South Africa’s Anova Health Institute is deeply saddened by the news that more than 100 AIDS researchers, activists and health workers, who were en route to attend the 20th International AIDS Conference taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were on board the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight that crashed over Ukraine yesterday. Anova sends condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those who have been lost to this tragedy.
Shortly before my 28th birthday, I discovered that a friend of mine was HIV positive. He wasn’t a very close friend, but I knew him quite well and it came as a shock to me because he was well educated, intelligent and financially established in the world, and I believed that people like him did not get HIV. I couldn’t understand how someone like that could be “dumb” enough to have unprotected sex. In the nineties almost every gay movie I could get my hands on was about gay men struggling with HIV or AIDS. How could he not have known to wear a condom? It was constantly drummed into us.
After a few years I moved to the big city and met other clever, educated people with HIV, and assumed it was drug or alcohol related. Why else would they have had unprotected sex?
I found myself packing on a few kilos as I crossed over into my 30s. My “Twink” days were over, and I was heading quickly into “Bear” territory. The hair on my head was thinning, but then thickening everywhere else. The only problem is that I am not attracted to “Bearish” guys and am only really attracted to well built guys. This was a problem because fewer and fewer well built guys were giving me the time of day, and no matter how much I went to gym, I would always end up chowing down at braais or at restaurants and drinking too much beer and wine. I couldn’t get my stomach flat or my biceps big enough. I didn’t have the hot body that I wanted from my lovers, and so I was beginning to feel terribly low and insecure, which just made me eat and drink more. I opened some dating profiles and downloaded a couple of apps onto my phone, so that I could increase my chances of meeting someone well built, who wasn’t necessarily looking for someone else who was well built, but I wasn’t winning.
I got messages from guys, but they would go quiet as soon as they realized that my body wasn’t up to scratch, and I was terrified that I would never have sex again – never mind ever having another relationship.
One day I was at work and I went onto an app on my phone just to see if there were any messages. There was one from this unbelievably hot guy, without his shirt on. He looked like a model. He was blonde, blue-eyed tanned and ripped and I assumed it must be a fake profile. We started chatting and he sent me more hot pictures of himself and I was still not convinced. He told me he was from New Zealand and that he was an aeronautical engineer. I told him that I didn’t have a hot body like him and he said that he didn’t care. We chatted for a few minutes and then he invited me to visit him in his hotel room, which happened to be just a few blocks away. I decided I would pop in during my lunch break and just leave him at the door if he didn’t look like he said he did. Superficial, I know, but there are so many of us in our community.
My heart was pumping as I made my way through the hotel, feeling guilty and naughty but also very excited. I got to the door, took a deep breath and knocked.
He opened the door and my eyes nearly popped out. He looked incredible. He was shirtless in just tight fitting tracksuit pants (with no underwear on) and I immediately panicked, because I thought he might send me away. He was that hot.
I walked in and said ‘hi’ and he just grabbed me and kissed me, I thought I was dreaming. In seconds he had me naked and he pushed me back onto the bed. Before I could stop him he climbed over me and sat on me, forcing me into him. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I couldn’t believe that he would do that without putting a condom on first, or at least asking me. I couldn’t believe how amazing it felt. It was so good to be with a beautiful man with absolutely nothing between us. It felt amazing because the sensations were so much more intense, and also because I knew how dangerous it was, and just how miserably lonely and unhappy I had been until that very moment. I wanted to stop him and push him off me, insist he use a condom, but he was so beautiful and it felt so good I didn’t want it to stop. I was scared he would stop. I was scared he would tell me to go, but for those few moments I was not scared of HIV. And then it was over. I showered and went back to work. Everything looked the same as before. Everything seemed the same as before, but it wasn’t.
Now I know how an educated, sober, clever and successful man can have unprotected sex. Now I know.
Health4Men is a project of the Anova Health Institute NPC, funded by USAID through PEPFAR. This article represents the contributing writer’s personal views.
Health4Men would like to hear from you too! Gay and bi men from throughout South Africa are welcome to submit articles about their own lives, primarily regarding sexuality, sexual health and relationships. Selected articles, like this one, will be published in print and online. For submissions please mail firstname.lastname@example.org.