Lessons from a campus whore

Adam Griffiths

Sixty.

On Sunday, a boy from Springfield became the 60th notch on my bedpost.

Now, broadcasting this news isn’t atypical of me. Since the first time I hooked up with a what’s-his-face the summer before my senior year of high school, it’s become quite the conquest and, even more so, a common fact in my life. Victories, after all, are always oh-so-fun to share.

But, as Kent State observes AIDS Awareness Day today and we’re approaching World AIDS Day this Saturday, my mind wanders back about 10 or so tallies to a few weeks ago when I was browsing the collection of online profiles, searching for number 45 or 46.

It was then I messaged Mark, a 32-year-old living in Akron, just under 6 feet tall, average weight and looking to give and receive in bed. After Mark replied to my initial inquiry, my eyes swam across his profile a second time and spotted a tiny bit of information I had neglected to see before that stopped me dead in my tracks.

Status: Positive.

That’s HIV status, by the way.

In a rather dumbfounded and naive response, I quickly messaged back and asked him if he indeed was HIV-positive. He affirmed, and he asked me if I was okay with that.

I really wasn’t, and it wasn’t because of his frankness or even the fact that he had HIV. Those 60 notches haven’t equaled 60 condom wrappers in the trash. I’ve been tested for HIV at least every other month for the past year, and I can honestly say that each time I’m waiting for the nurse or clinician to call for me, my stomach churns a little bit.

It’s rare that I think about the consequences of my unsafe sex beyond that uncomfortable chair in the waiting room, and talking to someone like Mark, someone who will live each and every day for the rest of his life waiting for that next frank admission, really slapped me in the face with my own ignorance.

And it wasn’t just for being flippant about my personal health, but also for my immature reaction to his honesty. Condoms reduce the risk of transmission of any sexually transmitted infection, including HIV. Being informed and aware is something on which I pride myself.

So why couldn’t I send Mark my address and tell him to be here as soon as he could? Why, when another guy I had been talking to online made a similar admission of his status, could I not be a rational gay adult?

Because HIV is the superbug. Because it’s a worldwide pandemic – more than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981, more than 2 million people were infected with HIV this year and more than 33 million people on the planet are currently living with the disease. Because some of those infected even go as far as getting the logo for hazardous materials tattooed on their bodies.

After a minute of consideration, I apologized to Mark for being so ignorant and told him I’d think about getting together with him another time. He understood. I can still see the last line of his message, even though I’ve heard it countless times, emblazoned on that blue message screen.

“Wrap your tool. Use condoms.”

You better bet it won’t even be a question as I work my way closer to 100.

Adam Griffiths is a sophomore information design major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]