Sunday, December 10, 2006

Twenty-five Years and Counting

This past week was International AIDS Day. Millions have HIV, millions have died, and millions don't know they are infected. I've somehow avoided getting infected since the world first became aware of the disease in the early 1980s, but I think early on that was just dumb luck. What scares and fascinates me is that people still sero-convert, I mean gay men my age who have lived through this so far still sero-convert. Their sero-conversion scares me because I know it can happen to me, and it fascinates me because the story of how they sero-converted is rarely told.

I think their stories need to be told. The problem with safer sex is that many of us act as if it means "safe" sex, and each of us carries around in our head our own definition of safe. Safer is not risk-free, and so knowing how men sero-convert is important because we can begin to learn what we collectively think safer means. We can begin to quantitatively and qualitatively evaluate what safe is and what risk is.

Safer for most of us falls within the range of masturbation and taking a load up the butt. Between those two points also lays "risky" and "pleasure" and "I guess I can do it just this once." The realm of safer sex is relative. Safer sex demands that men balance behavior and lust, that we act rationally without all the facts, or that we abstain. In moments of anger, or shame, or ignorance, misjudgments occur. Condoms break. Or the canker sore gets overlooked during the blow job.

In the meantime, twenty-five years and counting, the research has not been done, and men having sex with other men continue to sero-convert.