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Two Sides of the Same Bed

Jason and Hans | Photo: Matt Spike

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Hans – Thankfully you don’t hear “Are you clean?” often anymore. It was awful, because that would make anyone living with HIV ‘dirty!’ And the question if I am STD-free? Jesus, did anybody seriously ever answer that question with “No, I have gonorrhea, but can we still have sex?”
In the past I felt more stigmatised by straight people “You’re gay, you must have the virus!” Some still saw us as sex-craved monsters. Thankfully that has changed now.

Jason – It is uncomfortable hearing HIV stigma; because I know from experience it is useful that I state I am negative before I then educate the fool saying the ignorant things. Sadly telling them my status makes it look like I would be ashamed to be mistaken as HIV+… But it is important for them to relate to me and trust in what I say next. I then explain U=U and PrEP (U=U means Undetectable equals Untransmittable, that someone with HIV on medication can get such a low measure of the virus in their body that it cannot be detected and cannot be passed on. A person with HIV can also live a full, long life. PrEP is a preventative drug for HIV- people, it’s designed to prevent the user from catching HIV if exposed to the virus).

Explaining these to someone shouldn’t be impacted by them knowing my status, but if they are ignorant they may already discriminate against things told to them by an HIV+ person. I prioritise getting results in de-stigmatising people, so I do it that way. An HIV- person not accepting what an HIV+ person is telling them, is upsetting to even watch as a third party. All informed people should get involved when they hear HIV stigma, regardless of their status.

Hans – In Germany, people didn’t ask about your status when you hooked up with someone. You just assumed they had ‘everything’ so you protected yourself with a condom and stayed away from bodily fluids. Of course, once I knew I was positive, I made extra-sure that everything was ‘safe’.

When I moved to the States, things were different. I felt like people asked for your status so they could have condomless sex with you if you said you were negative. In my opinion, that’s a very weird way of trusting someone with your health. Certainly, there were times, when I did get rejected after telling them my positive status.

Sex for the first decade of my positive life included rejection, shame, and a feeling of ‘guilt,’ which very often comes along with a new HIV diagnoses. When I started having sex in the 90’s, they constantly warned us about HIV, and I still got it. So I felt like it was my own fault because I ‘failed’ at protecting myself. It took me some time to lose these feelings. My concerns also came from how I felt my HIV would be viewed from society. Mainstream culture does little to counter those worries.

That’s why it was also hard to form a relationship with someone. Maybe deep down inside, I felt like I wasn’t loveable anymore because of my virus. I started seeing a therapist, Michael, around 2010. Michael helped me to see things differently. Also, the new findings of U=U, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, helped immensely and gave me newfound self-esteem.

PrEP Undetectable Untransmittable

Jason and Hans | Photo: Matt Spike

Jason – When we get chewing gum on our shoe, we just sort it. It’s less about blame and shame, more about communal litter picking: sometimes gum happens. Being this casual with HIV doesn’t mean forgetting to avoid contracting it. It simply means even in prevention campaigns, explain that people living with HIV live normal lives. We now have lots of pills for HIV infection, but there is only one treatment for HIV stigma, normalising people living with it.

HIV occasionally gets used for a cheap laugh in media. Jokes commonly reinforce outdated ideas, however challenging them can be seen as being petty or no fun.

The most frustrating thing is seeing people acting piously after donating to HIV charities… It is frustrating as many of these same people are unable to talk about HIV on a personal level. The support is great, but treating HIV+ people with pity or ignoring them doesn’t respect how many people with HIV live. You do not need to have experienced living with HIV to know this needs to change. It doesn’t even need to come from empathy, but even outrage at common ignorance and the behaviour shown towards other humans should be enough.

“I sometimes lied about my status when a hook-up asked, because I feared rejection. I told them that I was ‘negative’ but wanted to use a condom.”

When I found out that I had HIV in 2001, I only told a handful of people. I sometimes lied about my status when a hook-up asked because I feared rejection. I told them that I was ‘negative’ but wanted to use a condom. There were times when they found out the truth or I told them at some point, and that led to a lot of drama. Thanks to my mentor Michael, I learned to be more open about my HIV status. Now I even put my ‘positive’ status on my dating apps, I don’t get rejected anymore. Either people are really more educated, or they just don’t want to hook up with me because of it. At least, I don’t have to have those painful conversations anymore.

I don’t know if it was the grey weather, or the fact that from now on I would have to take medication until the day I die, or the potential side effects, but I felt depressed when I started my pills. That disappeared when spring came along, or maybe it was by then, my body had gotten used to the medication. As we move along, more and more HIV treatment options have become available. So if you face side effects from one medication, you have many others to switch to that might work better for you.

It took me 13 years to tell my parents because I didn’t want them to worry, or be ‘scared’ of me. They took it very well. They were even educated enough to know that I don’t pose a risk to them and that modern medicine keeps me alive and well. Never being sick was additional proof that my medication works. Since I told them, nothing has changed. They treat me exactly the same way they treated me before they knew. But it’s the greatest feeling to not have to keep this secret from them anymore. I guess, sometimes we underestimate our parents. In the long run, everybody needs to find out for themselves who they wanna tell their status to, family, friends…

“Once negative people are on PrEP they may not think about their partner’s status at all. After I started daily PrEP in 2015 I saw no need to talk about HIV with partners, unless they wanted to.”

People are different depending on what they are used to. Some HIV+ folk think if nothing is said about status before sex, then both are confident and likely positive already. While some negative people think the exact opposite if nothing’s been said. Once negative people are on PrEP they may not think about their partner’s status at all. After I started daily PrEP in 2015 I saw no need to talk about HIV with partners, unless they wanted to. As PrEP doesn’t protect you from other STIs, I still check they’ve had an STI test recently. Condoms can prevent against a range of infections. I’ve had no side effects from PrEP and feel optimistic when I go for my regular sexual health test. Along with testing, I got my HPV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis A vaccinations, and I learned about minimising Hepatitis C transmission.

I find that many HIV- people expect HIV+ people would tell them their status before sex. They are surprised to learn an Undetectable partner is zero risk to them, so they don’t have some ‘right’ to be told. When an HIV- person relies on HIV+ partners to disclose before they’d have sex, the HIV- person can get lazy with responsibilities. Responsibilities like having regular HIV tests and learning about Undetectable, PrEP, PEP (emergency HIV treatment within 72 hours of exposure) and condoms. It is almost as if they think someone else is taking care of HIV for them. Many places have legislation that anyone above a transmittable threshold should tell a partner before condomless sex with an HIV- person. This legislation doesn’t cover those who are Undetectable, and the legislation is no excuse for a HIV- person to care less about their own sexual health.

PrEP Undetectable Untransmittable

Jason and Hans | Photo: Matt Spike

PrEP is another wonderful addition to the palette of safer sex options we have now. Back when I started having sex, the only safer-sex tools we had were condoms and abstinence. A lot of progress has happened quickly so of course people will need time to catch up, and come to terms with what they have learned.

People just learning about PrEP can make some odd assumptions around promiscuity or condoms but with time it will be common for people to see PrEP similar to being on the contraceptive pill. Just another sexual health tool some people choose.

When an HIV+ person explains HIV to others they become a role model for progress. In my opinion, it would be great if more people living with HIV would come out about their status and not just to the ones they wanna have sex with. It would show the world that it’s something completely normal. Your neighbor, your teacher, your soccer star might have HIV. If HIV+ people knew more people who are in the same ‘boat,’ they could support and help each other.

When an HIV- person explains modern HIV knowledge to others, they become a role model to the ill-informed. They show a relatable perspective that opposes outdated HIV stigma. When an HIV- person shows unity with people with HIV, beyond charity, they cross the status divide. Normalising the exchange in either direction means good friendships and romantic relationships are not missed over ignorance or fear. Openly serodiscordant relationships (relationships between HIV positive and negative people) look set to play a huge part in the future of HIV activism.

Jason and Hans

Jason and Hans | Photo: Matt Spike

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Health

Improve your sex life with a tantric workshop!

Learn how to unlock a whole new level of pleasure.

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Unlock a new level of pleasure with a gay tantric workshop (image supplied)
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If you’re looking for something a bit different for your vacation options in the year ahead, how about a tantric sex workshop with gay travel specialists Spain Seven Degrees?

This is a five-day workshop held on the Spanish island of Mallorca. You’ll be staying in a gay guesthouse with stunning views out over the Mediterranean.

Attendees are limited to a maximum group of ten men. You’ll be guided by professional instructors through morning yoga, sunset pool Pilates, and a huge variety of workouts. Be ready to improve your sexual health with sex workshops that focus on tantric sex, gay kama sutra, and a few surprises.

The workshop will be held at the gay guesthouse Guapo Finca with available dates in May and October 2019.

Book before 31 January 2019 and receive a discount of €100 if you use the discount code of MAINLYMALE100.

Unlock a new level of pleasure with a gay tantric workshop (image supplied)

The discount code of  MAINLYMALE100 applies to all trips offered by Spain Seven Degrees. Options include:

Use the discount code MAINLYMALE100 for a discount of €100 on any Spain Seven Degrees trips if you book before 31 January 2019.

Unlock a new level of pleasure with a gay tantric workshop (image supplied)

Tantra Workshops included in this retreat

The essence of Tantŕa

  • This workshop is dedicated to knowing and experiencing the essence of Tantŕa. It will begin with a brief introduction of Tantŕa as a path that brings awareness to all areas of our life, the Tantŕa is a way to awaken to our true essence. Awareness. Love. First we will experience individually through bioenergetics with different techniques of breathing and movement of the body to connect with this state and let ourselves fall into this relaxation in the heart.
  • Then we will connect this inner state with the outside through meditations in pairs coordinating the breathing and the power of the look. Learning to connect with others from that authenticity of your present moment, learning to embrace your reality and that of the other creating true intimacy.

Activation of the 4 elements – how sexuality is expressed in each chakra

  • The human being is an energy system as well as physical, mental and emotional. In the energy plan we have “7 chakras” or energy centers. Each of them related to one of the four elements (earth, water, fire, air) and concrete emotions (fear / confidence / sadness / inspiration / enthusiasm / anger). In this workshop we will learn how to make love connecting with each of these energy centers but there will be no explicit sexuality.
  • What does it mean to live my sexuality from each of my chakras? There will be a theoretical part sustained by a practice activating with music and physical exercises the energy of the four elements in us and sharing through dance and a final circle, as we feel in each of them, where our connection and our blockages are, letting us see.
  • We will learn the importance of connecting with all our energy sources, the variety of expressions that this energy brings to our sexual practices and how to fully integrate and live your sexuality, loving and enjoying yourself as you are.

Ritual of devotion and initiation to tantric massage

  • The purpose of this workshop is to learn to look and be seen, touch and be touched to be, from heart to heart, from God to God . We are accustomed to looking at our body and the bodies of others through fixed images cultivated throughout our lives with which we find ourselves imprisoned when experiencing something new, something more enriching, something more divine.
  • Through a ritual of devotion to the body of the other we allow ourselves to expand our vision and sensitivity and finally connect with our essence and that of the other honoring their divinity. The workshop ends with an initiation to tantric massage: We touch and touch others in a hurry, trying to give ourselves and give pleasure quickly and in a structured way without listening to the real need of the present moment.
  • What would happen if we put aside all we have learned giving and receiving and open ourselves to the magic of a journey into the unknown? What would it be like to touch and be touched by the hands of God?
  • With this ritual we experience the magic of touch without intention opening us not only to pleasure but to the mystery of giving and receiving a much larger gift.

Kamasutra massage for single and partnerships

  • Body perception, active and quiet meditations help to let go of everyday life, and joining with oneself and one partner in the group of like-minded men.
  • Sequences of touch and massage brings you in contact and build up an intimate gathering. The whole body will be touched: chest, abdomen, legs, head, hands and feet, including genitals, anus and testicles.
  • Section by section various love positions flow into the massage, to which the Kamasutra – Kama the love and Sutra the teaching – instructs and inspires.
  • Exercises and movement sequences from yoga increase the mobility, flexibility and the ability to love of your body. Silence, meditation, conversations and sharing round off the workshop and provide ideas how the experiences can be cultivated and intensified in the daily routine and allow what is happening to us in the present moment and to express it, to let go of our fears, limiting beliefs and finally to access the truth of our essence
Unlock a new level of pleasure with a gay tantric workshop (image supplied)

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Arrival to Guapo Finca

  • 1:00pm Mediterranean cuisine welcome lunch
  • 5:00pm Tantra workshop 1
  • 8:00pm Welcome Dinner

Day 2

  • 7:45am Morning meditation and sun salutation yoga in front of the beach
  • 8:30am Delightful and healthy organic breakfast
  • 11:00am Fitness session 1
  • 5:00pm Tantra workshop 2

Day 3

  • 7:45am Morning meditation and sun salutation yoga in front of the beach
  • 8:30am Delightful and healthy organic breakfast
  • 11:00am Fitness session 2
  • 5:00pm Tantra workshop 3

Day 4

  • 7:45am Morning meditation and sun salutation yoga in front of the beach
  • 8:30am Delightful and healthy organic breakfast
  • 11:00am Fitness session 3
  • 12:00 pm / 1:00 pm / 2:00 pm / 3:00pm Massage
  • 5:00pm Tantra workshop 4
  • 8:00pm Farewell Dinner

Day 5: Return

  • 7:45am Morning meditation and sun salutation yoga in front of the beach
  • 8:30am Delightful and healthy organic breakfast
  • Private transfer to the airport
Unlock a new level of pleasure with a gay tantric workshop (image supplied)

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