Anatomy of sexual risk

By David Tuller



Salon Staff
September 14, 2000 11:46PM (UTC)

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I have to say I've never written a letter to an editor before, but, my God, the man said everything I've ever felt about being HIV-negative in today's world. The explanations to friends (gay and straight), reasoning with/justifying to yourself, the guilt after doing something "stupid," giving in to unsafe sex in the heat of the moment. All of it and more.

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Being in high school in the mid-'80s, I came out with the epidemic. I remember memorizing details about condoms (latex, never lambskin; reservoir tip; nonoxnyol-9), reading everything I could get my hands on so I wouldn't die from doing what I had been doing already and wanted very much to continue doing. I was terrified every time I got a sinus infection and my glands swelled. (OK, so that still scares me even after testing negative for the past 11 years.) I got my first HIV test at age 19 because my gums were receding and I thought it was some bizarre AIDS-related complex (as opposed to the stress condition that really caused it).

David Tuller's article captured and brought back all of that for me. Not even brought it "back" so much as brought it forward into my conscious mind. Thank you for saying everything that I had been feeling and trying to put into words for so long.

-- Samuel Rowland

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I am a 34-year-old gay man in Sydney, Australia, and though I appreciate all of your concerns about these health issues, I find there is a subtextual element to your story that disturbs me. How on earth will you ever relax into the spontaneous kind of sex you want when the partners you are engaging are always new, interested only in sex and not under any obligation to be honest with you about their status? I am no angel, and know that a one-night stand can be fucking amazing, but, mate, the facts are simple: Always assume they are positive, and act accordingly. Worrying about it will not change anything, nor, from the sound of it, will it stop you from doing anything.

Also, what's with the ghetto siege mentality? Only a gay man can understand? I have heaps of straight friends, and I have never felt that my sexuality defines me as a person, in any sense -- professionally, personally, privately, romantically. I find it sad that in this new millennium, you seem to be utterly wrapped up in your sexuality as defining you as a person. And AIDS is not just a gay issue, but even leaving AIDS out, what about Hepatitis A, B and every other kind of STD that makes condoms necessary? The gay community is not the only one at risk.

-- David McFadden

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