When a guy shares sensitive information with you, consider what the effects of your response might be.
It’s up to each of us to have the conversations we want to have with our sex partners. The more we talk about tough stuff, the more skillful we become at doing just that. Being honest and kind has a bigger impact than just being a nice guy — it also helps make for more safety and freedom in our sexual networks. There are lots of things to ask yourself when sharing information or talking about sexual health, and lots of things to consider when responding.
If a guy tells you that he’s HIV-positive, lets you know that he’s trans, or discloses something else, remember that it can take a lot of courage for us to share or ask about this information. Be gentle and generous when you react. Remember that if someone discloses to you that they’re HIV-positive, or perhaps that they have an STI, it’s because he cares about your health, too. He probably trusts you to be respectful, confidential, and understanding.
Think before you ask a question.
- Is this respectful?
- Will this offend them?
Do your own research before making assumptions.
- Do I know the key facts about this topic?
- Guys who have been diagnosed with HIV and are on treatment are less likely to transmit HIV. This is because when guys know they have HIV they are more likely to be on treatment and have an undetectable viral load and to take steps to prevent transmission. A lot of new infections happen when guys have HIV but have not been diagnosed. This is because they are likely to have a high viral load, and may take risks they wouldn’t if they knew they had HIV.
- Remember that it can take a lot of courage to talk about this stuff. He probably trusts you to be respectful, confidential and understanding. Make sure he knows that you appreciate his honesty
- Give this conversation the space it needs for both of you
Have sex without stigma
- There’s enough stigma out there. HIV transmission is extremely unlikely when a guy who has HIV has an undetectable viral load Even if a guy doesn’t have an undetectable viral load, condoms and PrEP are both also highly effective at preventing HIV transmission.
- You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. But it’s worth asking yourself how you can reduce stigma.
Make it all about yourself
- He wants you to know something about him and he’s taken a risk to tell you about it.
- Talking over him, acting as though you’re a victim, or acting overly dramatic makes it seem like you don’t value his experience
- You may have questions about his health, about transmission, or his history.
- You can ask questions that are respectful, but remember that he’s going to have limits about how much he wants to share with you.
- If you have questions in the days after you hook up with a guy who told you he’s poz, respect that he might not have the energy or time to respond to questions or anxieties in the days after.
Act before you think
- Rejecting someone right away means you probably didn’t think it through.
- Give yourself a moment to think through what you know about HIV transmission, sexual health, and viral load.
- You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, but remember that fucking poz guys who have an undetectable viral load is less likely to end up in HIV transmission than choosing partners because they tell you they are HIV-negative.
Tell anyone else
- It’s never cool to share someone’s private information without their permission, especially if there’s a lot of misunderstanding about that information in the world. Even if you feel betrayed, sharing this information can really hurt others socially, in the workplace, even legally.
Use it against them
- Somebody’s honesty is not a bargaining chip. Don’t exploit this information to get something you want.