Guest Blogger: Rick R. Reed

ART IMITATES LIFE

Warning. This blog is for readers 18 years of age and older. The material is NOT appropriate for minors. Also, to enter the contest, you must be of legal age.

My latest project, an e-book novella called NEG UB2 (which refers to Internet lingo some men conjure up on hookup sites to ward off HIV+ suitors by telling them that they are “HIV negative and you be too”) deals with issues of getting an HIV positive diagnosis and personal responsibility. I found the following new story, which was reported just this past May, very timely, as it came out in the exact same month as my novella.

If you’d like to win a free download of NEG UB2, let me know when you leave a comment on this blog and I will pick one winner on Wednesday, June 24 and will post the winner’s name here. To enter, you must leave your email address with your comment so that Rick can contact you to make arrangements for delivery of the ebook.

In May, 365gay.com reported that an HIV+ Toronto man had been arrested for having unprotected gay sex. Sahand Mahmoodi, 28, was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault for allegedly having unprotected sex with another man and for not disclosing that he is HIV-positive.

What I find interesting about this whole mess (and it’s not a unique mess and not confined to Canada) is a detail mentioned in passing in the news article, that the two men met online on a gay chat site. And, after meeting, they had unprotected sex. The word “unprotected” is key here. As of this writing, the “victim” has not disclosed if he actually contracted HIV from this encounter. But whether he has or hasn’t makes me wonder: why isn’t he looking in the mirror to find the culprit for his being exposed to HIV? Mind you, I am not excusing anyone who knows for a fact that they are HIV+ and then does not disclose that fact to a potential sex partner, but I am saying all of us bear our own responsibility for our sexual well-being. AIDS and HIV have been big news for more than two decades now. Who isn’t aware of the inherent risks?

I am close to many HIV+ people and have known many who engage in barebacking (unprotected anal intercourse), some are responsible about telling partners and some aren’t. I think the ones who aren’t are morally reprehensible. But some of those morally reprehensible people have told me that they assume (and you know what happens when you assume) when someone is willing to engage in unprotected sex, they must be positive as well. After all, why would they do something so stupid and jeopardize their health by not even asking the status of their would-be Lothario? Although I don’t excuse them on this point, I can kind of see it. They are just giving too much common sense credit to their sex partner. I once wrote a piece, back when I was writing a sex column for a Chicago paper, about a man who was on a hookup site looking for guys to come over to his garage and have unprotected anal sex with him (and he was the passive partner); the irony of all this, and why I felt compelled to write about it, was that the guy was insisting that his potential suitors be HIV negative. Now, here was a guy who was taking on all comers (pun intended), as many as he could get, and thought he was protecting himself by asking not for their names or anything personal (that would spoil the anonymous, garage tryst vibe), but hoping that his little caveat would keep away the infected.

How stupid is that? For one thing, even if everyone who showed up to this garage party believed he was negative, chances are there would be at least one who wasn’t…and just didn’t know yet.

I also have a friend who is HIV+, knows who infected him, and thinks the Toronto man pressing charges against his online hookup is a fool. He said, “That guy did just what I was doing before I got infected. Playing risky…taking chances. I have a pretty good idea who infected me. I’m pretty sure he knew he was infected when we had our condom free night of romance…and he didn’t tell me.” I wondered if he had any resentment toward this man, or thought he too should be charged with murder. “Hell, no. What he did was morally wrong. Yes, he should have told me. But I should have asked. And I shouldn’t have allowed him to have sex with me without using a condom. I knew the chances I was taking and I took them. He won’t win any medals for humanitarianism, but I certainly don’t hold him responsible for my getting infected. The only person I can hold responsible for that is me.”

I have to say that I agree with my friend. On the other hand, I also believe that HIV+ people should be held accountable for their actions, but whether this is a criminal matter or not is murky in my mind. How do you prosecute someone when their victim was a willing accomplice, not bothering to make the least amount of effort at self protection? And, if you do prosecute, how do you call it murder? Once upon a time, an HIV diagnosis was an automatic death sentence. But today, HIV+ people are living healthy lives for not just years, but decades. How can you charge someone with attempted murder when it’s just as likely the victim could be felled by an accident, cancer, heart attack, stroke, or something else? I understand that people can and do die from AIDS, but those numbers have decreased dramatically since the onset of HIV, back in the early 80s, so calling a potential infection “attempted murder” seems like a claim that’s ripe for further examination.

How do you come down on all of this?

Rick R. Reed is the award-winning author of ten novels and has been referred to as “the Stephen King of gay horror.” Visit his website here and his blog here.