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Michael Alvear & Manhunt – Remind Me Never To Be Your Friend If I Contract HIV

Daniel Gonzales

January 25th, 2008

The gay hookup site Manhunt.net has an in-house sex advice columnist, Michael Alvear. Here’s my summary of this week’s question:

So, my friend “Dave” has HIV and when he met my other friend “Steve” sparks flew. I debated if I should tell Steve that Dave was positive but decided not to. Later that night Dave and Steve went home together and when Dave told Steve he was positive things came to an abrupt halt and now Steve is no longer speaking to me because he thinks I should have said something. Was I right to keep my trap shut?

Columnist Alvear replies by quoting an exchange he had with NYC-based psychologist Dr. Brad Thomason in which Thomason takes the position it’s never ok to disclose someone else’s status. Alvear, however ends by stating:

I would have told “Steve” that “Dave” was HIV+. Why? When philosophy meets reality, logic flies out the window. If I’m asked to choose between an abstraction like personal responsibility and the well being of a close friend, I would rather be intellectually inconsistent than emotionally tortured. I’m not passing judgment on you because there are good arguments on both sides. The only person who needs a wake-up call is negative Steve. He gave up a night or maybe a life with an awesome guy just because he’s HIV+? What a schmuck.

Remind me never to make friends with Alvear if I contract HIV.

A person’s HIV status is their own business and their on business only. I’ve been in situations similar to this and never for a second considered disclosing someone else’s status. This bogus “advice” has no place on Manhunt, a site which appears to be concerned with promoting socially responsible sex practices.

For those interested here are some contact emails, support@manhunt.net, cruisedirector@manhunt.net, info@online-buddies.com

And if you’re so inclined, Manhunt’s phone number 866-424-9999, and the phone number for the company that owns Manhunt, “Online Buddies Inc” is 617-225-2727.

Comments

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Warren
January 25th, 2008 | LINK

But if you are Steve, you might glad.

Daniel, you assert that the HIV status is one’s own business but you do not deal with the well being of the man without HIV.

I am scratching my head at your position and would like to hear your rationale for not protecting people without HIV.

Barry
January 25th, 2008 | LINK

Would you take the car keys away from your friend if he were too drunk to drive? Would you do it to save him from injury or death? Would you do it to save others from injury or death? Would you do it if you were to be a passenger, in your friend’s car, in order to save yourself from injury or death?

These are the questions I ask myself. My answer: I would take car keys away and I have already taken car keys away FROM MY BOSS. Is the HIV status question really any different?

Jim Burroway
January 25th, 2008 | LINK

I had to read and re-read this post several times. My first reaction was very much like Warren’s. In fact, I wrote an entire comment saying that the advice columnist was absolutely right on. Then I re-read the post again, and that’s when something jumped out at me.

The question APPEARS to be, should I tell my friend someone is HIV+ before they even have a chance to have the conversation themselves? In that case, the advice is MYOB — Mind your own business.

Otherwise, we’re saying that the friend of “Dave” has the obligation to walk in front of “Dave” everywhere he goes waving a red flag to warn his other friends about “Dave.”

Do we really believe that the letter writer has that responsibility? Am I responsible for warning all my friends at a gathering that so-and-so is HIV+? Should I even presume people are going to have “hot sex” before hand? Should I warn people about other health issues?

The responsibility in this case falls to “Dave” to start the conversation, and the responsibility also falls on “Steve” to ask — and to be safe at all times. Chronology isn’t clear in this letter, but it appears that “Dave” may have lived up to his responsibilities just fine and didn’t need his friend to butt in. It also looks to me like “Steve” either didn’t take responsibility for his own actions by asking, or is P.O.’d that his hot date did tell him he was poz and “Steve” didn’t feel like wearing a condom. Either way, he’s looking for a third party to scapegoat rather than taking responsibility for his own actions. The letter writer is not required to be everyone’s nanny, pointing out everyone who’s HIV+.

Emily K
January 25th, 2008 | LINK

There’s a difference between pointing out “everyone’s” HIV status and telling a dear friend. I would want to be told. I would want to save my friend’s life no matter what. Even if I end up looking like a bull-headed jerk in the end.

Jim Burroway
January 25th, 2008 | LINK

Having said all that, I don’t plan on blasting Manhunt with any sort of protest. I don’t agree with the columnist’s advice, but I don’t find it so odious to merit any outrage.

I guess this is where I’m more like Laura Schlessenger (don’t tell anyone!) — “Steve” needs to show responsibility for his own actions.

Timothy Kincaid
January 25th, 2008 | LINK

I’m of two minds on this. I don’t want to be the nanny, but I would also want to prevent a sero-conversion .

I guess it comes down to circumstances. If I knew that Dave was a stand-up honest guy and that Steve was responsible, I wouldn’t worry.

But if I knew that Dave was selfish and that Steve was inclined to be a bit careless in the heat of the moment, I think I would tell. Yeah, it’s none of my business… but I like sleeping at night.

werdna
January 25th, 2008 | LINK

I think Jim has laid it out pretty well. “Steve” is being a jerk. The advice columnist gave bad advice. If “Steve” is depending on his friends to warn him about every HIV+ person in the world so he can have unsafe sex, he’s a fool.

Directly revealing someone else’s HIV status is almost never appropriate. Perhaps if you knew that the HIV+ friend didn’t practice safe sex and never revealed his status to his partners–something really clear cut and dramatic–you might be justified. Why would you ever let such a person hook up with your friends anyway? Regardless, in this particular situation “Dave” doesn’t seem to be that kind of guy.

I find it a little distubing that *not* telling a friend that someone they are *possibly* going to have sex with is HIV+ is being compared to letting someone drive drunk, that it’s “not protecting” your friend. If one takes the appropriate precautions, having sex with someone who is HIV+ is not like driving drunk. If you’re trying to avoid being infected with HIV you should be adhering to safe practices with every new partner, whatever their presumed sero-status.

It’s always appropriate to encourage your friends to be responsible and safe–whatever their HIV status. This can be done without revealing anyone’s personal information. It might be gauche to offer two friends condoms or otherwise make a direct reference to their potential trysting, but it’s better than saying nothing and hoping for the best, and surely it’s more respectful and ethical than divulging one’s HIV status to the other.

Jim Burroway
January 25th, 2008 | LINK

I think another way of looking at this: What if “Dave” and “Steve’s” mutual friend hadn’t been at that party? Who would “Steve” be mad at then?

Josh
January 25th, 2008 | LINK

The hard part about this situation is that it puts two good principles at odds with each other.

The first principle is to protect your friend’s privacy. If his status is shared indiscriminately, it will cause him to be stigmatized and he will suffer harm because of that. If I were positive, I would want my friends to keep my confidences. In general, I don’t want my personal information shared to third parties.

The second principle is to protect your other friend’s well-being. While personal responsibility is a factor, people make mistakes. They get caught up in the moment, get drunk, or forget to ask. Sometimes people may fail to disclose if they feel like they might be rejected if they do. If you can give a friend info which reminds him to be vigilant about using protection, that’s a good thing.

In terms of what I would do, I’d have to say that it is situational.

werdna said:

It might be gauche to offer two friends condoms or otherwise make a direct reference to their potential trysting, but it’s better than saying nothing and hoping for the best…

I like this solution it allows you to respect one frieneds’s privacy while still allowing you to protect the other’s well being.

Leo
January 26th, 2008 | LINK

Just worth pointing out that there could be legal issues around revealing health/medical information about another individual.

Whether it’s HIV a heart condition or a hernia it’s not really the place of 3rd party to divulge. And there could be legal ramifications if you do.

Just something to be aware of.

Don L
January 26th, 2008 | LINK

Back around 1994 I dated “Byron” in Seattle. I asked him his status. He said negative. I topped him without a condom. Three weeks later he told me he had lied, that he was positive, and that he had known it for five years. I was fortunate to remain negative.

A year or two later he was dating “Jason.” I considered telling Jason about Byron’s status when I saw them together, but I limited myself to the line, “Just remember to always be safe.” Byron never told Jason. Jason is now positive and does not have the fortune of being a “non-progressor” as Byron is. When I spoke to Jason later, he commented, “None of Byron’s friends told me.”

I deeply regret my relative silence on this occasion. A few direct words from me could have saved Jason a world of grief at the cost of violating Byron’s piracy. That cost would have been worth it.

Emily K
January 26th, 2008 | LINK

Don L, thank you for sharing that story. It’s situations like yours that provide the reason why I would tell a friend. It’s not my friends I don’t trust, it’s every one else in the world.

Jerry
January 28th, 2008 | LINK

If Steve and Dave are headed for sex, then Steve has every right to know everything Dave does about Dave’s HIV status (and vice versa). I don’t see the point in quibbling over who tells Steve because if Dave does what he’s supposed to, then Steve is going to find out anyway. The only thing that might turn out different if Steve finds out from Dave’s friend instead of Dave himself is that Dave might be spared the hurt of the rejection. If I were Dave and you were my friend, I’d thank you for that.

Jim Burroway
January 28th, 2008 | LINK

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post over the weekend. The problem is that I don’t think there is a nice and clean answer that can address every situation like this one.

If the letter writer (he needs a name; I’ll call him “Bob”) had reason to believe (or even suspect) that “Dave” is not going to tell “Steve,” then I’d have to say he ought to speak up. It really is the right thing to do in that case.

Which means that if someone is HIV+ and I know that he or she is a real jerk to his/her potential partners, then they better not tell me their status.

However, in this particular instance, “Dave” did, in fact, tell “Steve.” I don’t know of “Bob” knew “Dave” well enough — he says they’re friends, so I’m surmising that he did — to know that “Dave” is responsible. In fact, his confidence with “Dave” is well-founded. “Dave” did the right thing, and for some reason we seem to be losing that fact in this thread.

I guess part of what I’m reacting to is the stigmatization attached to people living with HIV/AIDS. There’s an assumption that all of them are irresponsible, based on the notion that it was that irresponsibility that got them in trouble to begin with … And hence the source of the stigmatization: once irresponsible, always irresponsible.

But if someone shows themselves to be responsible, as “Dave” has in this case, then why is “Steve” so mad at “Bob”?

On the other hand, if I knew that “Dave” was irresponsible — or even if I suspected it — my honest answer would be different. And it would likely be along the lines of “Steve, be careful. Make sure you play safe. And make sure you have ‘the conversation’.”

Which, of course, “Steve” shouldn’t need anyone telling him that no matter who he’s going home with — unless he needs someone telling him that regardless of who he’s going home with.

David Roberts
January 29th, 2008 | LINK

My response would probably land somewhere between Timothy and Emily. But if I were Steve, I would want there to be no chance I was not told – no matter what. IMHO, when life or death is concerned, all else goes out the window.

Warren Throckmorton » Blog Archive » Should HIV status ever be disclosed?
January 30th, 2008 | LINK

[...] you tell the other? If you were their marriage counselor? Recently, on the BoxTurtleBulletin blog, Daniel Gonzales said that HIV status should never be disclosed. His advice was in contrast to advice given on a gay dating website (although I don’t fully [...]

Jim
January 30th, 2008 | LINK

David G said: “A person’s HIV status is their own business and their on [sic] business only.” Yes, but not when they are sleeping with others it’s not; then it becomes a public health issue, and they have a right to be properly informed.

BTW: Manhunt: “Your guide to hunting, stuffing, and mounting the man of your dream”! Should we even give credence to such so-called “dating” site? Sounds more like bestiality. By this being a gay-identified site, it sure lives up to the stereotype.

David also says: “This bogus “advice” has no place on Manhunt, a site which appears to be concerned with promoting socially responsible sex practices.”

Yes, “concerned” all right! Again, why give credence to a site that demoralizes people by inferring them as animals to be hunted, stuffed and mounted?

Richardwb1
February 1st, 2008 | LINK

Are you people idiots?…here is the bottom line…it takes 2 people to fuck! Period! If you take a dick in your ass without a condom it is just as much your responsibility as the top…you should treat every sexual partner like they are positive…. of course all the bullshit on here comes from the HIV negative bunch…they have no idea the stigma it carries, socially, sexually, etc. It is sooooooo god damn easy for those that do no live with it to pass judgement. I personally cancelled my membership to Manhunt for the FUCKED UP response Mr. Alvear had…even after he had been told by
several HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS it was not his business to reveal a persons status. He basically gave permission to any fag with knowledge of anothers status to spread it around….and as I pointed out to Manhunt, “the written word is a powerful tool…those that read his advice will generally follow it as instructed” The world is full of more followers than leaders. Mr. Alvear even made the subject a joke ( for those that read his advice column, please re-read) Manhunt of course defended his advice as I had expected…but I say SHAME ON THEM…if I ever see this fucker out and about, I will walk up, tell him I am HIV positive, and make sure we go up to everyone in the room so HE CAN TELL EVERYONE FROM HIS OWN MOUTH about my status. In fact I invite him to the establishment where I work so I can put him on stage and he can announce it to all in attendance…

Please contact me Mr. Alvear so I can give you all the necessary information. rbiasi69@hotmail.com

Tyler
February 5th, 2008 | LINK

I think Alvear, who is an unqualified fraud, should be removed from the internet.

I think its imporatnt to remember in an age when information sharing is so casual, that HIJACKING someone’s ability to be responsible and handle their health issues in the best way they see fit, is not only wrong but may indicate, as with Alvear, a breakdown in mental balance.

I have been POZ for 18 years and well remember the fear of those early days. You have no idea. Now we are returning to that because PEOPLE ARE UNEDUCATED ABOUT SAFE SEX.

It is wrong to hijack someone’s ability to be responsible but it is both wrong and disturbing to feel like you are empowered with what are very few facts to give advice about something as important as sex with absolutely NO qualifications. ALvear is such a creature.

Tyler
February 5th, 2008 | LINK

I wanted to add, as a way of indicationg just how demented Alvear’s High Schoolish advice is, that would it not have been much more SANE to suggest that one have a concersation with the POZ friend before entering into a sexual situation with another man? You know, INSTEAD of just running to the guy who was not POZ and spilling the beans??

Does this attitude of ALvear’s not indicate some hyterical and overblown sense of his own value just because he has some privilaged info?

Yes, it does…it is called a Jesus complex. This is not about “public health” or saving lives. This issue is about an ability to understand how BEST one can effect change in a dangeroius situation.

Kris
November 29th, 2008 | LINK

I know this guy who contracted HIV from hooking up with men on line. Now he posts himself as “negative” on manhunt site and he insists to have BB sex when he hooks up with men from manhunt site. I think (with his twisted mind ) he wants to “get even” or “get back” to make someone in same situation with him. I strongly disagree his action but it takes 2 people to have sex. The person who engages sexual activities soley responsible for their own actions and it is illegal to disclose someone else’s illness

Dave
November 29th, 2008 | LINK

Kris,

It is not illegal to disclose someone else’s illness.

The confidentiality of medical records binds health care professionals, not others. And this secrecy is not absolute.

Sexually transmitted diseases are normally reported to authorities; if the case you mention doesn’t call out for such action then none ever will.

Jay
January 27th, 2009 | LINK

As someone that went home with someone and had sex with someone that was HIV that failed to disclose their status, I wish that other people that knew of his status had told me. I unknowingly exposed myself and this guy was a creep for lying to me about his own status. Friends watch out for friends. While its upstanding to allow someone to disclose their own condition, if there is reason to doubt they might do this, it makes sense to error on the side of caution.

And NO, Kris it is NOT illegal to disclose someone’s status, it is however, illegal to lie about your status and knowingly expose someone to a deadly disease. In many states this is punishable under the criminal code and if it results in the other persons death from the disease has been held to constitute a homicide. Hmmmmmm, come to think of it since you know this guy that does that, if you help him get laid you could well be aiding a crime. Nice job Kris!

Jason D
January 27th, 2009 | LINK

In college there was a situation where about 30 people knew that a friend/classmate had a cheating husband. The Mistress had a habit of drinking and telling whoever would listen about the situation. The husband, in private, also sheepishly admitted to it. For over a year nobody told our friend/classmate. Then one day, someone, assuming it had all been out in the open and dealt with, made a casual reference to it — unintentionally letting it all out. Her anger at her husband’s infidelity was multiplied by the realization that all her friends and classmates knew — and none of us bothered to tell her.

Since then, I have come to the conclusion that there are simply not enough responsible people in the world. So I aim to do right by those I love. If I know something that can protect them, or at least allow them to make an educated decision — I tell them. Each situation is different, but I do what I can to be a good friend.

BTW: I’m not equating HIV with infidelity. I am saying that lying about your status is not any better than cheating on your spouse. Both involve deception that is to the detriment of a trusting party.

kris
February 11th, 2009 | LINK

Jay … As I said, I strongly disagree behavior of this guy ( who used to be my friend). What can I do? Find out all the guys he hooked up on manhunt and contact them?? He told me before that he was dissed by many guys once he revealed his status. He is no longer my friend because of his deception & sick obsession toward sex. Everybody who engages sexual contact by ” internet hook up” should be responsible for each behavior.

dudesdate
February 21st, 2009 | LINK

In my opinion, it is our responsibility to be responsible enough as grown adults to make it our business to ask and make our own choice as to whether or not we want to have sex with someone with or without a condom. I don’t expect my friends to tell me someone else’s status. It is not their place. Remember what sex we are attracted to is not a choice; however, with whom and how we have sex is a choice.

There are too many ignorant people on this subject. Picking up information from other ignorant people. If HIV is so important for people not to get then why are we not getting the facts from sources who are credible? Personally, I don’t think it is even a hook-up sites responsibility to pose the question about status. It gives members a false sense of security. Members think, “Oh well, his profile says negative… he must be negative.” So, they proceed with having unprotected sex solely based on their sex partners profile; as if it were unequivocal fact. Do you have any idea how many people lie in those profiles. If they are willing to lie about their pictures, lie about their current age, lie about their cock size; what makes you think they won’t lie about their HIV status. Where do we draw the line? If we pose the question about HIV status, why not pose the question of Hepatitis, gonorrhea, syphilis; the list goes on. However, if a site insists on putting the HIV status question up they should at least add the option “undetectable”.

Do you actually know a lot of people who got HIV, because their profile said ‘positive’; so, they had unprotected sex anyway? I think not. This issue is based on a fundamental problem in our society; a lack of education. We must keep up with recent studies and learn so we can peel away the stigma associated with this and other sexually transmitted diseases.
For example, are you aware that a recent study reports that one is undetectable and on an HIV medication that doctors are now 100% certain without a doubt that there is 0% chance of NOT transferring the virus to another sex partner? However, there are other STD’s one can pick up, but HIV is not one of them. This is based on a recent report conducted by some top Swiss Doctors. Of course, some American doctors would like to continue to leave their patients in fear and over kill information so not to get sued by chance. But this is a whole other topic. So instead of this guy getting angry at his friend for not informing him, he should instead inform himself before he has his next sexual encounter. For God sake someone give him a book or reference a website! I am not sure he will do it himself!!

Timothy Kincaid
February 21st, 2009 | LINK

dudesdate,

I don’t disagree with your overall comment but I do question one statement:

For example, are you aware that a recent study reports that one is undetectable and on an HIV medication that doctors are now 100% certain without a doubt that there is 0% chance of NOT transferring the virus to another sex partner?

I may be misreading this (there is a double negative) but if you are saying that undetectable HIV cannot be trasmitted, please provide a source for that claim.

Jim Burroway
February 21st, 2009 | LINK

Dudesdate,

I share your opinion almost completely on everyone’s responsibility to exercise caution for all the reasons that you give. You pretty much echoed what I wrote a few days later.

However, I do have to take issue with your statement that “without a doubt that there is 0% chance of NOT transferring the virus to another sex partner.”

Double-negative aside, the assertion that there is “0% chance” of transmitting HIV from someone with an undetectable viral load has not been proven for two reasons:

1)While HIV may not be detectable in the blood, it does not mean that the virus is not present in semen in significantly detectable amounts. The test for HIV levels is a blood test only, and doesn’t reflect its levels in other parts of the body. I am not aware of any studies which have suggested an accurate correlation between HIV levels in the blood with HIV levels in semen.

2) An undetectable viral load in the blood does not mean HIV is not present. It’s just not at levels which are detectable.

The evidence does suggest that the risk of transmission is lower from someone who has an undetectable viral load. Some evidence even suggests that the risk is significantly reduced. But the risk is still there. As far as I know, that risk has not been quantified and I am not aware of any medical expert who is willing to go on record and say that the risk is zero or practically zero. If you know of someone who has said so, I’d be very interested in learning of it.

dudesdate
February 22nd, 2009 | LINK

I apologize for not referencing this the first time. The third paragraph states as follows, “The statement’s headline statement says that “after review of the medical literature and extensive discussion,” the Swiss Federal Commission for HIV / AIDS resolves that, “An HIV-infected person on antiretroviral therapy with completely suppressed viraemia (“effective ART”) is not sexually infectious, i.e. cannot transmit HIV through sexual contact.””I

http://www.aidsmap.com/en/news/4E9D555B-18FB-4D56-B912-2C28AFCCD36B.asp

dudesdate
February 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Also, I am very sorry for the double negative. I should have been a bit more through when referring to such important information.

Timothy Kincaid
February 22nd, 2009 | LINK

Dudesdate,

Thanks for the link. That truly is interesting – the last I had heard erred on the side of caution.

Dudesdate
April 26th, 2009 | LINK

Of course One should always be cautious, because there is a lot more out there than just HIV. I think we focus on this one STD (HIV) a lot more that we should when we should realize that there is Hepatitis, Gonorrhea, Herpes, syphilis, and others not mentioned here that can and is spreading rampant. In fact it is much easier to contract these than HIV. In fact some of these are a lot more serious than one would think, The gay community needs to wake up again to this information because quite frankly the information is not getting to them loud enough. I am literally amazed by the inaccurate information that is in the minds of our community. It seems that unless one catches something they are flat out ignorant to it, and even them they some still really don’t know the facts.

PozThinker
February 5th, 2011 | LINK

I believe the writer made absolutely the right choice. He practiced the true ethics of friendship, validating trust in the ways that it should exist in that relationship: he did not betray a confidence, and he justifiably relied on his poz friend voluntarily to divulge, which he did, also commendable.
I further believe that the angry friend missed an opportunity to face his fears, demonstrate sensitivity, and get some insight, as well as to validate the life and integrity of the poz man. In addition, he threw away a friend who had just proven trustworthiness.
I recall the problem we had with ActUp, outing people who had not chosen to be out. And the perception of poz people is still fraught with complication, so how much more important to let them reveal that themselves, one-to-one, for dignity’s sake.
The writer lost nothing, and gained my respect. I did not catch HIV from the poz friends who told me and with whom I had safe sex, by free choice. I got it from one who did not know and did not say. And I lost opportunities by being honest, but I will keep being honest, my choice, as a man.
In short, the columnist blew it! That lack of integrity is inexcusable, condoning treachery and espousing the egotistical view that he knows what’s best for another. Betray one friend to make points with another? What kind of ethics does that columnist have? I have a hunch.

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