Ben Leander Willgruber | Visual Designer and Writer

Being terrified of HIV

The HIV spread of the 80s may be over but many gay men today are still terrified of the virus. It’s an uncomfortable topic but I think it’s a side of the prevention programmes that hasn’t been talked about much.

I am sick right now. Everything was fine two days ago except for some minor headaches but I was laying horizontally in bed all of yesterday – and not for the good reasons. When I’m sick, I go into a spiral of desperation, trying to figure out if I might be sick because I’ve infected myself with HIV. I have a cough? That could be HIV! Fever? I must be dying!

When it comes to HIV, I lose all sense of reality.
And that’s nothing unique. From my experience, a lot of gay men are just as terrified about HIV as I am. Even when we’re extremely cautious. Unfortunately, HIV and the gay community are somewhat connected to each other. That sucks, but there’s no use sugarcoating it. Not-so-fun fact on the side, when HIV first came up, it was even called Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID).

Photo by Cameron Barnes

We may be the demographic most enlightened about STDs.
All the information we have about HIV/AIDS is important. We know so much about it and we’re probably most afraid of it too. It sucks. Information is necessary but it’s also triggered some OCD symptoms for me and other gay guys I’ve talked about it. It’s a passive fear that haunts me. I may tell myself that everything is fine and that there was literally no risk of transmission at all. I know I was safe and all that. Yet here I am, with a cold, thinking about what I’ve done sexually for the last couple of weeks. Did something unexpected happen? Was there the slightest risk of transmission? Objectively I know, there wasn’t.

How could you not be terrified?

Embarrassing conversations with my doctor.

It’s hard to speak to a doctor about STDs and the fear thereof. It’s uncomfortable telling him/her about playdates, but he/she won’t care. I think they’re glad when you’re honest and give them all the information because it makes their job easier too. Since I’m a nervous chicken when it comes to topics like this, I see my doctor quite regularly. He is cute though, so it’s only half bad. I ask any and all questions I have and I had to find a doctor who’s willing to take his time and actually listen to me. The last time I went to my doctor, who has helped me a great deal with my anxieties, I jokingly added that if I have to come in again he’ll have to invite me to dinner. That’s how comfortable I wish I was with all my doctors.

Photo by Cig Harvey

I know that having HIV is not a death sentence. I know that you can still live a healthy, normal life with it. HIV+ people reading this will probably think I am an ignorant ass and don’t know about PrEP or undetectable viral loads, but I do. It just hasn’t changed how I feel. One day, when a cure is developed, I hope I can leave my fear behind.

I know I’ve been safe and I know I’ve always been cautious. I worry, still. And get tested regularly. Just to be sure.

Am I crazy? Or do you have similar irrational fears?


7 thoughts on “Being terrified of HIV

  1. It’s actually refreshing to see that people still “worry”. I wasn’t sure. STDs seem to be so prevalent nowadays that we almost shrug it off as something normal. And the fact that one can live with, and maintain HIV is lulling some people’s worries.

    1. It is very true what you stated and I see the following development happening (If you’re a nerd like me you could call it a Gaussian-normal distribution trend): There’s only very few people in the middle who worry an approriate amount and then there’s lots of people who don’t care about STDs at all (basically as a strategy not to deal with overwhelming info and emotions) and then there’s a lot of people who worry too much. I wish someone would work on a campaign to level out the field.
      I hope what I just said makes any sense whatsoever to you 🙂

      1. It totally did. But we are human. There will always be people thinking/ feeling one extreme and other people who will think/ feel the exact opposite.

  2. Funny, I just returned from my state-wide summit conference on HIV/AIDS yesterday. You are not alone in your concerns and to be honest, more people actually SHOULD be worried. However, if you practice safer sex consistently and are on PrEP, there is probably no need to worry. Good post! Naked hugs!

    1. PrEP is not publically available in the country I live in. Even if it were I am not sure if I would wanna use it. I’m not a big fan of medication as I had some bad experiences with anti-depressants in the past.
      You’re right, most people probably are a little too careless, but I’ve met quite a few along the other side of the spectrum, wo would benefit from chilling a little. I’m one of them.
      Thanks for your feedback! xoxo

Leave your deepest thoughts or keep them to yourself.

%d bloggers like this: