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My fear of AIDS is destroying my life
December 1, 2011 4:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 28 year old gay male. My fear of AIDS is destroying my life. It's so bad that I don't really want to be gay anymore.

I'm a college-educated 28 year old professional. I know how HIV is spread. I know how HIV is prevented. I know all of the high school sex ed tidbits that you could throw at me.

None of that matters because HIV is the biggest, most enormous, incredible fear that I have in life and it's killing me. Like, making me loathe myself and feel suicidal.

Long story short: I'm reasonably attractive, of average intelligence, etc., but I have never had a serious relationship. I'm terrified of contracting HIV through gay sex. My usual pattern is to meet someone nice, have sex with them ONCE and then remain abstinent for six months while I cower in fear of my next HIV test. I always use protection and I'm a total top. But the fear still consumes me.

Part of my problem, I think, is that I don't really buy into the sex-ed propaganda about "everyone being at risk" and "HIV is a manageable disease! Just like diabetes!". I have studied the medical journals and found that here in the U.S., being gay does put me at incredibly elevated risk of acquiring HIV. It's enough of a risk that I can't legally donate blood. Things may be different in Africa but here, in the U.S., I'm basically asking for a shorter lifespan just by being gay.

I also know too many people with HIV. Even the "successful" ones are basically disabled, either from the disease itself or from the horrendous side-effects of the endless medication cocktails that they take. The "unsuccessful" ones are dead.

I've confided in a few friends about my fears and my inability to maintain intimate relationships with other men. A few of my gay male friends (I'm not making this up. I swear.) have suggested that I intentionally infect myself with HIV "to get it over with" and to get over my fears. I can hardly believe that they would suggest such a thing but I have been (seriously) told to take up "bug chasing" as a valid way to ease my fears. (Incidentally, some of these poz friends of mine have jokingly(?) talked about intentionally infecting other unsuspecting men).

I guess all of this boils down to a general dissatisfaction with being gay, if that makes any sense. There are times when I feel that the Christian conservative argument (that being gay is a "deathstyle" more than a lifestyle) is broadly true, and it makes me want to stop being gay. I've tried that before, but it didn't work out. I know that I can't change.

But at the very least this overwhelming fear makes me not want to have sex anymore. I get laid alot less and have a lot fewer relationships because of it. But it makes me want to be completely abstinent, or even attempt to just stop being gay. I'm honestly jealous of my decadent heterosexual friends who can live freely and openly in our society with only a miniscule chance of ever contracting HIV in their lifetimes, as opposed to the roughly 50/50 chance (in some areas, over a lifetime) that gay men have.

So my question for you is:

If you are a gay male, do you have these fears and how do you deal with them?

What the fuck is wrong with me? How can I fix it?

How do I deal with my fear of AIDS?

(BTW all of this introspection was the result of going to get tested for HIV today. I chickened out at the last minute because I was afraid of the results. I have no reason to think I'm positive .... except that I'm gay.)
posted by Tyrant King Porn Dragon to Human Relations (45 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
You need to go to a sex-positive therapist, full stop.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:37 PM on December 1, 2011 [44 favorites]


I am not a gay male, but I am someone who has had problems with health anxiety. And I agree that you need to talk to someone.
posted by vanitas at 4:42 PM on December 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I also have a couple things to add:
- don't let statistics mislead you. I am no expert on HIV, but I highly doubt the "roughly 50/50 chance" applies to someone like you who is having sex infrequently and always with protection.
- You've also created a bit of a false dichotomy between sleeping around and being celibate. Surely there are other gay men who are equally afraid of being infected and would prefer to have sex with people who have been tested first?
posted by vanitas at 4:44 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I apologize for not finishing your question, but I can't get past this statement:
None of that matters because HIV is the biggest, most enormous, incredible fear that I have in life and it's killing me. Like, making me loathe myself and feel suicidal.
without pointing out that this is not a healthy response to anything. Please talk to a therapist.
posted by muddgirl at 4:49 PM on December 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


You need to find a GLBT friendly therapist and you need to find one yesterday. Fear of HIV is reasonable, paralyzing fear of this magnitude is not and it isn't healthy for your body or your soul.

You need to talk to someone who will help you detangle your sexual identity from the virus and from your hypochondria.

And, for the record, the American red cross doesn't want my blood either, apparently living in Europe gives you mad cow disease. It doesn't mean I have mad cow disease, just that they evaluate risk to their blood supply with overly broad blanket decrees. Yes, my demographic has an elevated risk of having mad cow but does everyone in Europe actually have mad cow? Of course not, and it's actually just paranoid to act as if that were the case.
posted by lydhre at 4:49 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm a gay male, and I was, as an HIV-negative person, in a relationship with an HIV-positive partner for five years an didn't convert because of that relationship. HIV is a VERY DIFFICULT DISEASE TO GET NOWADAYS if you're careful, open with your status, and practice safer sex every single time. Undetectable HIV-positive people on medications have very little chance of spreading the disease to others, and if you're in a truly monogamous relationship with an HIV-negative person, you have 0% chance of contracting HIV through sexual contact.

That said, HIV is not AIDS. You're not effectively shortening your lifespan by being gay, and that's a pretty offensive way of looking at it, not only as a fellow gay man but also as someone who has been involved in the HIV community from the very beginning. HIV used to be a death sentence, but you're too young to remember that time, so what you're fearing has very little relationship to reality.

No, HIV is not a party, but there are far worse sexually transmitted diseases that can mess you up and kill you much more quickly and are spotted much less regularly than HIV.

I would be more than happy to discuss this with you through private message, or you can ask for my phone number. If you read between the lines of what I've written, you'll see that I have more than one perspective on this.
posted by xingcat at 4:50 PM on December 1, 2011 [28 favorites]


When you're considering denying a part of yourself as fundamental as your sexuality due to anxiety, you need to see a therapist about it. Therapists help you learn how to work through and deal with your fears on an individual basis in a healthy way. I tend to not suggest therapy on askme nearly as much as it seems most people do, but it really seems like the right course for you, since you have such a specific, medically-related, detailed anxiety problem.
posted by Mizu at 4:50 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


None of that matters because HIV is the biggest, most enormous, incredible fear that I have in life and it's killing me. Like, making me loathe myself and feel suicidal.


there is something else that is bothering you. that is why people engage in obsession. find out what that thing is and work with it.

ask yourself right now, what could I be trying not to think of with this fear of AIDS? write down the first thing that pops in your head.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:54 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I won't speak to all of it, but

It's enough of a risk that I can't legally donate blood.

I would not read too much into a ban enacted in 1983, at the height of the AIDS panic. There's been a lot of talk recently about lifting that ban. Google it, or check out this NYT article.
posted by coupdefoudre at 4:55 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Part of my problem, I think, is that I don't really buy into the sex-ed propaganda about "everyone being at risk"

You're right that it's misleading to imply that everyone is at equal risk for contracting HIV. But now you've reacted by misleading yourself in the opposite direction.

the roughly 50/50 chance (in some areas, over a lifetime) that gay men have.

You've already qualified this with "in some areas." Do you live in those areas? Is your condom use the same as those men? Is your drug use the same at those men? Do you engage in the same sex acts as those men? Is your number of sexual partners the same as those men? Do you even know?

You're pent up about how having gay sex really is a risk factor for things even if some people seem to imply it's not -- fine. But it doesn't make sense then that you're completely discounting all the other ones.
posted by cairdeas at 4:59 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a lot you need help with that I'm sure people more qualified than me will be able to give you more answers with, but consider it's quite possible that the only "successful" people you know with HIV -- those that are "basically disabled, either from the disease itself or from the horrendous side-effects of the endless medication cocktails" are just a subset of the people you know successfully living with HIV. Because others who are living with it successfully are going through their lives successfully and really, really hard to tell apart from everybody else.

But please if the rest of your message is serious, see someone to talk about this. The numbers you are quoting aren't just wrong, they're dangerously ignorant, and you need to speak if someone who can see reality through the cloud you claim to find yourself in. You say that you've read the materials; you need to read better materials.


Also, any total top who also uses protection who tells you that got HIV following those rules is lying or wrong. But once you get the facts you need, you'll realize this yourself.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:59 PM on December 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


A few of my gay male friends (I'm not making this up. I swear.) have suggested that I intentionally infect myself with HIV "to get it over with" and to get over my fears. I can hardly believe that they would suggest such a thing but I have been (seriously) told to take up "bug chasing" as a valid way to ease my fears. (Incidentally, some of these poz friends of mine have jokingly(?) talked about intentionally infecting other unsuspecting men).

Whoa, get some new friends and try to talk to a professional about this. This fear is something that's interfering with your potential happiness and most certainly with your sense of identity.
posted by litnerd at 5:02 PM on December 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, therapy, to help you be objective. The Christian "deathstyle" thing is a disingenuous argument. If Christians were really concerned with HIV rates, they'd advocate all women being lesbians as the rate of infection is vanishingly small compared with straight women's infection rates.

Your local community may have support groups for the "worried well," which I think you are.

Please don't relate your feelings in any way to the current Red Cross ban on gay men giving blood; that is an unreasonable position on the part of that organization that is widely agreed needs to change.
posted by Morrigan at 5:04 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also ---

I have never had a serious relationship. I'm terrified of contracting HIV through gay sex. My usual pattern is to meet someone nice, have sex with them ONCE and then remain abstinent for six months while I cower in fear of my next HIV test.

It makes sense to me that you would fear STDs in this scenario -- nothing to do with HIV in particular or being gay. I personally would be afraid of contracting an STD in this scenario -- where I was just meeting people and having sex with them without really knowing them or being monogamous with them or knowing if they had been tested or knowing if they did drugs or were a trustworthy person and all of those things.

What about starting your usual pattern by meeting someone nice... and then getting to know them over a long period of time without getting phsyically involved yet? Take it slow. Find out what this person is like. Are they an honest person who demonstrates that they care about you? Then maybe you will feel comfortable asking them to get tested and knowing they will be honest with you about it. How do they feel about monogamy? Are they a risk taker? Are they conscientious? That will give you an idea of how likely they are to be engaging in a lot of unsafe sex. Is it important to them to treat people well? Are they a person of their word? Then maybe you will feel more comfortable that they won't cheat on you.

It might make sense for you to start like that.
posted by cairdeas at 5:09 PM on December 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


This fear of HIV is a very standard anxiety-based thought; your mind is taking what might be a risk and magnifying it beyond all measure until you are convinced that the risk to you is overwhelming and unavoidable. The problem is that the thought you are having does not match the statistics, nor does it in any match your actual exposure to this risk. For some folks it's a fear of falling from a tall height, for some folks it's being convinced there are dangerous germs on everything they touch, for some folks it's taking a physical sensation like being short of breath and believing it's something dangerous like a heart attack, for some it's being convinced that something terrible will happen to a loved one, and on and on. What makes it more complicated for you is that this anxiety has become all tangled up with your own identity and your ability to form relationships with other people. The others upthread are right on the money, this is going to take some therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy would probably be the most effective, but I'd also strongly recommend trying to locate an LGBTQ-knowledgeable therapist who can really help you sort through all of it. I know this can get better for you.
posted by goggie at 5:10 PM on December 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


I apologize if I am way off base, but the subtext I read into your message was "I hate being gay". You say you've tried to stop being gay and sound rueful that you "can't change". I am not your therapist or psychoanalyst, but I do think it might be a good idea to consider if this unacceptance of yourself is feeding this very powerful anxiety. I join the chorus in suggesting finding a therapist who will help you work through these issues.

My heart really aches for you. Please trust us all when we say that you don't need to feel this way, and that there is help.

Good luck!
posted by imalaowai at 5:14 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I always use protection and I'm a total top.

Nothing in life worth doing is completely safe, but you're doing more or less the best anyone can, while living as a human being. I assume that you're not using intravenous drugs, which multiply your risk factor. Also, as a top, you're at less risk of contracting HIV than a bottom. The risk is still non-zero, even with rubbers, but it's less risky than bottoming.

Therapy would be good, and you should definitely pursue that, but it sounds like you're doing the right things.

In the larger picture of things: You're doing okay. You might not believe that now, but one day, maybe with a little love and a little help, you will, eventually.

here, in the U.S., I'm basically asking for a shorter lifespan just by being gay

More likely because of (often violent) discrimination, perhaps, not because of sex per se. Remind yourself that gay sex is not a death sentence, even if a lot of people don't like us and would rather see us dead. You live in a country with greater access to better medical resources than Africa, on the whole. You're self-aware and cautious (perhaps overly so, to the point where it is affecting your mental health).

America is not great at recognizing our rights, but it is still a much better situation than Africa, Iran, and many other places in the world where gay men get strung up from lampposts under color of "law".

In the larger picture of things: You're doing okay. You might not believe that now, but you will, eventually.

A few of my gay male friends (I'm not making this up. I swear.) have suggested that I intentionally infect myself with HIV "to get it over with"

Acquiring an illness is not a smart, mature, adult way to deal with fears. It is, in fact, stupid and childish. There are better ways to deal with what your dealing with.

For starters, respect yourself and get new friends immediately.

Seriously, what a bunch of assholes!

You deserve better than that. You know you do, because you had the courage to write this post. Love yourself a little more. Find a new scene.

If you are a gay male, do you have these fears and how do you deal with them?

I am monogamous. My partner is monogamous. We've been in a committed relationship for several years and we're not really the type to fool around on each other. So I may not be the best person to give you advice on managing fear of HIV, given the comfortable arrangement I'm in, except to say that you're doing things right, as far as using protection. That's all you can do, short of not using IV drugs and staying celibate (which to my mind is not a reasonable thing to expect of most anyone).

One thing I did, that I regret, is that I hated myself for 28 long, lonely years. It was only when I learned to love myself, that I could love others and let myself be loved by others. I think you might need to know that you should love yourself some more, and to allow other genuine friends to extend that kindness to you, as well.

You might not think that you deserve love, but you do. And you will, eventually, find this out. And when you do, the magic of the world will open itself to you.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:23 PM on December 1, 2011 [26 favorites]


I think general STI anxiety is pretty common amongst people of our age group (I'm a 27yo gay male). In my experience, though, most of my peers are just not as sexually adventurous as they could be and avoid anonymous hookups in favour of a more traditional dating routine. Though I am probably hanging out with an especially vanilla crowd.

I would also point out that while HIV definitely looms over the community and there are lots of people living with it, there are also lots of people who aren't. As in they have lived their lives rather successfully without ever contracting it in the first place. Focusing only on the people who are pos is giving you something of a selection bias about the prevalence of the disease in the community.
posted by selenized at 5:25 PM on December 1, 2011


Anecdata: a very good friend of mine was diagnosed as HIV+ in '98. He is successful, loved, goes on many adventures with his devoted friends, and no one would know his status just by watching his life...unless, of course, they were present for when he takes medicine or has his appointments. His medicine hasn't disabled him. The virus hasn't disabled him. His fears haven't disabled him. He went through the stages of grief for the self he was prior to becoming positive, and then accepted the self he was after and he spends his time making that self as happy as can be without hurting others.

My life was impacted by the sudden loss of many family friends and personal heroes when the AIDS epidemic first ran rampant through the gay community, and I understand your terror. Due to odious circumstances, I have also feared my tests to the point of avoidance and paranoia. I was helped by counseling. It wasn't nearly the issue for me that it is for you - bless your soul, that you feel repelled from your own self in such a terrible way - but I have faith that you can be helped onto a healthier path once you get the right therapist.
posted by batmonkey at 5:28 PM on December 1, 2011


What's happening to you isn't about HIV. You know the facts. This is about anxiety and probably other issues related to your relationship with your sexuality. You need to talk to a therapist.
posted by mckenney at 5:29 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm a heterosexual female and was in my 20s during the AIDS crisis in the 90s. I had the exact same fear that you had. I would get tested every 6 months but would still fret about my status. I hit a breaking point on day when I couldn't get out of bed for fear of my upcoming AIDS test. Like you, I was extremely condom compliant but I was still terribly paranoid about getting HIV - and worse, passing it on.

My father finally convinced me that I needed to go see someone about this. I did and turns out I had OCD. I got on medication and had therapy and both of those helped.

Today, when I was driving I heard on the radio that the local health department was offering free AIDS tests. I thought back to when I was in my swinging 20s and would have been the first one there to get one. Now, I am not obsessing about it and I was able to get on with my day.
posted by Leezie at 5:41 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's few of us who don't have etched into our veins a way to die, inherited from our families. We all fear some familiar image of death we'll maybe see someday. Lots of us can mitigate those effects by going ahead living our lives--nothing is ever a given.

Being gay is a-ok. What you need is to come to terms with it and see a good therapist who listens. And then you should find someone who is also a-ok with it, so you can be happy.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:45 PM on December 1, 2011


If you were a straight man in a monogamous relationship, you'd probably be cripplingly anxious about some other thing. It's not about your risk of contracting HIV, it's about your psychology. Get some therapy.
posted by callmejay at 5:45 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel so terribly for you, please don't infect yourself wit HIV. Yes it is now a livable condition but it still shortens your life, costs insane amounts of money, and puts you at risk of infecting others. I think you need to get far away from the gay friends who suggested you infect yourself and find a competent psychologist who deals with OCD.
posted by boobjob at 5:50 PM on December 1, 2011


Wait, can't you just do what lots of people do: serial, monogamous relationships, and getting tested before becoming sexually active with the person?

Apologies if I'm misunderstanding the question, but it seems like this fear should be easily countered if you're aware that neither you nor your partner have HIV and are monogamous, right?
posted by losvedir at 5:55 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apologies if I'm misunderstanding the question, but it seems like this fear should be easily countered if you're aware that neither you nor your partner have HIV and are monogamous, right?
posted by losvedir at 5:55 PM on December 1 [mark as best answer] [+] [!]


My apologies for not being clearer myself. Maybe this is just a bias on my part, but relationships like blazecocks' (one-on-one, totally monogamous) are actually kind of unique in the gay community, or at least the circles I travel in. I actually have to think for a little while to come up with couples I know who aren't in open relationships, to some degree.

I would probably have far fewer dates if I told other guys, on the second or third date or so, that I was waiting to have sex for some kind of monogamy promise and requisite STI testing. I would get a lot of funny looks if I did that. A lot of "are you fucking serious"?!?!

As for everyone else: I'm getting the sense that I need to see some kind of a therapist for these fears. I'll make it happen. Thanks.
posted by Tyrant King Porn Dragon at 6:05 PM on December 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


While I very much agree about the psychological aspect of this, I'm TOTALLY going to make a left turn and suggest something totally different.

If you live in a big enough town or city it's likely that you have a very active gay community. I suggest that you get involved. Volunteer to provide support for others who need it and be supported yourself. You'll very soon find out about the errors of some peoples ways and also how to survive with confidence while being sexually active.

I'm not even gay but I lived in San Diego's North Park/Hillcrest area when the last few folks with full blown AIDS needed help around the house and whatnot. I have to say that the numbers of folks who really suffer/full blown have decreased exponentially. It's a rarity now.

Good luck to you!
posted by snsranch at 6:06 PM on December 1, 2011


But it makes me want to be completely abstinent, or even attempt to just stop being gay.

Have you considered monogamy? I'm not being snarky; instead of having random sex every six months with a variety of people and then getting screened, you and one person could both get screened and then have sex forever!
posted by DarlingBri at 6:09 PM on December 1, 2011


I agree with everyone else that your fear of HIV is probably caused by something else and that you should sort that out.

Being gay is not going to magically make you contract HIV. You're doing what you can to minimise your risk. You might get unlucky. Then again, if you were straight, you might get unlucky anyway.

My apologies for not being clearer myself. Maybe this is just a bias on my part, but relationships like blazecocks' (one-on-one, totally monogamous) are actually kind of unique in the gay community, or at least the circles I travel in. I actually have to think for a little while to come up with couples I know who aren't in open relationships, to some degree.

I would probably have far fewer dates if I told other guys, on the second or third date or so, that I was waiting to have sex for some kind of monogamy promise and requisite STI testing. I would get a lot of funny looks if I did that. A lot of "are you fucking serious"?!?!


Are you monogamous by nature? Do you want a partner who's scrupulous about getting tested? If so, well, they can go fuck themselves (literally, I suppose). Hold out for someone who respects what you want/need in a relationship. There's nothing that says there's only one way to be gay.
posted by hoyland at 6:13 PM on December 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


My apologies for not being clearer myself. Maybe this is just a bias on my part, but relationships like blazecocks' (one-on-one, totally monogamous) are actually kind of unique in the gay community, or at least the circles I travel in. I actually have to think for a little while to come up with couples I know who aren't in open relationships, to some degree.

I would probably have far fewer dates if I told other guys, on the second or third date or so, that I was waiting to have sex for some kind of monogamy promise and requisite STI testing. I would get a lot of funny looks if I did that. A lot of "are you fucking serious"?!?!


The therapist is still a great idea. But after this update, I honestly think that how you feel is rational on some levels. A community where everyone has open relationships and the idea of STI testing before sex is ridiculous, seems like a community that is at a pretty high risk of STIs. That's just common sense.

As girls, it's so drummed into us that guys are going to act like you're crazy to request testing/sexual monogamy, and they're going to throw all kinds of manipulations at you, and you have to find someone who treats you better than that. The culture is really on our side in that way. It's unfortunate that it seems nobody tells guys the same thing.

Then again, if monogamy is not something you WANT, that's different.
posted by cairdeas at 6:15 PM on December 1, 2011


It doesn't matter if you get far fewer dates if all those dates are with quality, upstanding people who respect you and yourself. You don't owe anyone a zipless fuck.
posted by KathrynT at 6:16 PM on December 1, 2011


I am a 50-year-old gay man. I had your fears, but years ago. I was just coming out in 1984, the same year that the HIV antibody test became available. I remember having sex, then being afraid and wondering what I had done. I remember being afraid to have sex. I remember movies like Jeffrey, plays like Jerker, and so much more.

The message that I have to give you is that living your life to the fullest, however you work it out, is so much more important than than the fear of AIDS. It's more important than the fear of anything.

I am, in fact, still HIV- after all this time. I don't know why and don't seek explanations. My partner is HIV+. I'm not afraid of sex. I know that for him in particular his viral load is undetectable. His doctor says he would not infect anyone. We actually have an open relationship, in theory, though I seldom have sex with others in practice. When I do I am confident in my precautions. If they should fail, I'm also confident that the treatments which have saved my partner's life would also save mine.

If I can give you any advice, it's not about sex really. It's about life. Embrace life. Embrace opportunity. Be open to the people that you meet. Even if they happen to be attractive (and scary). Even if they make you anxious. You can find a way to control anxiety and fear. If you need someone to talk to, or if you need help working things out, seek a counselor or therapist. This isn't really about HIV. This is about fear, and overcoming it.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:51 PM on December 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


we all choose things that shrink our dating pools. some people want those that match their socioeconomic status, some people want someone with the same religious beliefs. some people struggle to find partners that are polyamorous or kinky. it's ok to shrink your dating pool by only sleeping with men who want monogamy and cares about their/your testing status. it might mean dating outside your social circle and it might mean meeting new people, but those men are absolutely out there.

i'm a queer, pansexual woman with 50ish partners in my past and i'd be really worried about HIV if i slept with a non-testing crowd. i agree you seem to have more anxiety than "normal" (whatever that means), but it's probably being worsened by being in a circle of people who don't prioritize health over free love.
posted by nadawi at 7:28 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Incidentally, some of these poz friends of mine have jokingly(?) talked about intentionally infecting other unsuspecting men).

Assuming that these people know how your fear is affecting you, they're acting like callous asshats. This isn't a gentle ribbing to the guy who's slightly ill at ease with heights; it's taunting the guy with a debilitating phobia.
posted by CKmtl at 7:50 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Besides what everyone else said:

How about considering different, non-penetrative ways to express your sexuality?

There are so many ways to explore and express pleasure without penetrative sex, or other types of sexual activity that puts you at greater risk of AIDS. I think the risk with oral sex is relatively low? And there's the rest of your body to explore too; foreplay can be awesome in and of itself, and there's plenty within kink & BDSM that doesn't have to be overtly sexual.

My boyfriend and I went for 2 years like this (except maybe not as kinky) before having intercourse mostly because we were both super paranoid about being pregnant with a zillion STIs (and we were *virgins*. Go figure.) and we still have a pretty satisfying sex life. We took the next steps when we felt ready and comfortable, and even now we don't really do a lot of PIV for various reasons but it doesn't make our sexytimes any less sexy.

hugs to you!
posted by divabat at 8:01 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would probably have far fewer dates if I told other guys, on the second or third date or so, that I was waiting to have sex for some kind of monogamy promise and requisite STI testing. I would get a lot of funny looks if I did that. A lot of "are you fucking serious"?!?!

Maybe so. But if this

My usual pattern is to meet someone nice, have sex with them ONCE and then remain abstinent for six months while I cower in fear of my next HIV test.

is true, then in a monogamous relationship you'd wind up having far more sex, and potentially far more satisfying sex (monogamy lends itself particularly well to emotional intimacy) than you're experiencing right now.

relationships like blazecocks' (one-on-one, totally monogamous) are actually kind of unique in the gay community, or at least the circles I travel in. I actually have to think for a little while to come up with couples I know who aren't in open relationships, to some degree.

If the circles you've been travelling in are making you feel so miserable and trapped that you're trying to wish away your sexual orientation, might it not make sense to start actively seeking out people who think differently?
posted by flabdablet at 9:44 PM on December 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you have not done so already, try googling "AIDS phobia" - I believe it has something to do with OCD.
posted by leigh1 at 12:37 AM on December 2, 2011


I think it's great that you're going to give therapy a try. I just wanted to chime in that (especially in your update) you seem to be discounting the middle ground option between potentially risky gay sex and on the opposite end, denying completely that you're gay. There is a middle ground - only having sex with people that (a) you're attracted to and (b) are willing to engage in types of sexual activity that you feel comfortable with.

You're worried that you won't get as many dates? So what! You deserve to be only engaging in sexual activities that make you feel good and safe. Perhaps therapy will help you expand the type of sexual activity that makes you feel comfortable, but please, please, please don't engage in any types of sexual activity - now or in the future - that make you feel uncomfortable or unhappy. If you want to have sex only in a commited, monogomous, condom-only, STI- tested way, pursue partners who respect that and friends who will support you. People whose responses to that are 'are you fucking serious?!!?!?' are disrespectful idiots and not worth your time. You don't need to have sex to prove your worth or gain approval. The only sex worth having is the type (whatever type it may be) that makes you feel happy and safe.
posted by brambory at 2:03 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Robert Angelo: "This isn't really about HIV. This is about fear, and overcoming it."

Any time we start out saying, "I am so afraid of (something)," the conversation we need to have first is about the fear and what we can learn about dealing with fear. We all have it and we all have to learn how to face it, stare it down and walk through it. That has nothing to do with anything that comes after the word "of" and everything to do with learning about and loving our innermost self with all our vulnerabilities and needs.

This is also the secret that can connect you and me with the entire human race, if we accept the challenge and opportunity it presents. Unless we look at the fear and remain willing to keep looking, we can't ever really live the best life possible for us. And we don't win the greatest prize in life which is true and deep connection with others.

I think we literally can decide one day that we are simply not going to be ruled by fear. And then, fear is not banished, of course not. We don't get rid of it, we just determine not to let it take charge of us any more. We identify it every time and deal with it. With almost all our problems, there are two parts to the solution. First face the fear; then, once we have dealt with our fear, the thing we name as the problem often becomes clearly, even easily manageable.

I hope you find a good therapist and give yourself permission to go ahead and live the splendid life you have been given. As someone once said, if you are too afraid to live your own life, you'll end up not having lived any life at all. I am also reminded of an old saying from years ago in AA, "We don't get better by hating what we are."
posted by Anitanola at 2:04 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe this is just a bias on my part, but relationships like blazecocks' (one-on-one, totally monogamous) are actually kind of unique in the gay community, or at least the circles I travel in.

It's your circle. (I say this not as a gay man but as someone who was raised by gay men.) I 100% agree that seeing a therapist for obsessive thoughts is a good idea, but I also really think you would benefit from doing some work around identity in those sessions. Being gay does not mean you like show tunes, sleep with multiple people and own a cravat. It means you are who you are, like what you like, and also sleep with who you sleep with. If who you are is someone who is better wired for monogamy, that doesn't make you un-gay or something.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:45 AM on December 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


I would probably have far fewer dates if I told other guys, on the second or third date or so, that I was waiting to have sex for some kind of monogamy promise and requisite STI testing. I would get a lot of funny looks if I did that. A lot of "are you fucking serious"?!?!


You say "I would probably..." but then, you haven't really tried this, have you? Stop trying to guess how other people will react to you speaking your mind. I think we've established by now that your imagination may not be the most reliable thing by which to govern your life these days. Anyhow, you don't have to tell guys everything, you can just say that you'd really like to take things slow. Not one single person will say, "are you fucking serious?!?!" though of course not everyone will be willing to move at your pace.
posted by hermitosis at 9:09 AM on December 2, 2011


For what it's worth, my gay circles have equal amounts of monogamous and non-monogamous couples. Negotiation before first sexual contact including STI tests, discussion of HIV status and what safer sex measures you want to take are all common and, at very least, not taken negatively. Perhaps you need to find a circle that is more sex-positive, sex-educated and less ridiculous about HIV concerns.

You really should talk to a therapist about your concerns. Whether it's OCD-related, a phobia, internalized homophobia, issues with the gay community - they can help you.
posted by buteo at 11:02 AM on December 2, 2011


Irrational fears as best dealt with through therapy. HIV is a virus that is very difficult to transmit. If you are using condoms every time for anal sex, there is no reason to worry about HIV transmission. Find a LGBTQ friendly, sex-positive therapist as suggested above.
posted by hworth at 11:05 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, dear. I relate to your fear. I just handled mine completely different. I'm 54, and lived in NYC at the height of the AIDS scare. And I was having lots of sex! I've said on Metafilter before, I'm amazed I didn't get HIV.

But see, I wanted to settle down with a partner anyway, and AIDS just added motivation. I knew all to well, "safer sex" wasn't going to keep me happy. I only handle uninhibited sex well. That is, in fact, highly important to me. The only real solution was to find a partner.

See, your irrational handling of the situation is rather interesting. You meet someone and have sex once? HUH!? If it's good, go back! If the right buttons are pushed and you both are happy, you owe it to each other to keep at it. Then one day you realize you've been screwing the same guy for days/weeks/months, and you still want more. Oops. Time for the white dress :-))

Really. If the sex stays good and you enjoy each other's company, that's a great basis to build upon! That's how these things work. And you want that guy handy, because you want to keep an eye on him and make sure he's always satisfied so he stays exclusively yours. So you move in together. And really, always make sure he's satisfied. And expect him to do the same for you, this works both ways, or it doesn't work.
posted by Goofyy at 10:48 PM on December 3, 2011


...

Wow. Ok, you might be overcompensating a little, but perhaps part of that is because your friends/social group, are clearly, clearly undercompensating?

I hate to say something like 'get some new friends', but seriously... I think you need some new friends! With your friends being that creepy, and irresponsible, that would leave you feeling like you can't trust anyone else, which is a terrible situation to be in both for not getting sexually transmitted diseases, and for just generally getting into a healthy relationship!

This:
A few of my gay male friends (I'm not making this up. I swear.) have suggested that I intentionally infect myself with HIV "to get it over with" and to get over my fears.
and this:
Incidentally, some of these poz friends of mine have jokingly(?) talked about intentionally infecting other unsuspecting men
Are not ok.
And even if they were just 'joking', that's not a comfortable environment to put you in, when you have these fears.

I'm wondering, is the fear of AIDS just a symptom of not being able the trust the honesty and judgement of the people around you?
If you were really able to trust the honesty and responsibility of the people around you, would you be able to relax a bit more about not getting AIDS?
posted by Elysum at 2:09 PM on December 11, 2011


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