How do you tell someone you’re HIV positive, especially in the sexually charged environment of a bathhouse? It’s not a place to talk. It’s not designed for that. The arrogance of the negative men, presuming that everyone there is negative, pisses me off. I mean—you fucking idiot: you’re naked, you paid to get in, you’re looking for sex with gay men, HIV has been around 25 years—and you’re shocked, stunned, when I tell you I’m positive. Well, you deserve what you get, you stupid prick.
Only three times has the other guy walked away when I told him I’m poz, and actually I like that best. When they stay it feels like they’re doing it to be polite. They barely touch me, careful never to touch my butt, as if giant spores of virus are nesting there ready to leap on them. The sex is always gingerly consummated. A pity fuck, with sad pathetic eyes. They act like they did a good deed by fucking me.
In San Francisco there is a sex club call Eros. I went there many years ago. Upon entering a young, chubby, bouncy Japanese boy in leather spike-studded jockstrap greeted me. He gave me a test, a safe sex test. It was cute, playful, and informative. At the end of my test (I passed) he asked me if I wanted to reveal my HIV status. I said I was positive. “Would you be willing to wear this red rubber-band on your left wrist? It’s a signal for the other guys that you are poz.” I said yes. It was simple. I just slipped it on and went in.
A daddy-bear type in a stained and torn jockstrap was soon scratching around me. He flipped out his dick and stroked his erection in my direction. I came over to get a closer look. He saw my red rubber-band, put his dick away, nodded his head at my band and moved on. Simple. Perfect. No conversation needed. Men do not go here to talk. I really like the idea. It made everything so easy.
I met a guy at a bathhouse once. In black, two-inch, Helvetica script, he had “HIV+” tattooed over his shaved pubes. I complemented him on it. “I really like your tattoo!” “Thanks. Makes it easy. Don’t waste any time.” He was not my type, or I his. “Nice to meet you.” he said disapearing behind a curtain of black plastic strips.
A good idea, but unfortunately I don’t like tattoos or shaving my pubes—too itchy. I’ve thought of branding. My own Scarlet Letter. I remember reading the book in High School and thinking why didn’t Hester Prynne just become a whore and have some fun? Instead, she stitched away at her letter ‘A’. I thought she should just get over herself.
Negative men have a responsibility too, if they want to stay that way. But not a single one has ever asked me if I’m poz. And they’re so surprised when I tell them I am. How the fuck can they be surprised? After 25 years of death. It’s been on TV. They never watched Oprah?
Once, after I told a guy I was positive (twice), we jacked each other off. After I came he leaned his head over the pool of cum on my belly and lapped it up. A greedy cat mewing over spilt milk. A week later he came down with a sore throat.
“I think I have AIDS, John. I can feel it growing in my throat. I’ve been to the doctor—twice. Why didn’t you tell me you were positive?”
“Well how do you know I’m positive if I didn’t tell you? Remember at the Men’s Group when I talked about being positive, and on the car trip, when you asked to suck my cock in the back of the van? I stopped you. I said I was positive.”
“What did I say?”
“You gave me a blank stare and said ’oh’.”
“What happened next?”
“I sucked your cock. Remember?”
For six weeks I had to baby-sit and hold this idiot’s hand, while we waited for his negative test result. He had the flu. All this because he ‘forgot’ I’d told him I was HIV positive—twice.
I’ve thought of wearing a red rubber-band all the time. It might act like the piece of string your mother gave you to tie around your finger, so you wouldn’t forget what she told you. At the very least guys might ask, “What’s the red rubber-band for?” It might start the conversation. It’s everyone’s responsibility to tell, and to ask every time. We’re a society that loves to assign blame; we want victims and bullies. We need adults.
About the Author
Johnathan Skot is a gay writer and artist living in West Hollywood. His childhood was spent in his mother’s shadow and in Los Angeles. In adolescence he was confined to Orange County. He managed to escape to Art School, where he met the two iconographic woman in his life. “The Swede” and Andréa, with whom he later shared a house, until she became a Dominatrix. He became HIV+ moved out, worked in an AIDS hospice, found love, entered the HIV dissident movement, watched his lover change his mind when it was too late, scattered his ashes, found himself and yoga, and found he could love again. He is currently engaged and he and his new partner plan to legally wed in the Fall.