I didn't really think I had an opinion on HIV. I realise this may sound ignorant or misguided but I grew up in the late 1980's and early 1990's so my teenage years were not a time that really allowed me to discover my sexuality. My abiding memory of that time and my attitude towards sex was one of fear. HIV/AIDS was portrayed as the disease to end all humanity. Tombstones and icebergs were used in Government sponsored TV advertisements to get the message across - if you became infected with HIV, this would rapidly lead to AIDS and then you'd die.
And I thought I wouldn't have anything to say about HIV?
The 'gay curse,' as it was known, was something to fear. There wasn't anything remotely sexy about 'barebacking' - it had yet to be fetishized. Not only was it dangerous, it seemed outdated, old fashioned and best left in the backrooms of San Francisco or New York. Condoms were the most fashionable thing to wear and 80's icons like Madonna and George Michael encouraged us to use them whilst other icons of film, music and television kept their HIV diagnosis quiet until they succumbed to AIDS. Rock Hudson, Freddie Mercury & Kenny Everett all died their deaths in a blaze of press-led hysteria and public ignorance. It was a confusing time for someone to embrace their sexuality and go out and have fun.
Many people kept their sexuality secret because of the fear of AIDS. If you were gay, then you were a prime candidate and a 'dead' cert to contract it. What we now call 'risky' behaviour wasn't even considered to be a risk. You were warned that the very first time you had unsafe sex you would become infected with HIV. It took me many years to realise there were labels such as top, bottom or versatile. Up until then I'd worn my own personal labels, a combination of cock-tease and frigid.
My fear of HIV had forced me into a kind of sexual schizophrenia. The way I looked and presented myself and the way I was feeling were completely different. Although I looked and behaved like someone who was going to go all the way, by the time I got to the bedroom I couldn't go through with it. Every erection became a tombstone and every white pillow on an unmade bed became an iceberg, and too many icebergs can make a person frigid.
I'm 42 now and my attitude towards sex has changed and I'm confident in my sexuality. I'm also fully aware of the 'risks', and they are risks. I don't take my being HIV-negative for granted but I also don't allow a fear of HIV to stop me doing what I want to do. After twenty years I've finally realised that a penis isn't a murder weapon.
The rate of HIV infection has risen and young people discovering their sexuality today do not have the benefit and curse of Government lead scare campaigns or advertisements. Safe sex isn't always looked upon as being the best sex but prevention of HIV/AIDS is still the only alternative until there is a cure. I don't know if in 2013 HIV/AIDS are looked upon as something to fear or if gay culture and medication has led to a 'feel the fear and do it anyway' mindset? What I do know is that we all have choices, more choices than we did back in the 1980's and 1990's.
The tombstones and icebergs have now left the bedroom.