By Ben Cartwright | Back Out With Benny
Since I only write this column once a month, all sorts of ideas swirl through my head over the weeks about what my next topic should be. Sometimes, I come up with a good one, note it, and slam out a great column.
Other times, I get good ideas but don’t have enough information or interest to fully develop it. And other times, something happens in my life or in the news that I really want to touch on.
And this month, just as I was finishing my original column idea (you’ll see that one next month), we saw the news that a man who says he took PrEP (the once-daily pill that prevents HIV transmission) regularly became infected with a rare drug-resistant strain of HIV. While I’m sorry to hear this happened, I still stand by PrEP and it’s effectiveness (one case of out 40,000-plus users of PrEP is an incredibly low infection rate).
While many other columnists and articles have discussed this case at length, and shared many great reasons why we shouldn’t give up on PrEP, what alarmed me most was the (unsurprising) amount of sex-shaming that popped back up on social media and in some personal conversations.
The tired arguments like “PrEP is just a license to be promiscuous” resurfaced and it seemed that everyone who was chiming in suddenly were experts on virus transmission, prescription drugs, and medicine in general. People shared all sorts of information, much of it incorrect, and using that information to tell others how to live their lives.
What I’ve said before and I’ll say again, is that the best way to protect yourself from HIV (or STIs, or all sorts of other health conditions) is to simply worry about and take care of yourself. Each individual should do whatever they feel is best to protect themselves (be it condoms, PrEP, lower-risk sexual activities) and all will be OK. Screaming about the sexual practices of other people will do nothing to end the epidemic, because we all only have control over our own bodies and no one else’s.
Sharing and educating about the many tools that are out there? That’s great! I hope everyone will continue to promote the many “tools in the toolbox” and assist each other in finding the tools that work best for them. But demanding that folks “not sleep around” and “wear a condom or else” is counterproductive. Take care of yourself, have sex (and lots of it, if you choose), and be free!
The Center has lots of HIV/AIDS resources available and we’d love to talk to you if you have questions or need assistance. We also have free HIV testing available every day of the week except Sunday. Visit thecentersd.org for more information.
By the way, it’s no secret that as I’ve gotten a little bit older, I’m a few pounds heavier than I was when I was 21 or even 31. I’m certainly not overweight, in good shape, and I work out regularly, including weekly with a personal trainer. But I lead a busy lifestyle and don’t have the time to be in the gym for several hours per day and I also enjoy eating and drinking out. It’s me and I’m happy.
Over the last year, a few people (mostly older men whom I am acquainted with) have decided to come up to me and point out that I’m a few pounds heavier … than I was when I was 25 years old.
While I responded to these men with grace and a little humor, I realized that it hurt. No matter how strong any of us are, we’re all human and live in a culture that causes us to struggle with our body image.
I’m fairly confident about my looks and my body, but like anyone, I, too, continue to strive for a better version of me.
The point in all this is again, we really only have ourselves to worry about. There’s no good that comes out telling others how to conduct their sex lives, or of pointing out someone else’s flaws. No matter how confident or together a person may be, it can still hurt when someone takes jabs at us.
Thanks for listening!
Back at The Center, we’re gearing for Dining Out For Life San Diego on April 28. I’ll have more about this annual event next month, but it’s a day where they say “calories don’t count.” Dozens of restaurants, bars, and cafes pledge to give anywhere from 25-100 percent of the day’s proceeds back to The Center’s HIV/AIDS services, so we encourage you to eat and drink up all day! Visit tinyurl.com/jneemhw for a list of locations and more information.
The Center is a very busy place with so much going on every day. Please check out our community calendar to see all of the daily programs and activities: tinyurl.com/ztxl9n9.
If you haven’t been to The Center before and want to learn more, don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to tell you more about all the great work we do, and maybe even give you a tour.
Have a great month of March — I can’t wait for daylight saving time to return next weekend!
—Benny Cartwright is the director of community outreach at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He can be reached at 619-692-2077 ext. 106 or email@example.com. Note: Byline photo by Rob Lucas Modern Aperture Photography.