Posts Tagged ‘one night stand’
I can’t quite describe how it feels to be standing six feet from Annie Lennox, as you have your photo taken by one of the world’s top fashion and portrait photographers.
The fact that I was doing it for an amazing cause made the whole experience even more special.
This year, The Body Shop has teamed up with UNAIDS and photographer Rankin for a global World AIDS Day campaign called Be An Activist. It showcases activists of all ages and races, from all walks of life, from popstars and CEOs, to your average man on the street, like me.
In a world where treatments are improving and AIDS is becoming less of a killer, sadly, people are becoming more complacent. Ignorance is high. Lack of education is a constant problem, and as a result, infections continue to rise.
This is why I’m so honoured and passionate to be a part of a campaign which reinvigorates the message that HIV is always out there, and it doesn’t discriminate.
Arm yourselves with the knowledge to protect yourself and make safer decisions, and let’s end the stigma surrounding HIV — and hopefully one day, eradicate the virus itself.
Below is a transcript (and a shaky video!) of the keynote I delivered (along with my best mate Emma) at the campaign’s press launch on 29th November 2010.
World AIDS Day is on December 1st, and I urge you all to stand with me and wear your red ribbon with pride.
I am proud to be an activist. Join me, and be an activist too.
Every morning, I wake up, and the first thing I do after throwing the alarm clock across the room, is go to the bathroom, where I carefully place two bits of plastic onto my eyeballs so I can see properly.
Yes, I’m short sighted. Shocking, isn’t it? I mean, you wouldn’t know unless I told you. But yep, I genuinely can’t see my hand in front of my face without my lenses.
Being short sighted isn’t my fault; it’s just something that happened to me.
An hour later, before I leave the house for work, I tip four small tablets into my hand and knock them back with a glass of milk. To help my immune system cope with the effects of the HIV virus.
So there’s two things you wouldn’t guess from just looking at me. But only one of those things has the potential to change the way I’m perceived by other people.
We’ve been brought up to believe HIV is ‘unclean’ and that the people who carry the virus are somehow lesser beings, to be feared and ostracised. But I’m not, I’m innocent, I’m just like you.
I’m the person who gave you his seat on the tube. The guy who smiled at you when you bumped into him because you were walking along engrossed in your phone. I work with you, I cross the road with you. I’m not locked away in some dark corner of a hospital, gaunt, dying and covered in lesions. Every day, you come into contact with HIV+ people — you just don’t know it. And we’re not evil, we were just unlucky.
I hope one day, World AIDS Day is a day to reflect on the past and feel grateful that we live in a world free of stigma, a world where people can go about their lives without feeling they have to hide their status. I hope it becomes a time to remember those who lost their lives to the disease, and to thank those who developed treatments, and maybe one day even a cure.
Being an activist doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon. It doesn’t mean you have to march in a parade with a banner. You don’t have to stand behind a lectern at City Hall and deliver a speech. It can be something as simple as pinning a red ribbon to your jacket as you make your way to work. It’s an act of compassion towards a fellow human being. It says, “I’m with you on this’. Because after all, ten thousand voices whispering can be a whole lot louder than one person shouting.
I’m so proud to be a part of this campaign, to stand alongside such inspiring people and finally put a face to HIV. I hope that by sharing my story, I can empower people to take control of their health, get tested regularly and protect themselves from this virus.
I’m not ashamed of who I am, and I’m not afraid to be honest. And I will carry on holding my head up and fighting on behalf of those who live in fear so that we can finally end stigma once and for all.
My name is Kristian Johns, I’m HIV positive. And I refuse to hide, because I shouldn’t have to.
The exhibition at City Hall runs until December 7th 2010
I often get contacted by people on Facebook or Twitter asking me about HIV, either because they’re curious or believe they’ve put themselves at risk and need some reassurance.
I’ve always been very open about my status, and I’m glad people feel they can ask me instead of sitting there stewing. But it’s become increasingly obvious to me recently just how many people there are out there who know almost nothing about HIV. I’m not judging anyone, just making an observation.
You may remember a while back I wrote a post called ‘Why we should never stop being scared of AIDS’, and I stand by that sentiment. You should be damn scared of AIDS — it may be a manageable condition nowadays, but it sure ain’t fun — but there’s a difference between those who fear it because they’re ignorant, and those who have the facts, protect themselves and still have fun.
So I’m going to give you the basics. I’m not a doctor, so this isn’t written with the education of someone with a medical degree. I hope I’ve managed to slim down the technical side of things without compromising accuracy, but I’m quite happy to be corrected if you want to leave a comment.
This blog has had over half a million visits in the past year. If I can make just one of those visitors think twice about taking risks, then I may well have saved a life.
So here we go:
The science bit:
HIV’s a clever little bugger. When it enters your body, it targets your white blood cells. There are many different types of white cell, and they don’t just live in the bloodstream. But in very simple terms, they’re your immune system — the more of them you’ve got, the healthier you are.
HIV latches on to the white blood cell and empties its DNA into it. In doing so, it effectively turns the cell into a factory for producing more HIV — when the white blood cell reproduces, so does the virus. Sneaky, huh?
But it gets sneakier. When HIV copies its DNA to human DNA it makes a small ‘mistake’ and mutates ever so slightly. This is why it’s so hard to find a cure — because by the time we develop one, it’s irrelevant because of how much the virus has changed.
If you imagine the yearly mutation of the flu virus to be the size of an A4 piece of paper, HIV’s equivalent could arguably be a couple of football pitches.
How do I know if I’ve got it?
Well, the simple answer is — you can’t. Not without a test. Once you’re exposed to the virus, your body will try to produce antibodies to fight off the infection. It’s the presence of these antibodies that the doctors look for when they test you for HIV, but it can take anywhere between thirty and ninety days before there are enough of them to detect in a test.
Some people will develop flu-like symptoms a couple of months after infection. Others may not show any symptoms at all. My experience was pretty traumatic. I was so weak I couldn’t even move, I barely ate. I lost nearly two stone and I had a blotchy red rash all over my body.
Attractive, huh? Thinking twice yet about barebacking?
It stands for post-exposure prophylaxis — and it could save your life. It’s basically a course of HIV medication that you take for a month after you’ve been exposed to the virus, and it could cut the risk of you developing HIV by around 80%.
But you need to be quick — you’ve got about a 72 hour window after exposure to get the treatment (the HPA in the UK say ideally within one hour and not beyond 72 hours). You can get it from Accident and Emergency or through selected GUM clinics. Have a Google and you can usually find where to get it in your area.
Accidents happen, condoms split or get forgotten in the drunken, drug-fucked heat of the moment. Nobody at a clinic is going to judge you, they just want to help. But make no mistake; this is not some magic ‘morning after pill’ — the side effects can be gruesome, and can include heavy vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, insomnia and dizziness — but it’s better than the alternative. It might be a second chance at an HIV-free life.
So don’t blow it — and take a bit more care next time.
So what should I classify as safe sex?
There are certain activities which can be said to be lower risk than others. Oral sex, for instance, is a lot lower risk than penetrative sex. But the actual risk is dependent on a number of factors.
For instance, if you have oral sex with someone who’s got a high viral load and is highly infectious, that’s obviously going to be a greater risk than if, like me, they’re undetectable (I’ll explain what that means in a second).
On the flipside, they could be undetectable, but if you’ve nicked your gums when you dashed to the bathroom to brush the taste of vodka from your mouth before you got down to it, then the risk goes back up.
And whether you’re male, female, top or bottom, barebacking’s a no-no. Just stick a bloody condom on. You may think you can’t catch it from a passive partner, but you can, and you probably will. If you rupture something while you’re banging happily away up there, you’ll be absorbing the virus straight through the head of your dick.
So should I avoid sex with someone who’s positive?
Sex with a positive person — as long as it’s safe — shouldn’t be something to be frightened of. If they’re kind enough to tell you beforehand, you should assume they are in control of their health, and are at the right stage of their treatment, and therefore won’t do anything they feel will put you at risk.
However, you always have a choice, and it’s your decision whether you have sex with them or not. Don’t just go with the flow’ while silently freaking out.
I’ve been turned down by countless guys because of my status, but the one thing I always say is: “I’m not the first positive guy you’ve slept with — I’m just the first one who’s told you.”
So why should I get tested?
Well, apart from the obvious peace of mind, there’s another thing to consider. So here’s science lesson number two:
There are two indicators of how an HIV+ person’s body is coping with the virus:
- CD4/T-cells: It’s a little complicated, but they’re pretty much the same thing. T cells are a type of white blood cell, and CD4 is the protein on a T cell’s surface that the HIV binds to. For this reason they’re sometimes known as CD4+ T cells. A healthy person can have a count of anything between 500-1500 per drop of blood.
- Viral load: This is the number of copies of HIV per drop of blood and can vary wildly. At my worst, it was over half a million. Now I’m on drug therapy, it’s below 50 — or in clinical terms ‘undetectable’
So therefore, high CD4+low viral load = good news. When the CD4 drops below, say 250, this usually indicates the immune system has suffered damage, and then it’s usually time to consider drug therapy.
So if you don’t get tested, you won’t know if you’ve got HIV, and if you’ve got it, how the hell can you know how your body is coping with the virus? The longer the virus goes unchecked, the more it’ll have the chance to damage your immune system — and that’s where the trouble starts.
Also, the higher the viral load, the more infectious you are to partners — even if you’re indulging in relatively low risk sex.
You may not need to go on meds straightaway. I didn’t start taking them until I’d been positive for six years (I was diagnosed eight years ago). In fact, my CD4 was still around the 1000 mark, it was just that the virus was multiplying exponentially, and it was time to bring it under control — I looked awful, I was about two stone underweight, I was ill all the time, eczema, night sweats, diarrhoea, the lot. I was quite glad, actually.
In a nutshell
Well if I haven’t hammered the point home enough already, I’ll just say it one more time:
Go. Get. Tested.
And if you feel you don’t know enough about HIV, make it your mission to learn about it. You can find out a lot about HIV from websites like AIDSmap, or from charities like GMFA or Terence Higgins Trust.
You may think it’s one of those things that just happens to other people — like a house fire or car accident. But it’s not. It’s real and it’s on your doorstep.
Knowledge is power as they say. And the more people who take control of their health, the better. There is no cure, but with the right care you can live a long and happy life.
I’d like to think of myself as living proof that having HIV and having a fucking great life aren’t mutually exclusive, but if I hadn’t got myself tested, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be here now, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience all the amazing things life has sent my way.
Thanks for reading.
It’s been a while since I’ve paid attention to this blog, but I’ve been dealing with a few issues of the ‘personal’ variety, and to be honest, it’s been like holding the nozzle of a Dyson to whatever gland I have that allows me to do anything creative.
Forgive me again, therefore, that I’m not heralding my return with some barnstormingly funny or hard-hitting ‘comeback’ post. Nope, instead, I’ve opted for something that can only be described as…well…self indulgent.
You see, it’s these damn civil partnerships.
Up until 2005, I never really thought about marriage, but with the advent of same-sex unions, suddenly everyone wanted in on the act, and all of a sudden, I seemed to be living in marriage-ville, with a new one happening every week.
I now have a plethora of friends with cute double-barrelled surnames, because neither of them wanted to be the ‘woman’ and take the other’s surname.
Last month, yet another schoolfriend got married, the month before that, two. My best mate from school is a divorcee and my other friend is on her second marriage. I’ve got no less than three civil partnerships coming up in the next six months, and I’ll admit it — I’m getting jealous of all these cute, loved up couples, with their dinner parties and Saturday mornings at Sainsbury’s. I’m kind of wanting in on the action. I reckon I’ve paid my dues to the single world for long enough.
I’m the guy people always look at and say “I can’t believe you haven’t got a boyfriend”, but here I am, thirty-one and single, and facing an ever decreasing pool of available men. But I’m fucked if I’m going to lower my standards and settle just because I don’t want to end up on my own.
I’m considered attractive, I’ve got a good job, a nice place, a great set of teeth and a talent for mimicry that always goes down well at parties.
However, my talent for picking absolutely the wrong man still astounds me. Out of the three long-term relationships I’ve had, the first beat me solidly for two years and left me bankrupt, the second knocked me up with HIV (he was sleeping around and forgot to tell me) and the third was a control freak who made playing mind-games look like an art form.
My latest spectacular misjudgment was an affair with a married man that I chose to end three months ago.
Since then, I’ve been careening from one encounter to the next like a pinball in an arcade game. Some of them have been fun, others plain disastrous — all of them ultimately empty. It must be the same for heroin addicts — methadone is no substitute for the real deal.
And yes, despite the fact that The Married Man was never really mine, it was the real deal for me.
So this is the reason why, at the moment, I’m probably not going to meet the love of my life. I have wounds that need a considerable amount of licking before I’m ready to date again.
Dating’s a funny old game anyway. Nobody at my age is without some sort of baggage. We’re all of us ‘damaged goods’ in some way or another, we’re all scared of being hurt. And the thing is, I’m not sure whether I can be bothered with the whole rigmarole. I’ve been on my own for five years now (affairs with married men notwithstanding) and I’ve kind of gotten used to it.
I can do what I like, when I like, and with whomever I choose. And having been this way for so long, I know I’d find it hard to have to consider someone else’s feelings and needs on an almost constant basis.
Does there come a point where you’ve just become too hardened by disappointment and heartbreak, too self-sufficient, and let’s face it, too damn selfish to be able to function in a relationship? Would the shock of having to share my life and bed once more be a bit too much to take?
So perhaps the question isn’t really about whether or not I’m on the shelf. Perhaps I should be asking myself a different question:
Have I put myself there?
Breakups are never easy. I recently split with the man I saw myself marrying. The worst thing is that it was my decision — he wasn’t in the right place to give me a whole relationship, so, as much as it hurt, I had to walk away. And believe me when I say it hurt.
So I’m faced with the task of finding my way back to happy again. I’ll get there. I was happy before I met him, so I’ll be happy again in the future. And this is how I’m planning to get there:
1. Put it in a box
Amy Winehouse got it right with her song, Take The Box. Some may disagree, but I say cut contact and remove all those reminders that, for now, are going to stop you from moving on.
Delete them from Facebook/Twitter (but tell them nicely why). Take all those photos of them off your phone, un-sync “your” songs from your iPod, change your phone’s screensaver. Put everything in a folder on your computer and set that folder to ‘hidden’.
Don’t get rid of it all though — don’t delete things or throw them away, just put everything out of sight where it can’t hurt you, and come back to it at a time when you can view it more objectively.
It’s like setting a broken bone in a cast. Your heart is raw and open and needs time to heal, and you need to protect it while it does that.
2. Don’t try and second guess them
You can only go on what you know, and all you know right now is that you’re not together. Don’t drive yourself insane trying to guess what’s going through their mind, because you just don’t know. So concentrate on the stuff you do know.
And don’t try and find out either. You’ll make people uncomfortable, and you’ll also look like the freaky-ex-who-isn’t-over-it. So have some dignity.
3. Listen to music
And no, I don’t mean wailing along to Celine Dion’s All By Myself . I mean, seriously, is she even still alive? And if she is, why hasn’t someone shot her?.
Screw all those crappy power ballads about lost love and being heartbroken, Sarah Maclachlan’s I Will Remember You sums up perfectly the notion that you can let someone go, but still have them in your heart.
For the pop fans, I recommend Jennifer Lopez: I’m Gonna be Alright. It’s a strong song, full of grim, grit-your teeth resolve, and it’ll make you lift your head up and walk with a purpose.
To lift a mood, you can’t beat the shiny, disco-pop perfection of Agnes: Release Me. So sing along with her as she proudly proclaims “I’m better off without you” — even if you don’t feel like you are yet.
And for the times when you’re so furious you could put your fist through a wall, Apocalyptica’s I Don’t Care and Three Days Grace’s I Hate Everything About You are awesome, angry rock songs to scream along to.
Just don’t put your fist through a wall. It hurts. Take it from me.
4. Get distracted
Go on some dates. Enjoy being single again. Flirt back with the guy at the gym who’s been eyeing you up for ages.
Jeez, have a sweaty, no-strings fuck with a random stranger if that’s what you feel you need.
But accept you’re on the rebound. You’ll be comparing others to your ex for a long while yet, so accept that for now, dates are just a distraction. And be honest with them. Say you’re just getting back in the dating scene after a breakup, but leave it at that — they want to have a drink with you, not console you.
And whatever you do, don’t hurt a nice person by using them as a replacement. You might meet someone fantastic, who’s ready for a relationship, but you’re not in that place yet — and starting something on an unequal footing, where they stand more chance of getting hurt, is just not fair.
5. Count your blessings
A friend recently suggested I take a couple of minutes every day to acknowledge the five nice things that have happened to me that day. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are, just make yourself aware of them.
- The sun was shining and I was in my shorts in the park at lunch
- The sandwich lady gave me a free portion of carb-tastic pasta with my chicken roll because I said I was going for a run later
- I had an uninterrupted half an hour alone with a great book
- My friend Dillon is treating me to 30 Seconds To Mars at the O2 in November
- My other friend Paul took me out for a run this evening to prep me for the Asics Great London 10K Run (see next section)
And in addition to all that, I’m grateful to have found an amazing set of friends who are there with a smile and a hug whenever I need it.
When people are there for the drama as well as the fun, you know you’ve found your gang. Guys, you know who you are.
No, it’s not a metaphor, and no, I’m not referring to that god-awful Leona Lewis desecration cover of the Snow Patrol song, I mean actual running.
A friend said to me: “Running is great. There comes a point where all you’re thinking about is putting one foot in front of the other and your mind is totally clear — it’s like mediation.”
So I tried it, and he was right. Bring on the endorphin high.
7. Hope, but don’t live in hope
There’s a difference. A big one. Some people put their life on hold waiting for that person to come back to them.
Hope isn’t a bad thing — as long as it’s not all you’re living for. So it’s okay to hope, but eventually, there will come a point when you realise you’ve stopped hoping — but it’s alright — because all it means is that you’re over it.
8. Let go.
Mourn it, and miss it, but let it go.
If you can put your hand on your heart and say you did everything you could, you just have to accept it and move on.
You split up for a reason, and yes, it hurts, but there’s no use going back to something just because it’s easier to be with them than to be without them.
Your problems would still be there if you got back together, you’d just be pushing them under the rug for a while longer.
Be grateful you’ve had the chance to be close to that person, remember them and take on board the lessons you’ve learned from them and from the relationship in all its stages.
And as my very wise and wonderful mother always says to me when life kicks me in the teeth:
“Don’t look back — you’re not going there.”
So look to the future — your future — and embrace it.
As gay men, we’re more likely to sleep with one of our immediate or extended social circle than our straight counterparts – I know I have. Take any group of gay friends and you can guarantee that at least two or three of them will have boffed each other at some point. It’s a bit like that six degrees of separation thing, except stickier.
Let’s face it. We’re homos. We like sex. We are lucky that the people we sleep with are also homos who like sex.
Which brings me nicely to the reason for this post.
I’m sleeping with one of my friends.
I never meant for it to happen. It just sort of…did. We’ve always flirted with each other, but I’m the exact opposite of his type, so I was actually rather knocked for six when we ended up back at his place after rather a few beers one Friday night before Christmas.
I’ll refrain from giving too much away so as to protect his identity, lest the follow up comments turn this blog into some elaborate online version of Guess Who? The likelihood of him reading this post is slim to none, but I’ll still spare him any potential blushes.
So why are we keeping it quiet? I mean, he’s good looking, has a good job (and a mighty fine backside) so it’s not as if I’m having it off with Quasimodo. We’re both single and therefore not hurting anyone so it’s OK, right? And the nice thing is we still have stuff to talk about before and after the sex. Kind of a “friend with benefits”. I actually find him fun to be around.
We simply haven’t told anyone because quite frankly – it’s none of their gosh darn collective business, and putting it out there for everyone to just start pitching in with their comments and judgements, etc…. Gah. Thanks, but no thanks.
So I guess what I’m wondering is this: What happens when feelings start becoming involved?
I’m used to being hit by a bolt of lightning where men are concerned, but perhaps it’s just a fact of life that as you get older and you’ve been hurt a few times, you become more guarded and less prone to rushing in feet first. At least I have, anyway. But am I doing it because it’s ‘safe’ and there’s less of a chance I’ll get hurt, or am I in denial that I do actually care for this guy?
Like it or not, the longer we carry on, the more potential there is that feelings will eventually develop, from one side or both. So someone’s potentially going to get their fingers burnt. Is it worth risking a friendship for that? More to the point – can I stop what I’ve started?
As I woke up a few mornings ago with him snuggled up on my chest, playfully moaning at me to go and make him a cup of tea, I didn’t have a definition for our situation. But I’ll tell you this. It felt bloody nice.