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.
25 years ago I met my life partner AIDS. We’ve gone through everything together. And when I say everything, I mean it. Like most people when they have a partner they don’t look for one another. They might play with others even at the same time. In the early 80s it was normal to share your boy with others. I was just that: a boy, to a man who had lots of money and gave me everything I wanted. I wasn’t looking for another partner, and certainly not looking for this one. This is our story of how I fought and did everything to hide my shame for this new found partner of mine.
Gay culture moves fast. So it wouldn’t be a big surprise if the 2006 published book by Michael Shernoff Without Condoms – unprotected sex, gay men & barebacking felt a little dated. Or it might simply be the perspective of a gay man who came of age just before the AIDS crisis and who’s personal life was forever shaped by it. But the material is as relevant as it has ever been.
The hundreds who crammed into a lecture hall in New York City’s East Village in November 2004 expected to witness the next Great Moment in gay politics. We’d just gotten creamed in the elections, public health officials were reporting yet another troubling surge of new HIV infections among gay men and Larry Kramer was to take the stage and tell us all how to get things, well, straightened out – just as he had twenty years ago, when he helped create both the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and ACT UP. But Kramer was in no mood for a second coming.