The other day, I was chatting online with this really cute Italian guy, and making plans to visit him. He was tall, dark and handsome, with wavy black hair, a strong jaw, shining olive skin, worked out in the gym two hours a day five days a week, and then mentioned something about being ‘poz’ in the conversation. He got question marks from me on the chat window on that one.
So he drops the bomb: “O, I’m HIV+. Check it out. It’s on my profile.”
Well, he was right. He hadn’t really dropped any bomb, I’d just neglected to lift the covers and see what was in there, do my homework before venturing into uncharted territory. He’d plainly stated that he was HIV+ there, and had even mentioned it in the conversation.
For a second, I was stumped. I’ll admit it; I didn’t know how to react for a few seconds. I’ve never actually talked with a Positive person before, even though I’ve familiar with HIV and AIDS and taken the test. But no, I’ve never actually come across anyone who’s contracted it, and I’ve certainly not negotiated a hookup with anyone like that. But then, I didn’t want to be the stupid guy who treats him like a leper and drops him like a hot potato either.
So, I asked him how he’d got the virus and how long it had been.
Hunky Italian: “Well, I don’t have AIDS. I’ve been Positive now for about 10 years. My ex boyfriend of three years infected me.”
Of course, that wasn’t it. It turned out, that he suspected his ex of actually knowing about his own Positive status before having unprotected sex with him – something which completely inflamed me.
“What an @$$HOLE!” I exclaimed in my indignation and anger. I mean, here was this completely healthy guy who was just about 35 now, who looked simply fabulous, and he’d been infected by his boyfriend. I recognized how it went, of course, the line with boyfriends – “O, honey, I love you, and I’ve been safe and I would never suggest it if it weren’t safe, and you make me so hot that I wanna do it raw” – hell, I’ve been in that position myself, and regretted/ tormented myself about it later. And while I’d thanked God fervently that I hadn’t ended up in a horrible nightmare as a result of that capitulation, it was clear that this gorgeous Italian had. He was living that nightmare, and yet making do with what he had.
The thing is, back in Bombay, we see AIDS more as an African or Asian disease these days, or hell, maybe a Big City Thing. But it’s shocking how the American Midwest here seems to ignore the problem in its backyard. Some days back, there was a top guy online here who wanted to bareback, when I told him I didn’t have condoms with me. He realized I meant business when I told him to go away and put him in my ‘ignore’ list. (Or else, more likely, he badmouthed me as the prissy Indian bitch to everyone else on the chat room.)
And tonight, I just came back from meeting this young man, who’s all distraught because (a) he listened to his stupid boyfriend and had unprotected sex with him, and (b) he cheated on his stupid boyfriend with another ass and had unprotected sex with him, too. I’m glad he stopped me before we got onto the serious petting, because as you know, I don’t have condoms here either. O, in all probability, he hasn’t contracted anything from either the dumb boyfriend or the dumb hook-up, but he’s rightfully distressed now, and I played the good Gay Counselor and told him he needs to get himself tested ASAP. He says, I was better than Oprah, so maybe I should just chuck my degree programme here and hunt out the television channels. I can see the headline in the Washington Post already: Indian Fag Starts Gay Counseling Centre.
The thing is, I know that living with HIV is a much easier option now than it ever was earlier, with all the medication that’s out there. But it’s still an expensive and wasteful proposition, and I’m amazed why anyone would want to even risk it. I’m an idiot myself, I’ve been down that road, and I know that one moment of imagined intimacy is simply not worth those weeks or even months of self doubt and questioning later – or the years of regret afterward, as in the case of the cute Italian. I’m glad he’s living his life with dignity, hell, he’s even having sex these days (though protected), but o yes, there’s regret, plenty of it. And even though I know I probably sound all preachy right now, I’m simply stunned by this stuff here, because I’ve been confronted with all three cases in the time span of just a week…!
These cowboys down here need to get their caps on straight!