorrow, along with HIV people not have to face AIDS at all in their lives, and yes, for many to change their outlook and meanness to HIV-positive people. I am also very liberal in the concept that the morning before pill or morning-after pill, along, with Rapid HIV screening kits should be available for over the counter sales for anyone to buy without a script. However, on the other hand, if I had a 20-year-old child, I personally would suggest building a relationship with his or her lover of honesty, without having to purchase the morning before the pill in hopes to build integrity and honor within the young, which in some Gay circle I believe is missing. I also believe Washington cannot solve any problems, maybe throw some money at that problem and help in the process of problem solving. So, it is interesting in your rage of the stigma that is being deployed at some HIV people and for me, I am strong in my Faith and know, what God has called clean, let no man call unclean and the shallow Gay men who spout this meanness I have pity on them for their lack of compassion and uneducated values within their behavior that is learned and sadness at times in their person life of fear, yes it is fear in hoping that the next trick will make whole in love, honor and integrity and not get HIV in the process. Yes, ou are right there is a lot of work to be done in helping many to heal from their fears, shame and wounds. I am hoping the young do not think they have to accept the crumbs of love in the future and that many elders in the Gay Community will help and bring forth more honor, truth and integrity to our communities and not just, throw a pill at the youth.

I lost my first friend to HIV in the 80's when I was 18 years old. He went so fast, after the diagnosis. I remember the love and support my tiny group of friends offered one another. I only got tested when it became obvious I was very ill.. I'm still here. An official Long Term Survivor - and it sickens me watching what's happening in our community. Where is the love and support we used to show one another? And more importantly how can we get it back.

I was diagnosed hiv + back in 1997. When my partner passed in 2006, I found myself getting out of the closet once more; however, this time was getting out of the closet as an HIV + man. To be honest, I have been Single every since. Things have never been easy, and they are only getting worse. No matter how I disclose my status, it comes back and slap me on the face. I consider myself, handsome, in great shape, intelligent, good job, great health, undetectable, but as soon as the HIV conversation comes along, a lot of times is a deal breaker. It is amazing how now days you see all those profiles with, HIV neg ub2, neg since 02/15/12, decease free, and my new favorite one, you must be Clean. Me, being responsible, I disclose my HIV status, but the funny thing is that if I lie about it, I can probably get away with it. A lot of people that write all those crazy things probably do not know their status, were tested two years ago or just lie about it. It tickles me when people keep using the term “Gay Community”… There has never been a Gay Community and that’s why now I find pride festivities so hypocrite. The way I see Pride is just an excuse to party and have Sex… If we are a community, why draw lines? When I was in my 20’s it was the $$$ factor, who drives the BMW, who wears the Armani shirt and you practically had to live in the gym. In my 30’s it was the age factor… I was getting too old and now we have the HIV status factor. Community means Union and that does not exist among gay people.

How I long for the days when you went down on someone and you knew he was wearing a condom the last time he went up an arse. Yes Peter back then people had sex with you, knowing or not knowing, your status because they all practised safe sex and felt it wrong to discriminate as they could well be the next. We had the chance to eradicate syphilis and we blew it. The number of knockbacks I now get because I still practice safe sex. That doesn't bother me personally because I get knocked back for being 65 anyway but it bothers me that this selfish attitude and lack of care for other gay men's health means we will never END HIV. I have come to telling people they don't want a super infection with my version of the virus as it is resistant to almost all arv medications. I say if they want unsafe sex with me it means they have had unsafe sex with others. Who knows what else they are carrying? Why do they think HIV is the only disease you can catch? As well as syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia there is the spectre of super gonhorrea and have they ever seen what LGV would do to them. There was an outbreak of LGV in Australia last year. The last thing I say to people who want to bareback is I don't want to have to go through again what I went through 22 years ago. They just don't know!


I truly would like to thank you for this great article!

I am one who is single again from a 8+ year relationship ending. I am truly seeing the STIGMA of your article first hand of the gay on gay shaming from trying to start dating again.

I cannot count how many times I have seen the HIV-, testing dates and so forth listed in a profile on other sites!

The one thing which kills me is the fact I am an individual who does tell someone I am interested in the fact I am living positive. When I let the fact be known of my status I am dropped like a heaping, steaming pile of s**t! And this is from the ones advertising: bareback anything goes!

After all of what I have seen first hand from what your article is describing I have gotten out of these sites altogether and switched to poz dating sites only. The only reason I even thought of using a non poz dating site was due to the fact of my last relationship. He was negative and I was positive. He remained, (and still is) negative thru the course of our relationship but when we had gotten together 8 years ago the gay on gay shaming wasn't being seen in my area....

Keep up the GREAT WORK...!

Keith T. Emmert
Dixon, Illinois

We are all "one-hook-up" away from becoming poz. We just prefer to pretend it is not happening. Most cases do happen because not only BB sex is the norm but also because nobody wants to slice that "cream pie" to see what was in it. Forgoing testing to know ones status is equivalent to taking anti freeze w Gatorade to hide the poison and inducing ones own fate.

Lots of raw emotion in the comments. I'd like to bridge the painful divide here. Let's start with so called "Lookism"-- there's no sense in whining because the suitors you desire don't feel the same attraction and consider you to be ugly, old, out of shape, not wealthy enough etc. For heaven's sake get over it. I remember one occasion when I was 20 and a 30+ bald Ivy League professor type tried to pick me up at the Big Cup in Chelsea. I told him he wasn't my type, but because he lacked maturity, he became belligerent and upset. Fast forward many years... I'm in my 30s and kids in their 20s won't give me a second look. But I deal with it like an adult.

Which brings us to the silly energy this movement is wasting fighting "ub2" and "clean". Get over it! We live in a selfish world. College educated guys look down on guys with GEDs, sadly white people are racist towards blacks and Asians on Grindr, and yes Neg people don't wanna sleep with you. There is not yet an affirmative action program requiring Neg people to have sex with Poz people. The AIDS charities have lost their grounding. Rather than focus on prevention or services for PWA, they are now obsessed with this thought police war against "clean", not to mention their new agenda to convince everyone that barebacking is safe.

How about everyone grow a pair. If guys reject you, then move on. Why let them get to you?!

Interestingly I was checking out the blogs to find a statement or article on sex and HIV. I don't have sex because of the fear of infecting someone else, as well I don't have but one friend that is HIV+, as far as I know any way. After reading about the stigma HIV still has I tend to believe that I actually perpetuate the idea that there is something wrong with someone who actually is HIV+. I recently disclosed to a co-worker, I felt confident it would go well and she would be supportive, we do work in social services after all, to my surprise she burst into tears. I was taken back a moment, I comforted her then suddenly felt that my not disclosing to people is a good idea I've practiced for years and I'll continue with that today. I never discuss my illness, have no support for it, including a PCP or meds. I, in fact decided I could handle it without all the doctor visits or the medication and the crap I had to go through to keep my insurance, just to go to the doctor and get the meds. The stigma is all too clear, I don't want to be seen in those places I don't, after all this time, want to be reminded I am HIV+. I'm 51 and hetro and female and white and don't know one person like myself. Imagine how lonely that is, imagine telling a date you are HIV+ and healthy and still they don't ever call again. I agree that's not the person I want to be with anyway, masturbation only last for so long! Damn it! I want to be with someone.
So is it stigma if I act like I don't have it?

Dear Peter,

HIV/AIDS stigma has been alive and well for well over ten years. Organisations like ACON, VAC and others previously known as AIDS Councils have done little or nothing to combat this phenomenon. In some ways they have exacerbated the problem. Their Poz/Neg programs were a failure simply because of the underlying discrimination in their promotion and production. These programs now reside with HIV peer organisations. Ex-AIDS Councils were also responsible for the promoting of an attitude that if anyone contracted HIV in this day and age, due to Prep and condoms they are irresponsible. At the same time these organisations did not promote testing and there was an underlying attitude that if you were not tested you could not be charged with deliberately spreading HIV.

ACON sponsored a party for 'sexually adventurous' men at the sex on premises venue and expected us to believe nobody was having sex. Either they are naive or just plain stupid. But the thing that amazed me is this party was for HIV negative 'sexually adventurous' men. What I want to know is what were the methods for proving negativity or positivity.

The last is the 'Ending HIV' Campaign. Simply by its name it is discriminating against HIV positive people. So by ending HIV do you end us too? We still exist and while we do HIV still exists. I believe these organisations have been irresponsible and have actively, with the gay press, promoted HIV discrimination through different programs, through attitudes to HIV positive gay men and through their actively deleting programs that focus on HIV positive gay men.

I have talked about HIV discrimination for the last ten years but nobody, not even Positive Life, would listen. For an HIV positive gay man Australia is not the worst place to live but if you go out to the gay bars it can be the worst experience of your life.

Thank you, Peter. Just as I felt your weariness from this battle, you dug up a second wind and renewed your resolve to press on! While initially feeling a bit regretful for keeping to myself for so many years, I am glad to finally begin sharing my experience with others. Through catching-up with the current issues with stigma and HIV awareness/education, I am resolved to find my place and to join my voice with yours to defeat HIV stigma.

Exiled for Life: Marry me?

I did enjoy this article. I am not a writer or a book reader but this really stood out to me,this is very much what I experienced since I was diagnosed in 1998.

Thank you for bringing it up!

really ? you are a hero and a hot mess all at the same time. I love that about you. Letting your humanity ooze out all over the place like always. that is what i love about you. but you don't like everybody and not everybody likes you. didn't you learn that in kindergarten ? Life can suck , and if you are lucky you' ll like it.

sending love and another Really >?

have a poz i tive day !


I know exactly how this feels. I was diagnosed as POZ almost 4 years ago when I was 23. While I have been very pro active on taking my meds, and always having a healthy T Cell count, it still doesn't take away the stigma I faced. I told a sexual partner I had a few months before I had been diagnosed that he should get tested. He vehemently told me he was negative (I'm sure he was) but he spread it around to others. People would know before I could tell them in due course. It was disheartening and made me feel like a social "leper". I had had many friends in the past when I lived in Seattle that were POZ and I could only sympathize with them on their stigma situations. Now I feel their pain and in all honesty sometimes its enough to make me want to stay in my house and never open up to another person. Not to mention that, as a fairly cute independent guy, I never had a boyfriend before I was POZ. Now it seems like I never will and thats a reality where my hopeful dreams of a husband are daily being shattered. I have told guys I was about to go on dates with, sometimes to have them fake the first date and never call back and on two occasions they flat out told me they were no longer interested. As a gay community we should be a community, not separate groups clinging to an imaginary sense of each man for himself. Hopefully this will one day chance, but first we must put aside our superficial needs in exchange for more positive (no pun intended) self images.

The lack of personal responsibility in this article and the comments is stunning. I definitely sympathize with HIV+ people, AIDS activists, etc, but there also needs to a sense of personal responsibility within the gay community. Let me go further and ask: why does the gay community put so much emphasis on sex and beauty? Why is there such a casual attitude towards sex, and why is there such strong propensity within the gay community to constantly be sexually active, usually with several different partners? Why does the gay community cultivate a culture that is fine with this type of risky behavior? THATS what needs to change. Many people who are HIV positive (not all) made lifestyle choices that contributed to them getting infected. That sounds ignorant at first, but it is definitely valid.

So yes, we need to stop shaming people, and HIV/AIDS awareness is extremely important, but I think without a cultural change from the gay community (or alternatively, a vaccine), it won't get any better.

As a 30 yr old in Texas that found out he was positive at 27, I want to offer a glimmer of hope to all those reading these comments. Yes, younger gay men are far less knowledgeable about HIV/AIDS than the oldest generation, but learn not to be prejudice and learn to be open about your status. I have never visited a bathhouse, had to use the local park system to cruise for sex, or even hooked-up with a guy I've met at a club, but I have met guys off various apps and dating websites. I have found that guys my own age are at least open to learning about HIV after I disclose, even if they're not open to dating. I always disclose before even the first date so that neither one of us have invested anything emotionally, let alone sexually. I find by doing this, guys are less defensive and I experience less heartache. Even more interesting, I have a couple of guys who quietly exited my life after disclosing actually return to me weeks later with a renewed interest. Sometimes, you will be the first guy they've ever met who they knew was HIV-positive. The more confident you are when disclosing will pay dividends later because the guys will see how comfortable you are in your own skin. Never take rejection after disclosure personally because they never even got to know you, and they're only really rejecting the disease. For me, once some guys got past the disease, they realized they wanted to get to know me. For those who never got past seeing HIV, they didn't deserve to be in my life and I never have given them a second thought.

Personally, and I'll toot my own horn hear, have been confronting these guys since everyone was perusing the personals on gay rags. This is not a new phenomenon. I always thought it was an unfair, and downright insulting premise.

Then we moved to the impersonal Internet; adding yet another layer of cover for the cowardly, who are convinced they should be allowed to sort out guys by race, weight, ethnicity (not the same as race boys), salary, etc., and, of course to stay on point, sero-status.

My contention, ever since back in the day, is that every individual has the responsibility for his/her health. However, as it appears today, the onus has fallen on us to keep negative guys "clean, and ddf". I have only one response to that "screw them"... not going there.

I think it's high time we turn the tables and confront this heinous behavior. We have a right to our health, and well being, and that includes our dignity. I do understand one not wanting to become positive with HIV, but that responsibility does not fall on poz men unless we allow it.

Speak up! Don't just ignore these profiles. Do jot let these men who at some level in thier sick thinking that thier somehow superior to us. There is absolutely NO reason to accept this behavior. Period!

Thers so much wrong with the gay community, and racism, agism, adherence to white privilege, elitism; so much to honestly investigate need take a good look at ourselves, our "community" and fix what's gone awry.

Too many of us have become lax, and accepting of the status quo.

"I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself" Rita Mae Brown

"I will not let anyone walk through my mind their dirty feet " Mahatma Gandhi

can we start by not saying "clean" when we mean virus free? that's where it starts, that somehow a virus in our blood makes us "dirty". if people knew all the diseases that are floating around in 99% of us, they would kill themselves.

I am not of the younger generation of Gay men, and I am not positive, but disabled.I lost close friends, was absolutely terrified when the article showed up in 1981 as I was 18. I would cheer from the highest mountain when this damn disease is over. The fact of using Prep as safer means of preventing a disease that is not going to go away unless people are honest, and stop this in house bull shit fighting. I don't care if someone is positive, but no one can see what we, who are disabled or have a disability go through too. I was tested without my knowledge or informed consent 7 times 14 years ago as I passed out from seizures and there was confusion as to what was happening. An important neurological test was over looked as a result. When I found out about the testing, I was furious. I was furious because doctors, Gay men, who were doctors, thought I would lie about this. I was amazed at how paranoid they were about me lying, and I fought back legally. What amazed me the most was that many in the medical community thought this was a Gay disease with so much information to the contrary. The doctors brought up my sexual history over and over, and I said over and over I was tested every year because sometimes you do slip up, but as far as BB that was something I never did.I remember all too well how my partner died in 1994, and the three years prior to that taking care of him. I remember all too well seeing every friend die in the early 80s as far as this disease was concerned, and finding out it was a sexually transmitted disease, and taking precautions since then because I was afraid. I lost my case and job because there still is no federal protection under the law as far as being openly Gay, but add to that being disabled people immediately think AIDS. I could give a shit about anyone knowing Iam Gay, but since I am disabled also, automatic assumption HIV positive. The lack of support is gone. The ties that bond between us are gone.Even though I am negative, I have experienced all the discrimination you feel because I have an autoimmune disease known as MS. I know exactly how you feel. I have experienced exactly what you experienced, and in the disability world we, who Gay and disabled face the same discrimination. If Prep can prevent this disease, well that is the route. Gay men are so judgmental, and have no idea the close ties we experienced early on. I applaud you for your effort, and your being out about yourself in the documentary, and everything you have done and continue to do. I have so many friends who are poz now as result of my fight. I found this out in 2000, and thought here we go again. I have to fight all over again against a medical establishment and my own.

For the record, studies just published in AIDS online and summarized in NAM Aidsmeds and Aidsmeds indicate that condoms are more effective versus PrEP in stopping HIV infections in serodiscordant male-on-male penetrative anal sex. Further research may prove otherwise, eventually. But the analysis makes definitive claims of either method's superiority premature for now.
According to US researchers' mathematical modelling studies, which use previous research findings, assumptions and mathematical techniques to simulate a sequence of likely future events.
At a rate of six times a week:
-If the negative man takes PrEP, 34% risk after one year, 98% after ten years.
- If condoms are used, 13% risk after one year, 76% after ten years.
- If the positive man takes HIV treatment, 3% after one year, 25% after ten years.
The researchers admit these are the most pessimistic assumptions for a host of reasons, and ongoing research will render more accurate projections in 2017.
(Reference: Lasry A et al. HIV sexual transmission risk among serodiscordant couples: assessing the effects of combining prevention strategies. AIDS 28,online edition. DOI: 10.1097/QAD0000000000000307, 2014.)

Thank you Peter for all of your hard work during a very difficult time in your life and those whom you loved and cared about to bring about change in AIDS research. I just watched the movie about Act Up, and I commend yours and all of Act Up's resolve.

In my lifetime, we have pushed back the laws: we are not criminals. We have pushed back the church: we are no longer sinners. We have yet to agree to who we are, what are relations are like and how important they are to us. We have yet address our own sexuality.
In the 80's there seem to be an argument that any form of gay sex should be celebrated and the bath houses should stay open. I am still troubled by this. Not that there shouldn't be bath houses. For many, these were occasions for wonderful joyous erotic celebration. But not for everyone.
And the response was to wear a condom.
Putting on a condom or taking a pill does not make an act wonderful or joyous.
The problem I had with bath houses is no room for informed consent: you cannot know what the other person(s) are bringing.
The war on AIDS and the end of stigma will come when we can talk about the pleasure of anal sex without tittering, talk about how to give a better blow job with a snicker, when we replace words like promiscuous and whore with words like generous and shaman.

Everybody is ranting and raving about the Normal Heart and Dallas buyers club,what would our gay brothers who fought so hard in those early days think about this new judgemental community we live in,i am a gbm alive today living with h.i.v because of gay white males who fought in the act up movement,as I approach 60 years of age I lived too see young blacks disrespecting our civil right leaders,when people are trying to take them back,young gays in this Grinder smartphone world,sending other gay men to jail for exposing them,if you are single you view every partner as a potential carrier,knowing in this part of the country what the court system will do to gays,you gays in loving relationships,all of us were not so lucky, us h.i.v males still go to gay bars,we shouldn't be called trashy.When we don't learn from history we are doomed to repeat it,the coming elections are very important,funding and civil rights are at stake.

This is such a poignant article and so right on. I have been reeling with the accuracy of the just released by HBO "A Normal Heart" having lived in Manhattan, NYC before moving to West Hollywood, CA in 1986 I have seen and lived it all. Lost countless dear friends and saintly people even the wild ones too but it was not just about the promiscuous.
During my years working in Medical Research testing the cocktail meds that were among the first on the scene, I witnessed people who were infected and fell ill from loosing their virginity to the love of their life.
The uneducated love to judge it is because of being a whore sexually but some of the wildest guys I ever knew did not test positive. I would be appalled if I were to find out they too condemned those of us who were dealt this bio-engineered virus. The rest are hypocrites as sex has not slowed down. And with creation of the Gulf war syndrome in a Texas prison that was tested on inmates prior to the guys in the gulf and the rash of engineered cancers all easy enough to find documentation on. This world is going to hell for all but the privileged in a hand basket if we do not support and extend love and caring for our own communities. Must we always be our own harshest criticizers & condemners? The Gay community needs to demonstrate support and inclusion for all. It is us dinosaurs warriors who paved the way to the richness & fullness of life they enjoy today after-all. Common sense and intellect is all anyone needs, not exclusion and shaming.

The job is not done yet and I guess it is up to us to see it through. You GO! We shall dispel the idiotic-racy of shames & taboos yet.

I live in Canada, where any and all HIV treatment is covered free of cost to the patient by our public healthcare. This is a good thing.

The average cost, however, of 1.3 million dollars per new infection (Canadian Aids Society is paid by taxpayers.

That is enough money to feed 26 000 African children for a year.

Yes, people are getting hung-up on HIV when, in reality, it should have a stigma closer on par with those of herpes or bed bugs. Maybe even only epilepsy or gluten-intolerance. But accidentally getting herpes doesn't cost us over a million dollars--a million dollars that could be spent elsewhere.

The stigma and prejudice surrounding HIV are, I agree, unfounded and reprehensible. And discriminating among sexual partners and sexual practices in the United States is, I agree, a purely personal choice.

But, when the public foots the bill, as in Canada, am I wrong to suggest that discriminating to prevent infection becomes a social responsibility and a duty?

to "ubiased": the study you cite is almost comical in its pessimism. i can tell you that i will not be using this study in any activism, as the point it makes is already common-sense.

any prevention tactic used with insufficient frequency will prove a poor prevention strategy. furthermore, absolutely nothing in the study or computational modeling you cite comes close to refuting the following facts:

with the PARTNERS study at over 45,000 acts of serodiscordant anal sex into preliminary results, with not ONE transmission between the partners, and none expected in the remaining 3 years until 2017, Treatment As Prevention is by far the most powerful HIV prevention technology in terms of reduced risk...several orders of magnitude more powerful than the 2nd most,

which is PrEP. taken more than 95% of the time (no more than 3 missed doses every 2 months), Truvada reduces risk of HIV infection by over 99%. taken 4 days out of 7, it's about 96% effective. even 2 days out of 7 produces over 75% reduction in HIV infection risk.

#3 is also not condoms, but SEROPOSITIONING...meaning that HIV- men top and HIV+ men bottom in any encounter where status is discordant or unknown.

#4 in HIV prevention is condoms, and even they are more effective than the modeling in your cited study suggests...*with consistent usage*. unlike with PrEP, a single missed dose of condom-usage can create a far higher risk than a single missed pill of Truvada-PrEP.

basically, i'm calling out your obfuscations and disintegrating them. the time for equivocations and obfuscations about biomedical prevention is over. it works FAR better than the doubters will give credit for, and the risks have proven FAR lower than those doubters have warned.

enough already. 50,000 new infections a year, for DECADES now! and you're here to tell us "if you use any Prevention tool in a half-a$$ed manner, you'll get half-a$$ed results" ??

well, yea...thanks for the deep insight!

Many of us who have worked in HIV prevention for a while remember Peter Staley's own contribution to gay shame in the early 00s -- the bus shelter posters declaring 'Try Crystal Meth, Get HIV free'. At the time this was applauded as a maverick, truth-telling move, which is how anyone who deploys shame and blame sees their actions. The campaign and its backers overlooked the way this inevitably created demand for punitive responses to HIV and crystal, which are both complex issues requiring sophisticated responses, not black and white moral judgment. Some in the PrEP community view Peter as a hero: I am not among their number.

Why are people still testing positive ?
I began burying friends in 1987 and after testing positive in 1991, buried another 200 or 300 friends in the years following. Suddenly people stopped dying in the numbers we had seen before, the obituaries were fewer and fewer in the local gay rag. Some twenty years later all my friends are deasd and I'm still here. What gets me is WHY ? Why after so many deaths and so much suffering are people still dying ? Haven't you been watching, listening ??? WTF ??? It angers me when I hear of some young man finding out he is positive It breaks my heart but, pisses me off just the same. I know, I know, Some of them weren't even born yet, Does that make it okay ? No, it seems to make all of those peoples deaths in vain, because you till aren't listening.
I find I'm less tolerant and even more insulted, when I hear people talk about it like it was 100 years ago.

Daniel R.: I too worked in HIV prevention and remember those bus stop ads plastered all over Chelsea, NYC. I worked for GMHC at the time, and know that the HIV/Meth shaming was at full force by then. I agree that it did more harm than good. Meth users went underground and continue to use to this day. I was not happy with that campaign at all, and to think that it was supported by GMHC. Unfortunately, we have today the end results: continued Meth use, and continued HIV infections. Not to mention, increasing shaming and ignorance. I can't prove statistically whether or not that ad campaign had a direct effect toward shaming..but from my experience, I can attest to its contribution.

WTF & Daniel: we also had this happen:

The 2011 stats are available too, and showed a further drop. NYC's rates of use in MSM remain FAR lower than SF and LA, at about 1/3rd their rates.

Those ads were meant as a political wake-up call, not classic prevention messaging, and at the time, in NYC, that was very obvious to everyone who heard about them. In that regard, they were highly effective.

Thanks for the great article. While I have been dropped quickly or been told "it doesn't matter" (while not wanting to touch me, I have definitely been one of those that have stepped back from the dating scene. There are many things to do whether outdoor activities, social, hobbies, travel... It does get me down at times, but won't stop me from living my life.

Would I ever like to date? Yes, but I have put it to the back burner. Will things change? Eventually. Maybe or maybe not in my lifetime, but they will.

I applaud what you are doing and agree we need guys like you. Keep up the good work.

how unshocking that daniel reeders continues his habit of willful distortion and strident, sanctimonious microaggresion. as a resident of Chelsea from 2004 to 2010 and active in the raw scene, i declaim loudly to this day that there was in essence a METH CULT in formation, a coalescing of a militant, organized effort to get guys hooked.

to this day meth is the only street drug i've never tried, and only because guys so often tried to force it on me in myriad aggressive and obnoxious ways.

when i finally saw the old US Govt propaganda classic film Reefer Madness a few years ago on HULU, it wasnt campy or shrill to me at was a horrifically white-washed version of reality. *IF* one replaced cannabis with meth, that is!

none of this would get any press, and that campaign was the bare minimum needed to start turning a tide of public consciousness among gays.

driving meth use underground is far better than watching it become a dominant cultural force, and THAT was well on its way to happening. HIV infections piggy-backed readily upon that vehicle.

to hell with that, and any enabling of it. NOW more traditional harm reduction has a chance at success and not be an absurdity...thanks in part to that campaign Peter was a part of.

Thanks, Jeton. If folks want to trash the anti-meth activism I and others did in NYC in 2004 and 2005, please provide evidence of harm. Just saying it caused harm is not evidence.

it's more likely that when this war is over there will be two kinds of people with HIV. 1. Those who managed to avoid being arrested for having HIV. And 2. Those in jail convicted and labeled a sex offender because their job did X lover claims they were never informed that their partner was HIV positive. In some states even telling your partner that you are HIV positive is no defense. Even if you use a condom and even if HIV is not transmitted you can still go to jail and be labeled a sex offender for the rest of your life. I live in a state where thank God the law reads the only way you can go to jail is to intentionally try to infect someone. I wish that were true in every state but it is not. Avoid the test avoid arrest.

Getting to bareback HIV-negative men without their informed consent is not a civil right, no matter what clever rhetoric you try to sell it with.

Liked your article. I wish it would have been more direct and authoritative. We have a major problem with stigma, discrimination, and shunning around the world. But, in our own community? It breaks my heart. This is my 30th anniversary with HIV and I have seen a lot of things I scream about. But, you thought on AIDS fatigue is true and I don't see young people picking up the torch. Sad isn't it?
Jereme Scott

Thanks, Peter. Get this. I was at a bath house recently. I noticed on three occasions that men interested in playing left my room quickly after leaning into my crotch. I had abdominal surgery and resulting thin, crimson scar line below my waist. Drainage tubes left two hole-punch scars above my pubic hair line. In low light, I guess it appeared I had a staph infection or some other "disease-related" issue. It seems I now have a visible marker for illness. Do you think they were just turned off by the scars? I think not. I'm 52 now, living with HIV since 1999. I first paid attention to the virus in 1983. I remember ACT UP and all the courageous warriors like yourself. You made it better for us who tested positive later. Thank-you. Maybe you should start an advice column. I need help for terminal singleness. Bravo to you! AJ,

I asked all the right questions. I gave a much older man oral sex and did ask. I told him if he was poz i would give him a massage or hand job. NOt throw him to the curb

He lied to me and at the end told me he was 70 and not 55.

I never acted better than anyone and now i am suffering from really bad symptoms of spine and organ damage from associated inflammation.

There is no excuse and dont say watch out phobes, i would never throw guys to the curb for a disease. But im dying from a 30 sec encounter


Thank you for writing this wonderful article. I agree with much of the content. Unless the gay community begins to practice the mindfulness surrounding HIV/AIDS, then I believe the stigma will live on until a cure is found. I too was one of those that denied that I could be concerned about HIV/AIDS until I tested positive. Now I get it. Took me a while.

Again, thanks. I hope one day to meet you.


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This page contains a single entry by Peter Staley published on March 1, 2014 1:47 PM.

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