Love won't protect you from HIV, verify their status

In relationships, as in life, trust is incredibly important. No matter the topic, you should be able to trust that what your partner says is gold.

Even still, when it comes to HIV status, it’s better to trust but verify.

Normally, I wouldn’t forgo a condom even if the other person says they’re HIV negative. They could be telling the truth to the best of their knowledge, but could have contracted HIV between their last test and when we’re playing.

With Bubby, though, something told me that it’d be ok, despite my justified anxiety. When a condom proved to be more difficult than I imagined during my first attempts at topping him, we discussed it and decided to just say “fuck it.”

At one month in, this isn’t the smartest decision, but my well-educated gut, throbbing erection and an extended period of interrogation convinced me it’d be ok. Even still, without a test, I knew this might not end well, no matter how much I trusted him. I was in love and love can be blinding sometimes.

We ended up fucking around for about a month sans rubber before we decided to get tested together. While I had been anxious for the results, we both walked out knowing we were HIV negative. While my anxiety definitely was diminished, it wasn’t completely gone. There is an uncomfortably high percentage of new HIV infections that happen in supposedly monogamous relationships.

Considering I’ve described monogamy as a sarlacc pit in the past, Bubby and me are definitely not in a monogamous relationship. So that means our risk of contracting an STD/STI is a little higher. We have a no-penis-in-anus rule, even with condoms, which helps but still leaves us open to things that communicate through skin-to-skin contact (pubic lice, scabies, HPV) and orally (gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes and HIV).

I don’t have much anxiety about the curable ones: gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis. Also, HPV and herpes are super common and often don’t cause a lot of life-altering problems. Even though I know it shouldn’t, as a gay man raised on 1990s AIDS awareness campaigns, HIV is the one that scares me the most.

Despite our risk aversion techniques, I’m always aware I’m at risk. I also know Bubby is at a greater risk because his gingivitis makes his gums bleed sometimes – we’re taking steps to fix that, though. So, at three months in, when Bubby called to tell me he got super drunk at a bar and woke up in some strange people’s homes with a sore anus, I was understandably panicked.

Bubby is a people pleaser, and that’s one of the reasons I worry about him slipping up and getting fucked by some stranger – or even a friend – who’s manipulative enough. When he told me what he could remember of the night, I immediately thought he’d gone and broken the rule he insisted upon. Later, he went back and was able to talk to the guys and they told a rather soothing tale. Since my bullshit detector wasn’t triggered, I suppressed my nagging anxiety and moved on, looking forward to another HIV test in a few weeks.

Unfortunately, like most things swept under the metaphorical rug, my anxiety spiked back up during an argument a couple months later. In the time since the revelation, I’d forgotten about getting re-tested. In that moment, though, I remembered everything. Later that week, we were off to get tested again and both tested negative.

Well, since he didn’t get the paper confirming a non-reactive result, I didn’t actually know his status still. I wanted to be cool about it because I trusted him, but a week later we were back for proof of his status.

As he said, he was all clear, but he easily couldn’t have been. At any point along the way, he could have been lying or mistaken about his risk or exposure. So, while I do trust this man with my life, it’s a little silly to risk my health to prove it. A simple test is all it takes to confirm the truth and save me decades of expensive medication and pointless revenge plotting.

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