After my Staying Safe post a few weeks ago, the lovely Hannah, editor of Express Magazine, asked if I could expand upon it for the next issue. (You may recall I had an article in Express last year about Pansexuality. Apparently when I write about Buck Angel it’s a popular thing...)
The latest issue (09/02/11 – 22/02/11) came out last week, and as promised, here is a scan of the article – and the full text of the revised post.
Thanks Hannah, for letting me share this with a wider audience!
Before you ask, yes, that pic on the top right is actually my brother and me. Aren’t we just the cutest things ever?
My brother, Alex, died last November. He was just thirty years old.
Even though I love him dearly, I don’t often talk about what killed him. Which is more than a little strange, because I don’t shy away from talk of suicide (our mother’s death) or bowel cancer (our father’s). It seems that despite my openness about such things, I keep avoiding talking about AIDS.
Yes, AIDS. Because that’s what killed him.
Six years ago Alex was diagnosed with HIV. What he ultimately died from was a perforated bowel, caused by Kaposi’s Sarcoma, which is a cancer he had because he had AIDS. He sucked the health lemon, getting sick fast, and dying in under a decade. So, really, I should talk about it.
Why now? Because adult star Buck Angel recently released a Public Service Announcement, with Rebekka Armstrong (you can find it on YouTube). It’s about AIDS and it’s about being safe. And it prompted me to think.
Is there are reason I don’t talk about HIV/AIDS? Am I ashamed or embarrassed to say that my brother had AIDS and died from it? I don’t think that’s it, but maybe.
HIV/AIDS has been part of the sexual landscape for the majority of my life but it’s still rarely discussed. Even in the sexually open circles I work, write, and live within, it’s the shadow that’s avoided. We all know it’s there. We get our tests and try to stay safe. But we’ll talk about STIs, or general illnesses. We won’t be specific. We won’t talk about the disease that actually still kills you.
Why? Because it’s scary. It’s the monster under the bed. It’s the one with teeth.
This is how it bit my brother. It’s a pretty simple story.
My brother was with a guy. The guy – who was supposed to use a condom, and told him that he was putting one on – instead stuck his unprotected cock in my brother’s arse. A cock which was attached to a man, we found out later, who was diseased (and knew it, so he actively infected my brother). He wasn’t a stranger, but he wasn’t a friend. He was just another guy looking for some sexual pleasure. And my brother got sick because of one mistake – trusting someone he didn’t know well.
It’s that easy.
I don’t blame Alex for this, although there have been times that I’ve wanted to. Because I’ve had unprotected sex in the past. I’ve had unprotected sex with people whom I didn’t know very well, hadn’t asked about sexual health, hadn’t gotten an STI check with.
It could have been me.
As it is, I’ve been lucky, and have nothing worse than an HPV variant that makes me more susceptible to cervical cancer.
So there’s a good reason I stay safe these days. A good reason why I get an STI check at least once a year, why I make sure new partners and myself are tested prior to any sexual contact, and why I use condoms for vaginal and anal contact even after that. Dental dams and condoms a must-have part of my toy kit, and there are always condoms tucked away in a cool part of my handbag.
I practice safer sex because sex can kill you. (Anything can kill you – but why up the risk factor?) Nothing’s 100 per cent.
One cock, from one man, missing one condom, ultimately led to my brother’s death. And that sucks.
So I’m talking about it. Please, look after yourselves. It’s not difficult to do.
Use barrier methods of protection. Head off to the local sexual health service and get checked regularly (it’s free, after all). Communicate with your partners. If you think you might have caught something, see your doctor and get it checked out – even if you’d rather pretend there’s nothing wrong. If have warts or you’re shedding, refrain from intimate contact. If you have an STI (even one as mostly-benign as mine), inform new partners.
It’s not hard. All you have to do is live longer so you can have amazing sex for longer.