Understanding the devastating impact AIDS had on LGBTQ communities in the 1980s is crucial, but there is a tendency to talk about HIV as a thing of the past. It isn’t: around 36.9 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS last year, and there were around 5,000 new infections every day, although mortality rates are thankfully much lower. Black, trans and gay male people are still disproportionately likely to contract the virus overall. And so HIV education for those vulnerable groups in particular is even more important. But the virus can affect anyone – a fact largely obscured by the homophobic panic of mainstream media, which used the AIDS epidemic to demonize gay men. As a result, HIV+ women in particular are all too often rendered invisible.
Sex education at school is still not what it is or very effective regarding the view about it all. So what if we can’t trust sex education or a supposedly faithful biopic like “Bohemian Rhapsody” of HIV+ icon Freddy Mercury of Queen to tackle the subject, what can we trust? The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is gay porn.
For starters, a handful of HIV+ porn stars have sex on-screen to demonstrate in extreme detail that treatment works. But in addition, performers like Jason Domino and Hans Berlin build initiatives like “The Good Porn Project”, which goes a step further by also tackling issues like transphobia and sexual racism.
Hans Berlin, who last year came out as HIV during a Grabby awards acceptance speech, puts it this way: “There are still some dumb people in the industry – and that shouldn’t be an insult. There are places in the world, even countries like the United States, which don’t have much sex education, so there are people who are still fearful of HIV+ performers.”
Hans Berlin is hard at work on a musical love story set in the world of gay porn, whereas Jason Domino is a renowned sexual health advocate consistently using his platform – and his experience – to fight stigma. “Education is so fear-led, and that scares people out of being tested,” Jason says. “Information and empowerment is so much more important and sex workers are doing the work, but sex worker activists don’t get invited to activism awards. We’re the first to disappear from the list. Companies are worried about funding and respectability, they think we inherently damage that. At the end of the day, it’s just discrimination.”
You can listen to your doctor, but that’s really clinical advice. Ultimately it’s about listening to them, because people are talking about sex work without listening to sex workers. And they can know!!!
Treatment has advanced astronomically over the last few decades with preventative drug PrEP, while ART (antiretroviral treatment) suppresses the viral load of HIV positive people on medication to ‘undetectable’ levels, meaning they can’t transmit the virus even through unprotected sex.
BUT you should always rubber up regardless, folks!!!
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Lesley Middleton, owner of PINK IN OUR LIVES
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