In The Parade - A Hookup Is No Time for 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'
There is something curious and tragic going on in the United States today. I’m not talking about the recent passage of the health-care bill or the discussion about immigration reform. I’m going to call it a different form of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” fueled by websites with names that leave nothing to the imagination. These sites offer simple, no-nonsense, consensual sex. You simply log on, trade positions, hook up and go on your way.
These sites, such as Craigslist, offer a tantalizing opportunity for anonymous sex and the promise that the person you are meeting has disclosed everything from his marital status to his HIV status. Using these sites to hook up may seem tantalizing until you find that your hot anonymous partner has left you with a gift that keeps on giving. The prevalence of gay and bisexual married men or men with partners posting hookups, seeking unsafe sex and asking for anonymity is surprising, amazing, tragic and, most of all, curious.
There seems to be a wide spectrum between those who practice safe sex and those who don’t care. There are those who tell their future sexual partner of their HIV status and those who never mention it. There are those who chase the bug and those who are unaware that they carry the bug.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta tells us that that transmission occurs by sharing blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate or breast milk. HIV-1 is transmitted by blood, semen and pre-ejaculate, and HIV-2 is spread from mother to child via breast milk. I think it’s safe to say that in that in the gay community, it’s not breast milk that we have to fear.
A few years ago, a longtime friend of mine found himself single, middle-aged, lonely and not sure what to do or how to go forward. He eventually discovered a website dedicated to M4M hook ups, chatted for many months with a particular man, and when they finally met, they had mad, passionate sex.
I personally don’t find anything wrong with two consenting adults finding pleasure with each other and consummating the relationship with sweat and lube. After all, that’s what mad, passionate sex is all about. I do have a problem with the idea that if you don’t ask, the other man feels he doesn’t have to tell.
The CDC tells us that HIV infection has basically four states: incubation period, acute infection, latency state and AIDs. The initial incubation period upon infection is asymptomatic and usually lasts between two and four weeks. The second state, acute infection, lasts an average of 28 days and can include symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, rash, muscle pain and esophageal sores. My friend had all of the above in abundance.
As my friend grew more pale and drawn, the medical staff at the hospital failed to diagnose the problem. Two weeks after he had entered the emergency room, they still did not run HIV tests. When the hospital finally did run tests he had spinal syphilis, among other sexually transmitted diseases. The man he had met on a M4M sex site — the one who thought “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was a rule to live by — was the man who had changed his life forever.
As we walk for a cure, walk for funding and walk for remembrance, let us also walk for education. We need to work on the fact that those of us who don’t ask rely on those of us who don’t tell to tell.