Sunday, 24 June 2012

Are you Clean? Narratives in HIV and Bareback Sex

Someone tweeted a link to this story yesterday (apologies, I can't remember who to credit you) in the Huffington Post, a fascinating piece about the term 'clean' in the context of HIV.  The author - Mark S King - notes how the term is used as part of the HIV conversation, as in: "Are you clean?"  In other words, are you HIV free?

Back in 2011 I posted this video, which brilliantly satirises the DDF narrative which has become common among men seeking to hook up with other men, particularly online.  The question is often asked of men who bareback: "Are you clean?"  as if that amounts to an HIV test.  Say "yes" and you're in, say "I don't know" or "I'm HIV positive but..." and you're typically rejected.  The culture rewards dishonesty and thus embeds an ironic 'don't ask, don't tell' policy into causal sex.

King addresses this issue, the growing involvement of law and also the cultural implication of referring to someone who is HIV+ as being in some way 'unclean'.  It's a brilliant piece well worth a read.

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Anonymous said...

Yes, it does promote a "DADT" type culture, but at the same time, get caught lying and the punishment for that is severe since phylogenetic analyses can prove who has infected whom. There is no hiding when someone becomes positive and they want to press charges because someone lied to them..

Chris Ashford said...

Excellent point. That's very true and why this developing area of law (around the law) is so interesting, and so important in terms of the impact it can have on individuals. A particular difficulty (from an English legal stand-point, other jurisdictions are a different matter) comes when someone asks "are you clean" and the response is "yes", but the person has not been tested. They believe themselves to be 'clean' so it is honest but may be accurate to varying degrees - should we be under an obligation to provide more information? Is there a cultural understanding of clean'? i.e does everyone know what it means? I'm not sure that's true.

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