Movies are almost instantly dated by the technology they feature. You could probably rank every James Bond film chronologically just by looking at 007’s phone.
Likewise, you can date gay culture quite accurately by looking at the role of one of its biggest villains: AIDS.
I was born in 1982, around the time AIDS began its massive killing spree. The first thing I ever heard someone say about homosexuality was that homosexuals were people who get AIDS, homosexuals and Magic Johnson.
That, in effect, was my introduction to the gay scene.
As time evolved, so did AIDS.
Most people diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s died.
People contracting HIV in the 1990s expected to die, but then a lot of them ended up not doing that.
At the turn of the century, being HIV positive mostly meant you could never have sex without a condom again. Not a great stigma to carry, but a definite step up from getting the Philadelphia treatment.
This day and age antiviral medication allows most people with HIV to attain an undetectable viral load, which in turn means they can’t transmit the disease.
In the 1980s, having unprotected sex with an HIV positive Guy was a game of Russian roulette. Today, having sex with an ‘undetectable’ is about the safest lay there is.
And then there’s Prep, or Pre-exposure prophylaxis. Virtually unheard of ten years ago, Prep has probably surpassed Beyoncé as our go-to daily dosage of empowerment. The dialogue below is very common among gay Guys these days:
– Do you want to use a condom?
– I’m on Prep, so…
“I’m on Prep, so…” essentially means “I hate STD’s as much as the next Guy, but I’m horny enough to run the risk of peeing in agony for a week and knowing the risk of HIV is pretty much negligible at this point and not discounting the fact I’m really very horny and that condoms for all their merit do reduce fun by a factor of some number I’d happily calculate if it wasn’t for me being so horny and all this talk of condoms is not doing wonders for my erection, so…”
Ten years ago, not using condoms was restricted to Guys in committed relationships and irresponsible daredevils. Today, we hate condoms more than we fear HIV.
The story of Guy #199 marks the first time I saw the effect of Prep on gay culture, and it made me realize just how much AIDS has evolved over the years.
I met Guy #199 a few years ago at this orgy. I had heard about Prep and how gays were going bareback because of it. At the time my attitude toward Prep was hesitant at best. Having lived through the 1980s, I was very much conditioned to view barebacking as reckless. For all its downgrades over the years, HIV and AIDS were still scary.
Not so much to Guy #199.
I was lying on a mattress, comfortably riding out my wave of XTC, GHB, ketamine, cocaine and weed, when Guy #199, clearly as high as I was, lay down next to me and started touching me up. I wasn’t that much in the mood for a Guy, but Guy #199 was good looking, not something I’d turn down easily.
Passive as a captured bird I granted Guy #199 an attempt to bring me to life. It worked, right up to the moment he wanted to sit on me.
I stopped him, a little taken aback by the fact he didn’t want me to put on a condom. That, to me, was a first.
It’s not that I never had any unprotected sex before, but it had always been a somewhat careful albeit misguided consideration. And without exception, I had always come to regret it.
Most gay Guys will know what it’s like to give in to temptation, only to frantically check for signs of acute HIV infection the weeks after. Every time I barebacked a Guy, the slightest hint of a fever, sore throat or malaise would send my thoughts into overdrive, and I would vow to never take risks like that again.
Only to end up taking the very same risk after my next HIV test came back negative.
I honestly can’t remember how many times I’ve checked Wikipedia’s signs and symptoms of acute HIV infection, desperately trying to find any that ruled out HIV as the reason for my runny nose, headache or mysterious itch.
So when Guy #199 wanted to ride me without having the obligatory chat about how clean we both were, it struck me as too impulsive. He didn’t even ask if, in terms of diseases, my johnson was magic or tragic.
“Don’t you want to use a condom?” I asked.
“I’m on Prep, so…” Guy #199 rebuffed.
Guy #199 could tell I wasn’t comfortable going bareback with a stranger, so he gave me a condom and we partied like it was 1999. No doubt the party would have been better without the rubber, but being unfamiliar with Prep I anticipated another Wikipedia session I wanted to avoid.
Having sex with Guy #199 wasn’t bad, but I couldn’t shake the thought of how blithely this Guy barebacked his way through life.
It’s a thought that prevented me from starting Prep for quite some time.
Until more and more Guys around me started doing it. In the last few years I came to realize Guy #199 was not an exception but rather a first Mohican in a generation of gays to whom barebacking is back on the menu.
From the early 80s to the mid 10s, a period I commonly refer to as all my life, condom use was the nigh undebatable standard.
Then Prep came, along with HIV positive Guys with an undetectable viral load, and with it HIV gradually stopped being scary.
In August of 2018, I caved: I started taking Prep, blessed to live in a country where the stuff is accessible and affordable.
A few weeks ago, I ran into Guy #328. He was gorgeous and he wanted to do me.
“Do you want to use a condom?” he asked.
To which I said: “I’m on Prep, so…”
I’ve been checking Wikipedia’s signs and symptoms of chlamydia ever since.