A couple of weeks ago, my best friend who is HIV positive and has been since 1994, let me know that the medical cocktail he had been taking was no longer working. His viral load had gone from undetectable to unacceptable levels. He has been feeling tired of late and he has had to deal with some skin irritations while not painful make him look like he has a severe sunburn.
As I write tonight I am worried…I am scared…I am deeply disturbed. For you see for the last 20 years or so I have seen this before and this is reality come home again, for there are no fairy tale endings.
Yes, there are miracles, yes there are new discoveries and yes there is hope…for with the unconditional love of God there is always hope, always miracles, and always-new discoveries.
Yet, I suppose I am being selfish here…not wanting a friend who means the world to me, at the least suffer and at the worst die long before his time. I don’t want to see and feel the anguish, pain and suffering of his family, his friends and his partner.
With that said my friend is a strong man. He is a man of God. He is a man whose faith in his Christ is as deep as any ocean and as strong as any mountain. He will endure, he will stay strong and ultimately he will win this battle because he is wonderfully and uniquely made in the image of God. So I am just asking readers to prayer with me for him, for his healing…for his miracle.
I needed to get that off my chest so that I could talk about 2008. I want to sound a warning, ring an alarm, rise up and shout from the mountaintop to my brothers in the gay, bi and straight community…ENOUGH ALREADY…STOP IT…HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MINDS?
This is 2008 not 1994 nor 1982. We know for a fact how HIV keeps it’s bloody record of death going. We really know this is not a manageable disease, but rather a killer that does unbelievable harm to untold millions of people. We know that the medications used to fight off this virus have horrible side effects and in the long run lose their effectiveness. We know that whole generations of humanity will never see their 21st birthday.
Yet, many gay men, bi men and straight men still behave as if HIV is an after thought, as if the magic pill will arrive just in time for Christmas. While I dare say it is not a majority, it is significant enough to cause untold misery and destruction for millions of people.
This is 2008 and we know we have the weapons that can stop this disease in its tracks. The weapons are so simple. One is an object and the other a program.
The object is called a condom and the program is called “needle exchange” or harm reduction (needle exchange and harm reduction is another blog).
Yet when you talk to folks in the community you would think I was “Henny-Penny and crying the sky is falling…think I am kidding? Take a look at this: (not for the squeamish) Some samples from Craig’s list:
“I’m into a lot of different things such as public sex, fisting, bareback, bondage, w/s, group fun, Master/slave type “relationships”… and yes, that is meant to mean “strings”. I expect that anyone who wants to get to know me should at least be open minded and adventurous, even if they haven’t done it all. I live a polyamorous lifestyle. I hope this stuff here sums me up well.”
“I need to suck a **** and eat a large load of ***. I also get into rimming, body contact, J/O and whatever else you can think of. If you are negative I am bb friendly.”
“Yeah, bb btm loves to get plowed hard by raw ****
Into it? like seeding a hot, horny, furry hole?”
There are places in the fair city of Atlanta where one can go and have any number of sex partners in an evening and there are no condoms in sight or asked for. Before the straight folks reading this say ah hah it is you gays…let me be clear there are plenty of these clubs for straight folks as well and the men who are picking up women while out of town are not using condoms either. In fact go to any straight party club and well you get the idea.
I had a person in pastoral counseling who is now a recovering sexual addict tell me how he would go to a local hotel here in town…place an ad on Craig’s list giving his location and room number. He would invite anyone who wanted sex to his room to find the door unlocked and him blindfolded with his butt in the air waiting to receive all the bareback sex he could.
Or how about these websites that have thousands of subscribers for both gay and straight people:
Gay Bareback Sex and Hairy Masculine Men
The porn industry is a multi billion-dollar empire whose hottest films involve sex without condoms. If people are spending that kind of money you cannot convince me they are not doing what they see in film.
This is not a blog to sound a moral cry about how sexually loose society is, nor is it to start an ethics debate on adultery and or fornication.
Rather it is about admitting and recognizing people regardless of morals, ethics, or the churches teachings are going to have sex. They have been doing the “deed” since the beginning of time.
I will save the sexual ethics discussion for another time. Right now I am concerned about stopping the bleeding. For you see when a person is wounded, 9 times out of 10 before you do anything else you have got to stop the bleeding.
Stopping the bleeding in this case means if you are going to have sex use a condom.
Believe me, I know they are easy to use, easy to dispose of and can save one from any number of life threatening or life ending diseases. My partner and I have been together 25 plus years and have never had sex without condom use.
My friends don’t we have a moral obligation to not put others at risk for our sexual enjoyment?
For those who call themselves Christian can you really in good conscience put your partner or yourself at risk of a shorten or messed up life for a night of taking care of a “sexual itch”?
Do not those who consider themselves tops have an obligation to say no to bare backing?
Do not those who consider themselves bottoms have an obligation to say no to letting someone inside them without a condom.
How about straight folks…unless you are making a child and you both have tested negative, don’t you have an obligation to keep each other safe? I know all about the marriage vows of fidelity, however it is what it is…I mean really…do you want to find out your partner cheated on you when you come up with a positive test?
If you are going to cheat on your partner or even if you have an open relationship do you really want to introduce HIV or God knows what other disease to the one you say you love?
Isn’t the whole relationship thing difficult enough without adding a premature death sentence to it?
The moral police will tell me the answer is abstinence and then only sex in wedlock.
Well that has really worked well hasn’t it? Read the court dockets and the reasons for divorce. Look at the record levels of teen pregnancy. HIV rates of infection are up not down. STD’s are on the rise rather then declining.
People committing adultery in the State of Georgia can go to jail…but that is of little good to the one they infect and I might add too little too late.
Gay folk are denied marriage, so their only answer is no sex? Right-so now convince me that a healthy 20 something man is not going to have sex regardless of the marriage laws.
I was talking to a Pastor who works with folks who are HIV positive and he told me about an informal survey that was done for men in prison. People going into prison are given an HIV test. Of those who tested negative when they went into prison, 54% of them tested positive when they came out. Of course you don’t give prisoners condoms because that would be approving sex and the wrong kind of sex at that. What kind of screwed up thinking is that?
I want with all my heart to have conversations around long-term monogamous relationships.
I want to teach values, respect and commitment as a part of our sexual relations.
My faith walk encourages and even demands me to support and model that kind of sexual responsibility.
However, I am left with the reality people are going “sow their oats”, they are going to experiment, they are going to be wild, they are going to be stupid and do sexual things out of a lack of judgment.
Like it or not that is the condition of the human race, it is the way we live and learn.
Yet if I can convince folks who are going to have sex regardless of some moral authority, to use a condom they might live long enough to learn a sense of responsibility.
If I can convince folks that if you have sex without a condom you are either suicidal or are a totally self-absorbed selfish person they might live long enough to learn there is other peoples lives at stake.
So to those men in the gay, bi and straight community…I am begging you, pleading with you, save a life and use a condom.
One final thought for those who would blast me for writing this blog, thinking this is the wrong subject for a minister to write about or it was just too graphic please remember:
Silence=Death and my friends we have been silent far too long in the matters of safe sex and the use of the condom.
Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church and Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He was called to Atlanta in 1994 to pastor All Saints MCC. Five years later he founded Gentle Spirit Christian Church. He lives in Decatur with his husband Bill, who he met in 1982 while living and working in Ohio and legally married in 2015.