Ask yourself why HIV infections keep occurring in the gay community. The answer is amazingly simple: because HIV-Negative men keep having sex with HIV+Positive men (and vice-versa). In light of that question, doesnt it seem to be a given that one way to dramatically reduce the number of new HIV infections would be for HIV-Negative men to only have sex with each other, and POZ men to do the same? Thats the central idea behind something called Sero-Sorting, a practice that helps keep opposing sero-types from intermingling.
More simply put, you cant get a disease that your partner doesnt have. By the same token, you cant infect someone with a disease if they already have it. In the big picture, the way to stop HIV from spreading is simply to prevent it from getting the chance to spread. Playing exclusively with others who share your HIV status ~ sero-sorting ~ is the best way to do that, regardless of whether you use condoms or not.
If you bareback, consider this: for every 100 bareback partners you engage with, at least 50 of them are likely to knowingly be POZ (regardless of what their profiles say). 20 to 30 of your partners will probably not know they are HIV+Positive, and the remainder will probably be negative. By sero-sorting, the HIV-Negative man has the opportunity to reduce his risk of becoming infected by anywhere from 40 to 100 percent. And the HIV+Positive guy can reduce the risk of causing new infections by an amazing 100 percent as well. Those are encouraging numbers, and they are also achievable through practices such as sero-sorting.
THERES A TRICK TO SERO-SORTING
The only way that sero-sorting can be a successful way of containing the virus is if all parties involved know their HIV status and are honest about it with each other. Therefore your first step in sero-sorting if you believe yourself to be HIV-Negative is to get yourself tested. “Thinking” youre negative isnt worth shit if you are in fact POZ. And “I dont know” isnt an HIV status. Knowledge is power, and its a good tool for making everyday decisions and long-term goals, too. GET TESTED.
If your test comes back HIV+Positive (or if you already know you are), you have a fairly easy job when it comes to sero-sorting, especially when it comes to online hookups. Simply look for other guys who are POZ to play with. Its very rare that a guy will lie about being POZ if he really is NEG. If his profile says hes Negative (even if he isnt), or if he claims to not know, cross him off your list of eligibles. Remember, youre only looking for guys who identify as POZ (like you). If a guy is POZ but has neither the decency nor the nuts to admit to it, its HIS loss if he loses you as a potential fuckmate.
Another good reason to start seeking out only other HIV+Positive men after a new POZ diagnosis is that they can help you adjust to the new requirements of your life. Seek not only uninhibited sexual encounters from them, but also their experience in dealing with HIV. They can help you in ways that most HIV-Negative men cannot.
YOURE SO-O-O NEGATIVE
If your test shows that you are Negative, sero-sorting is a bit more of a challenge. But right away, by crossing all POZ and ‘unknown status’ guys off your list, you will be cutting your risk percentages down tremendously. The hardest part for you will be weeding out the bad eggs from the good ones from what’s left. This is not always such an easy task. Simply reading a profile isnt good enough, since often times the profile is nothing more than a means to promote an image of how the writer wants others to perceive him, whether close to the truth or not. So how does the HIV-negative male reduce his chances of hooking up for sex with someone who is not being truthful about his HIV+ status?
Start by avoiding people who engage in behaviors that put them at higher risk of becoming infected. Say “no” to anyone who advertises he is into partying and playing or getting high before sex (buzzwords: pnp, parTy, tweak, meth, go fast, Chrissy, Tina, booty bump, butt rocket, etc.). Tweakers (parTiers) are notorious for being dishonest about their status while being quick to engage in the riskiest sexual behaviors, and most reluctant about getting tested regularly. People who habitually use party drugs are 400-600% more likely to become HIV+Positive. Even if YOU dont feel the need to get high prior to sex, you can become infected by someone who uses. Cross partiers off your list of eligibles.
Refrain from going to bath houses or sex clubs (and from hooking up with those who routinely go to those places) as honesty isnt one of the hallmarks of men who frequent such establishments. These are places where STD’s of all varieties get a foothold in the community. Bath house sex is mostly sought out by men interested in getting their rocks off anonymously. Theyve paid money to get into the place, and most are interested in getting what they paid for. Many are high or drunk and not in the best frame of mind for discussing HIV status or being truthful about it with someone who they think can give them their moneys worth. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure… especially when it comes to something that can’t be cured.
When you chat online or person to person with a prospective sex partner, ask specific questions ~ Do you party? What is your HIV status? How often do you get laid? and How do you screen your partners? are a few good questions to ask. Pay close attention to the answers. If things he says dont add up, politely refuse to hook up. Try setting up fuck dates with eligible candidates for some time in the near future. A man is less likely to lie if theres no reward of immediate gratification available. And most of all, trust your gut reaction. If that little voice in your head says “no” follow it, regardless of how hot the guy may seem at the moment. If youre really serious, you can (and should) ask for proof on paper of his HIV-Negative status. Aint nothing wrong in asking him to prove his claim. If hes really negative he has nothing to hide.
Consider looking for a fuck buddy or two who meet your criteria. HIV-Negative men who sero-sort are perhaps more likely to want to find a small number of men they can trust to hook up with on a regular basis. You can also see if theres an All-Negative sex group in your city (or a nearby city), or consider starting one of your own (see ” Making Your Bareback Party Safer For All”). Expect to be required to prove your Neg status with a recent test, and remember that theres still a risk involved even though everyone may have recently tested negative.
YES, BUT… MORE EXCITING?
Right now sero-sorting may seem like a lot of extra work. But once you have made the shift in attitude that comes as a result of sero-sorting, you’ll realize that the sex you have from that point on can be more free of the worry and fear that underlines most random sexual encounters. When you fuck a guy who you feel certain is of the same HIV status as yourself, you can pull out all the stops and enjoy the sex in all its wonderful glory. An inhibiting emotional barrier is removed this way, and the sex can be much more fulfilling with that level of trust between you and your partner. You can be more comfortable knowing that your likelihood of getting infected is much smaller because you’re sero-sorting, or you can be just as comfortable knowing that you won’t be accidentally infecting someone else.
An unkind truth is that men do lie about their HIV status for many reasons ~ ranging from not knowing their current status and assuming it hasnt changed, to fear of rejection or hostility, because of dementia, or as the result of emotions of anger or depression resulting from the reality of diagnosis. Understand that any person who is dishonest about his HIV status is only contributing to the perpetuation of the disease through his selfishness. The more aware you are of what to look for and avoid, the better off you will be.
Also keep in mind the following: Nobody is immune to HIV. Some people may be resistant to the virus, but it is not confirmed that anyone is actually immune. Additionally, “undetectable” still means “POZ”. Someone who claims to be Undetectable POZ can still infect you if you are NEG. Claims of immunity or undetectability should send ip a red flag that the person making the claim is not looking out for your best interests.
Sero-sorting is not perfect or foolproof. It cannot encompass the range of protection needed to prevent transmission of other STDs. It only works as long as the persons involved are honest with each other, and are committed to practicing sero-sorting. It does not prevent re-infection or cross-infection of HIV strains among HIV+Positive men. However when successful, sero-sorting does reduce the number of new HIV infections by lowering the percentage of sero-incompatible partners. If you are like me, you will see the value and necessity in sero-sorting and youll start practicing it right away. The only way well overcome the AIDS crisis is by working together to contain the virus. As barebackers we have as much if not a greater responsibility for HIV containment. Sero-sorting is one of the best tools we barebackers (as well as routine condom users) have for achieving that goal.