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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

54

The Sexual History of Jared Sabbagh, Part 3

Jared is a 31-year-old man who lives in Chicago. This is the last of three installments in his story. Here's part one and part two if you'd like to catch up. 

So you know the exact incident in which you contracted HIV.

Yeah. It was at this bathhouse in Portland.

Up till then you'd been getting checked regularly?

Totally. No more than six months between tests since I was 16.

So tell me about the encounter and how you figured it out.

It was August of 2005. I'm 23, and I'd had a few experiences of getting with HIV-positive dudes without a condom, and it’d been fine—I kept getting tested, I was always fine. So I felt blasé about it, the way that, honestly, a lot of people do.

That day, I’m with this guy in the bathhouse. We’re making out in the steam room and he tells me he’s HIV positive. I say, no big deal. We start going after it, and I was drunk so it takes me a long time. We’re pillow-talking after we both get off and he’s like, “How long have you been positive?”

Whoa.

Yeah, it’s crazy, right? I should've been like *checks watch* a few seconds.

At the time I said that I wasn’t, but I wasn’t worried about topping. What actually happened was that that morning, I’d zipped a zipper and torn a little piece of skin off my cock. And it would've been fine if I hadn't fucked him for so long, or if he wasn’t freshly positive, meaning his viral load was really high.

Two weeks afterwards I got really sick. It was the acute HIV infection that happens when you seroconvert; the viral load spikes and your body just freaks out. Mine coincided with an incident where I also maybe gave myself alcohol poisoning, so I was locked in my friend's bathroom just shitting all over the place, and the next morning I woke up with what felt like a hangover plus a rash plus a fever that lasted about a month.

Did you know what was happening?

I didn’t. I was in denial. I treated it like a toxicity event; I fasted, quit smoking and drinking, did yoga. And that’s how I managed for the next six years, even after I was diagnosed.

WHAT? Okay. Tell me how you got to your diagnosis.

In May of 2006, I had this other hookup. This dude called me afterwards. I was like, “OMG! He’s calling!” only for him to say that one of his fuck buddies had gotten diagnosed with gonorrhea, and I was like…“Oh. So you don’t want to be my boyfriend forever. Fine, I guess I’ll go get some gonorrhea meds.”

So I go into the clinic, a different clinic, and they asked me when my last HIV test was. And at that point, I knew it was time. I was like, “I’m due, but I’m parked in a 45 minute spot.” They were like, “No worries, we have a rapid-result prick test,” and I was like “Bitchin’, let’s do it.

They do the pin prick. I spend 15 minutes hanging out with this cool queen with a shiny silver belt buckle, who’s saying, “Hmm, you sound like you have a lot of unprotected sex. How can we reduce your risk?” And I was trying to come up with accurate numbers for my partners in the last six months and it kept creeping up higher—30 became 38, and then I was losing track—and he was like, “Yeah. If you don’t test positive this time, next time you will.” And then the test came back.

I was like, “Huh. It doesn't NOT make sense.” The test had 99% accuracy, not 99.99%, so they say “preliminary positive.” But I knew it wasn't wrong.

You did.

I was in shock, but I did. It was sort of how my mom describes my coming out, when I said, from the back seat of the car, “I'm gay,” and she was like, “I knew you were gay, but it is still a shock to finally hear it.”

That was my diagnosis—a shock, and also a fulfillment of what I thought would happen.

So you did think this would happen.

I expected to die of AIDS. I was born in 1982. If I knew anything about being gay, it was that gay men die of AIDS.

But you also must have had some magical thinking to continue taking those risks. How did those two beliefs sit together, the certainty of escaping it and the certainty of contracting it?

Back then, I would’ve admitted to you at that point that one of my foundational beliefs of being a gay man was that I would die of AIDS. But it would’ve had to be a long, long conversation to get there. It was a big cornerstone of my politics, the idea of “It doesn’t have to be that way.” Back then I wanted to think I was this next evolution of gay man, that I could ward off the infection, manipulate my body with my mind. I was judgmental of friends who took antivirals.

Even after you were diagnosed?

Yeah. I was like, “I am going to manage this shit with yoga.”

What did it feel like in the moments after you got your diagnosis?

It was a little dizzying, partly because I’d expected to just be in and out of the place, and suddenly they were pulling out the hypodermics and tourniquets to do a confirmatory blood test, and I felt like I was going crazy because I’d given them a pseudonym and they were all calling me Mark.

Why a pseudonym?

Bush-era paranoia. I didn’t want to link myself to my diagnosis. So they’re like “MARK, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO,” and the fluorescent lights are flickering above me and I’ve got super low blood sugar because I’d meant to get food immediately after, and now all these people with needles are staring at me, going “MARK. MARK,” and I was like, “I’m going to leave right now.” I didn’t have any pockets, and I had all of these pills and paperwork and walked out with three things in each hand, and it was so bright outside…

There was this hyper-real moment on the street. I’d gotten a parking ticket and that’s what made me shed my first tear. And afterwards I couldn’t decide what to do, get food or go to work or what, and I was sort of doing pirouettes on the crosswalk of this sun-drenched intersection, looking back and forth between the clinic and my car, and this girl was watching me and I finally locked eyes with her. It was the most intense eye contact I’ve ever had with a stranger. We were just staring at each other for a full minute, and she sort of wordlessly acknowledged, “You are having a fucking day right now.”

Did you go to work? Did you get food?

I think I got a stupid kombucha at the vegan store. I didn’t go to work. I called my coworker and told him to please make it okay that I was not there. I went to a friend's house whose long-term lover had died of AIDS. He was a recovering alcoholic, so I made him buy me cocktails at a bar while we talked.

What is the reaction within that community when somebody gets diagnosed?

With the more spiritually radical of my friends there’s this belief that I can’t quite articulate well—this sense of HIV as an evolutionary situation, that the RNA of this virus is part of some next phase. But in terms of the sexual politics in this progressive community, what it meant for me is that I didn't have a status to protect; instead I had a duty to disclose, which is not a big deal in a town like Portland or San Francisco or any major city where you're having sex with gay men over the age of 25.

So sexually it felt easier.

Totally. After the first awkward disclosure, totally. I sort of realized that the Internet would do the work for me—I was meeting a lot of people online, so anyone who was considering saying hello to me would already know. At most I’d be like, “Did you notice, on my profile?” And they’d be like, “Yeah, it’s no big deal.” It felt like the bogey man had been tackled and defanged.

Truly, aside from the month or so where I didn't feel well no matter what I did, everything was fine. I was really vigilant. No formal medical attention from August 2005 to June 2010.

That’s so hard for me to fathom. How did you feel? What constituted vigilance?

I’d watch how often I fell prey to a cold, or a flu that was going around my work or school communities. If everyone around me was getting sick and I wasn’t, I concluded that my immune system was not compromised. And as it turned out, once I started testing my T-cell counts, my immune system had not been effectively compromised.

It’s funny, in terms of the response to my not seeking treatment for a long time—or just HIV in general—it’s only a shock in straight circles, or encounters with new gays who are freaking out, or doctors that are like “OOOHH” and act like it’s a freak show and I’m like "Listen, I've been managing this since 7 years ago, please get out of my face.” I only get these pity-or-extreme-sympathy reactions in very specific scenarios. Among gay men who have friends who are positive, the most interest I’ll get is like, “Oh, are you on meds? How’s that going?”

Did you tell a lot of people after your diagnosis? Did you talk about it a lot?

At the time I was actually involved with this movie my coworker had written about a gay couple waiting for their test results—I was acting in it, I was one half of the couple. The day after my diagnosis I went over to the screenwriter’s house and had coffee with him and his wife, and I was like, “Okay. I need to control this topic. When this comes up, I reserve the right to arrest this conversation if it goes somewhere I don't want it to. I want to be in charge of the facts even if I’m wrong. I want to set the tone. I want to be the boss of this topic.”

And in the following years you just took really good care of yourself.

For the first two years especially. I didn't drink booze, I didn't smoke, I did a ton of yoga and went swimming all the time, I barely drank coffee, I ate very healthy.

What made you decide to start taking meds?

I went to college at 25 and got health insurance for the first time in a 10-year, legitimate adulthood. Health insurance was life-changing. I was on scholarship at my university and so everything was paid for, and I realized I was getting older, and that it was wonderful to just get certain things taken care of. And I know it sounds silly, but I felt better about the idea of registering with the state—“medicate me and I will not infect your people”—with a Democratic president in office.

So that planted the seed, and then I had this doctor with a public health degree, who would  not only talk to me about clinical research but get very specific with the conditions and the results and the subjects. I appreciated that a lot. After about two years he convinced me that even though my viral load was low—low enough that the medical community is split on whether meds were necessary at my level—that there were major benefits to early medical intervention. So now I take meds. I’m a huge drain on the state’s resources. I take almost $3000 of pills every month and I’ve never paid one red cent.

Did you feel like you were capitulating when you started meds?

It felt a little weird. I had to really commit to it being a permanent thing, to ask myself: if I move—and I’ve moved cross-country twice in the past year—am I adult enough that I can get my shit in line wherever I go? Can I be perfect in my dosage? Am I ready to take on the logistical concerns of registering and starting up services wherever I go, forever?

I also felt like a cyborg at first. Now there is this pharmaceutical agent, on board my body 100% of the time; all of my chemistry is different.

How many pills do you take a day?

One in the morning and two at night.

So you went to college in your mid-twenties, you started meds, you moved—you live in the Midwest now. Is your sex life different?

I am experiencing decreasing levels of patience with ignorance, no matter what the issue is. I am very inclined to cut someone off if I feel like I am going to have to educate them. My fingers get tired at the thought of telling someone what “viral load” means.

Then, on the seedier side of things, I’ve got this pen pal—this guy I’ve connected with on a website. He lives in New York, and he’s this HIV-negative hardcore bareback bottom. He’s super turned on by pos guys, and he and I have this exchange where we text back and forth all the time about what he’s up to and how many pos guys he's getting with. I’ve never met him, though, and I’m not sure I want to. It’s more like this strange storytelling society—I have a friend who describes Scruff and Grindr like a short-form erotica workshop. I’ve got my line, you have yours.

How has Grindr changed your sex life?

Well, the location-based thing is pretty revolutionary. I’ve had sex with men from Grindr where it’s like, “What’s up,” pic pic pic pic, then address, then five minutes travel time, then boom.

What do you think would be different for you if you were a teenager now with Grindr in your pocket all day?

In a lot of ways I think I would’ve gotten into too much trouble. My mom worries about me hooking up with strange men, and I do—I go to their houses, and the neighbors can’t hear me scream, and that would have been really dangerous if I was some kid in North Carolina and Iowa. I got into enough scrapes when it was straight up analog, just meeting people in bathrooms—I was made to bleed any number of times, there’s no telling. And I’m turned on by extreme enough stuff as it is. It’s easy to talk shit on electronics. It feels like fantasy because it’s text-based. Today it’s very easy for me to be on a hookup and say, “I’m not comfortable enough right now to go as extreme as we were talking about,” but as a 16-year-old I never would’ve been able to say that to an older man.

Anyway, I'm always really pleased when I see 18-year-olds who know how old they are, who are like “I automatically block everyone who's over 24.”

How many people do you think you've had sex with?

Counting oral sex, I think we're to four figures at this point. Let's call it a thousand.

What percentage do you regret?

I feel decidedly harmed by about 1%.

What percentage do you remember with that sort of full-body sexual pull?

I could probably sit here and give myself erections thinking about 50 of those men, so 5%. I think I’m always just going to be a sex maniac. What are you going to do?

Photo via Tony Hammond/flickr

Previously: Part I | Part II

54 Comments / Post A Comment

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

"So I felt blasé about it, the way that, honestly, a lot of people do."

Whoa.

Mira

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Yeah, I can't really identify my feelings about this series of interviews! It was very interesting, but it's hard for me to access this mindset (I honestly did not know that people feel blasé about the possibility of contracting HIV). Which makes me all the more appreciative of Jia's mad interview skills.

j-i-a

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Well, hopefully people are reading the implied "a lot of people [within specific urban communities of gay men]." And that's something that's been well written about by a lot of other people (mostly gay men).

Yeah, I don't know, there are so many people whose sex lives are far afield of heteronormative "ideals" and also everyone is sort of the same at heart and definitely everyone I interview for this site is superbly thoughtful and good. My own sexual experience and mindset couldn't be more different from that of all the 30-year-old virgins I've talked to as well as Jared Sabbagh's experience here, but to me, there's nothing honest that doesn't make sense in context. If that makes sense.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@j-i-a Yeah, that's how I read it. And, having read similar pieces on the same topic, my reaction is still whoa. It's just a different mindset, like Mira says; and I'm not straight or anything.

j-i-a

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose ah yes yes my own normative brain slipping right out there for a second it appears

Mira

@j-i-a I'm not straight either. Just - surprised, I guess? My urban gay dude friends are pretty much 100% terrified of HIV, which is why this was such a strange mindset to encounter. But I appreciated Jared's honesty and found this a thought-provoking set of interviews.

maginot_line

@j-i-a "there's nothing honest that doesn't make sense in context" is such a solid statement.

Myrtle

@Mira Yeah. in the Hairpin evolution, not sure what this -I'm going to say it- self-destructive tale of male sexuality is doing on a women's website, other than to scare women out of having sex ever again.

Laughable Walrus

@Myrtle See, that's interesting to me, because that's not how I experienced this. Sure, Jared's way more extreme than I ever will be, but I've always been very sexual (in the "masturbating so early I can't remember when I started" way - I didn't actually start having sex with partners until I was almost out of my teens). I can identify with a lot of the motivations if not the acts, and reading Jared's story helps me put my own in a context where my own desires to have a lot of sex doesn't feel so freakish. (And yeah, it really reinforced my desire to be as safe as possible while doing it.) So as a woman, I appreciated this being posted on a women's website.

j-i-a

@Myrtle I'm not sure why this would scare any woman out of having sex ever again, unless she were within a community where the HIV rate was similar and were willingly engaging in comparable behaviors without ever having thought about the risks. To explain the other point you bring up, I thought this interview had a place here because I found it a compelling story and generally think of this readership as one that is interested in complex stories that sometimes have nothing to do with our own--I also think Jared's life has been full of things that could resonate with anyone that can't comprehend actually having sex with 1000 people (within my body, I certainly can't): the idea that your inherent sexual desire is wrong, the desire to do wild things along with the shame of doing them, the way strange support communities can crop up at different times in your growing-up life, the super-real need to define for yourself what "self-destructive" means, etc.

ThatWench

@Myrtle @j-i-a
Thanks for this interview, jia! I definitely tore through all three chapters.

To make a somewhat reductive statement on "why is this on here?": Just as I expect the designers and players of GTA/other video games/all media to be capable and interested in exploring women's stories as well as men's, I was super-interested to hear what this man's story was like, and am glad he wanted to share it.

Sister Administrator

@j-i-a As someone (I am a woman) who was once in a relationship with a man who secretly cruised in the park, glory-holed, basically Grindrd (before Grindr existed), what could have happened does scare the shit out of me. At that point he was the only person I'd ever had sex with and I did not knowingly assume that risk.

From what I understand, closeted men married to women are not uncommon in the spaces Jared describes.

mistersister

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Registered to comment on this. I'm a gay man. I realize that some people feel blasé about contracting HIV, but I'm still shocked when I hear about it.
Maybe it's because I'm such a worrier by nature, especially where my health is concerned, I couldn't imagine feeling blasé about something that could impact your health so profoundly.

Myrtle

@Laughable Walrus Noted, but I think what I didn't say was better said by Sister Administrator. Borders between sexual orientations are fluid.

fabel

This was riveting.

laurel

@fabel It really really was.

Lucienne

I found this series really interesting and thought-provoking, and would definitely read it again.

Rose Camelia

What's wrong at the Awl? Their page won't load for me.

Rose Camelia

Never mind. I can haz The Awl now.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

"I think I got a stupid kombucha at the vegan store."

The extent of the overlap between my life and Jared's?

BattyRabbit

I am going to be thinking about this interview for a long, long time.

nonvolleyball

that "you are having a DAY" stranger anecdote really resonated with me--I know it's unlikely, but how amazing would it be if she somehow ended up reading this?

Carrie W.

This whole thing devastated and terrified me. I'm coming from the Mom Perspective here. If my son was having sex with hundreds of strangers and got HIV??? No no no!! Just when I'm thinking the 11 year old is ready for more independence I read this and immediately tighten the reigns.

foxbat91

This whole thing blows my mind. I really, really want to be like "HIV pos people are victims of epidemiology/addiction/bad luck/just crazy stuff beyond their control." But then... lengthy unprotected sex with a guy you know is positive while you've got a cut on your dick and... yeah. Pretty damn blase.

cee
cee

@foxbat91 that's why I thought this paragraph was so fascinating and true:

'Back then, I would’ve admitted to you at that point that one of my foundational beliefs of being a gay man was that I would die of AIDS. But it would’ve had to be a long, long conversation to get there. It was a big cornerstone of my politics, the idea of “It doesn’t have to be that way."'

That contradiction between your deeply felt and often expressed politics - "it doesn't have to be this way" - and an equally deeply felt resignation and fatalism - "that's what happens to people like me" -- that's one of those things that for me defines the experience of living as a person in the world? That you can simultaneously feel hope and despair, political positivity and personal resignation, that you can act absolutely contrary to what you know is your best interest, because there's some other belief buried deep down that you can't really access.

In a way it's like Ever Mainard's "here's your rape!" stand-up piece -- rape happens to women no matter what, because of stuff beyond their control, and it very often doesn't correlate to choices they make or the way they behave. And yet also I feel this deep-down fatalism, as a woman who exists as a sexual being in the world, this resignation, that no matter how often i say "it doesn't have to be this way" it is inevitable that I am going to end up in situations where i feel (and am) unsafe specifically because I am visibly a woman. I will be in a situation where I think: oh, right, this is my rape. Am I blasé about it? I have to live in the world. I have places that I want to go to and things that I want to do. Even if i do everything 'right' it could still happen to me.

I have grown up with the fear that horrible consequences will somehow inevitably happen to me because of how the world treats people of my type. I could live in vigilance and anxiety, in the knowledge that it could still happen anyway, no matter what I do; I could live in nihilism. I've worked out a balance eventually, but as a young adult the balance tipped towards nihilism pretty often.

lizardjellybean

@cee See, now, I don't really see this as the same thing. I think a woman feeling the inevitability of rape, this thing outside her own control, maybe correlates more strongly to the idea of... I don' t know, I guess a hate crime? Someone being beaten up because they're gay? Because that's something outside of the person's control, and terrifying, and you live your life in a way that ignores that possibility, because you HAVE to. But having lots of really risky, unprotected sex with people you KNOW are positive, I don't think we can put that in the same category. Those are risks he took himself, that aren't inherent to being a gay man, as far as I can see it. Maybe I'm speaking out of turn, but, especially when you are AWARE that your sexual partner is positive, it smacks of an over-confident belief in your own immortality to not take precautions.

sophia_h

@lizardjellybean yes, it's different from rape fatalism because it sounds like it was more about self-hate, the inevitability of a fatal disease for "people like me." (Gay, highly promiscuous, etc) Which is sad, I think.

wee_ramekin

@lizardjellybean Well, and beyond the overconfidence in one's own immortality, the issue that I can't get away from within this tale is that his blasé attitude extended to the sexual partners he had after contracting HIV.

I mean, he said that he was in denial about having HIV, and I can understand that. But I can't understand or be okay with the fact that between when he contracted HIV and when he got tested, he probably had unprotected sex. He adds a lot of caveats to his account of how he was initially infected that he might have used as reasons not to disclose his possible positive status while engaging in unprotected sex after infection ("...it would've been fine if I hadn't fucked him for so long, or if he wasn’t freshly positive, meaning his viral load was really high."), but how does he know that the men he was barebacking it with didn't have cuts somewhere, or weren't immunocompromised, or or or? Like, just because you are fatalistic about dying from AIDS doesn't mean that you're absolved from telling your partners "Oh yeah, I fuck HIV-positive guys without condoms and I haven't been tested in a few months!". Maybe he did that, but methinks not. And maybe there is a guy out there who is HIV-positive now because of his behavior.

I appreciate that this is Jared's tale, and toward all the rest of it, I'm happy to have a "You do you" attitude. It's a fascinating read, and I enjoyed hearing his reflections about his experience. But in an earlier chapter, he says that his view on sex was "Fuck it man: harm none, go nuts, do what you want, the only thing that's gross about this is feeling ashamed". Having unprotected sex after knowing that there is a possibility that you were infected with HIV is the exact opposite of "harm none", and it made me very uncomfortable to read about it.

harebell

@wee_ramekin

but I think he said that he disclosed his HIV-positive status on his on-line profiles so that the people he was having sex with *did* know he was HIV-pos?

mistersister

@harebell But he was HIV positive for seven months before he was diagnosed. He couldn't have disclosed his status because he didn't know it, was in denial. Also, during those seven months his viral load would likely have been very high, so the chance of transmitting it would have been greater. Meds reduce your viral load quiet a bit.

tranlanh

@foxbat91 I guess my perspective is I work my butt off everyday at work, at home, my community, etc. and I'm exhausted. I can't even imagine having the time and energy to still be looking for new sexual partners when I struggle to stay away until 10:00pm. I'm at a different place in my life than he is and I need to learn to see another view point. sau sinh nen an gi

vine fruit

I just wanted to say how much I appreciated these - Jared for sharing and Jia for putting it together. The thought of being in a lot of Jared's situations scares me, but I think he's explained his thinking clearly and it makes sense to me. Some of it I find disturbing, but I also feel sympathy - not pity-sympathy, but "ah yes hello fellow human"-sympathy - so I'm glad the interviews are here.

LaLoba

I can completely relate to the sense of denial or even . . nihilism, sort of, that allows one to engage in dangerous sexual behaviors.

I think this is a fascinating story and I really appreciate reading about sexuality with such franknes, especially when it denotes the possibility of having hurt other people. Perhaps it was immoral and hurtful that Jared potentially exposed an unknowing sex partner to HIV, but just because he is now sharing that information doesn't mean we are supposed to be happy about it. It's part of the story.

And besides the window of time in which we are inferring that he non-consentually exposed sex partners and THEIR other sex partners to HIV, every thing else he did was consensual and sexual expression and I'm uncomfortable with that making people uncomfortable, I guess.

wee_ramekin

@LaLoba "...every thing else he did was consensual and sexual expression and I'm uncomfortable with that making people uncomfortable, I guess."

Do other people seem to be uncomfortable with his consensual sexual expression? I didn't see that anywhere in the comments. Speaking for myself, nothing else in his story makes me uncomfortable (besides the fact that he was brutally fucked by the Cowboy Hat guy; that part makes me feel so sad). His sexual practices and choices don't align with mine, but they don't make me uncomfortable; why would they?

I don't think you can separate the consensual aspects of his behavior during those months before he got tested from the fact that he had good reason to believe that he might be HIV-positive. Perhaps his partners during that time might have been fine with unprotected sex with a potentially HIV-positive person, but it's not unreasonable to suspect that many of them wouldn't have been. It's hard for me to say "It was consensual!" when there is a good chance that some of his partners would not have chosen to have unprotected sex if he had disclosed his previous behavior (unprotected sex with an HIV-positive man).

I think this was a really interesting set of interviews. Jia did a great job with her questions, and Jared's experiences and reflections are fascinating to read. And I agree, I don't think we're being asked to be happy about everything that Jared did. But my overwhelming reaction to this section of Jared's story is to his risky sexual behavior, and that is why I have commented about it.

lethaltuesday

"So now I take meds. I’m a huge drain on the state’s resources. I take almost $3000 of pills every month and I’ve never paid one red cent."

did this bother anyone but me?

wee_ramekin

@lethaltuesday Not really. He pays taxes, right?

sunflowernut

@lethaltuesday It bothers me that it costs so much for him to take a measly THREE pills a day! Yikes. Thank god he's still able to have access to his meds.

Also, I want a doctor with a public health degree. That sounds awesome and super helpful in many ways.

Carrie W.

@lethaltuesday Yes, this totally bothered me. He's in the situation now, there's no going back and he needs the meds. I get that. But it bothered me nonetheless. He's a student, right? So I don't think he pays taxes. His whole sex, sex, sex attitude bothers me. How much time does he spend having sex??? Honestly! Study for your math test. Help out your neighbor. Work hard at your job. Visit your grandma. Make someone's day a little brighter. There are a million things you can do to contribute to society other than constantly looking for yet another random sex partner.

yep
yep

@lethaltuesday I think it bothers me in that I work really hard get by and make a living, pay taxes and his selfish behavior will cost tax payers like myself thousands. Even if he pays into the system no way does it even come close to what he is taking. If he had been safe and this happened because of a broken condom I'd feel a lot differently.

Mira

@lethaltuesday Ha, yes it did. I was surprised by my Republican-y reaction to that detail.

wee_ramekin

@Carrie W. I'm not sure if he is a student right now or not, but I don't think that should have any bearing on whether or not he gets meds. Also, he said that he went to college late, so I am assuming he worked before that, and at some point he won't be a student, and he'll be working then. He might also be working while in school. Moreover, I don't think that a person's access to life-saving medication should be dictated by whether or not they are working.

Another point I'd like to bring up is that I don't think that how much sex he has really has anything to do with whether or not he should receive meds. Nor do I think his very active sex life precludes him from studying for a test, helping out a neighbor, or working hard at his job. Jared and I (and you, it sounds like) have little in common sexually, but I don't think his attitude toward sex makes him a non-contributing member of society.

@yep I am not on board with some of Jared's behavior. But I don't think access to healthcare should be dictated by how someone acquired an illness or injury. I mean, if we start limiting healthcare access to people who are only the "right kind" of sick, where does that leave us? Not treating diabetes because someone had a poor diet? Taking someone off life-support because they were the drunk driver in a car crash?

I understand feeling upset that he's receiving more funds from the system than a healthy person would. But let's not forget, he pays into the system to, and he's a human being who deserves the same quality of life as any other.

j-i-a

@Carrie W. the assumptions you are making about this person's life would be staggering and offensive even if they weren't completely untrue; no one person (and certainly not the amount they contribute to society) could be known to a stranger in full after 6000 words about sex!

Mira

@wee_ramekin Thank you for this. My initial reaction made me feel like an asshole (I mean, I often am kind of an asshole), and it was really good to read your sensible and generously minded rebuttal. Sort of like a gentle reminder from the person I like to think I am, I guess.

Carrie W.

@j-i-a I totally believe that he should have access to healthcare and the meds he needs to stay healthy, no matter the reason that he got sick and how much he pays to taxes. I'm bothered by it, but I understand it.

I guess my perspective is I work my butt off everyday at work, at home, my community, etc. and I'm exhausted. I can't even imagine having the time and energy to still be looking for new sexual partners when I struggle to stay away until 10:00pm. I'm at a different place in my life than he is and I need to learn to see another view point.

j-i-a

@Carrie W. I appreciate your coming back on this but I just don't think it's fair to make any of those earlier assumptions about helping neighbors/contributing to society/being nice to grandma/studying for a math test, not knowing this person. Even just with time management and energy level, everyone's life is as different as it is with sex; for example, he works probably 12 hours a day? and always has.

shalalas

@wee_ramekin this would have been my response too, if i were as articulate as you. thanks.

Stephanie Boland@twitter

@lethaltuesday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFNs2mOkKzc I guess Brass Eye didn't make it Stateside, huh? I think this segment is relevant here.

rabbitrabbit

@wee_ramekin It's not the fact that he's promiscuous or gay or a taxpayer that matters, per se, it's the fact that he had unprotected sex, on purpose, multiple times, with people he knew were HIV-positive. That's an incredibly selfish choice that has broad public health implications. I am really sympathetic to the unfair fatalism the interviewee described feeling as a young, gay man -- but this doesn't excuse his consistent pursuit of unsafe sex. Sex is highly personal, sure, but it's also social. Having risky sex is a public health hazard. It's not unlike parents refusing to vaccinate their children for preventable diseases. No, the interviewee is not a terrible person undeserving of health care because he contracted a preventable disease. But that doesn't mean we can't judge his choices as irresponsible; ultimately, even if he never again had unsafe sex after contracting HIV (which doesn't seem clear from this interview) he's culpable (or at least was) for contributing to a culture of indifference around sex safe that puts much more than just his own health at risk.

lulu1

So now I take meds. I’m a huge drain on the state’s resources. I take almost $3000 of pills every month and I’ve never paid one red cent.
mang thai thang thu 8

dulich

This whole thing blows my mind. I really, really want to be like "HIV pos people are victims of epidemiology/addiction/bad luck/just crazy stuff beyond their control." But then... lengthy unprotected sex with a guy you know is positive while you've got a cut on your dick and... yeah. du lich tet nguyen dan 2014

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