The Problem With Condoms

Hey Alex,
I have a problem that started a year ago approximately. First of all, I was diagnosed HIV positive 3 months ago. Like many people I got infected because I started having unprotected sex, this was because I started having a problems using condoms. Everytime I was with a hook up everything went well, we had some foreplay and my dick is erected but then, when I put the condom on, I lose the erection completely and it’s something that gets me really frustrated at that time (I’m a top). I started not using condoms sometimes but now, in my case, i need to use them mandatorily, but the problem still persists and I really don’t know how to handle the situation. I don’t know if it’s something psychological or something else. Hopefully you can give me some advice.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you for your articles. They helped me A LOT when I was depressed about my diagnosis and made me feel much better.

 

Your English is great. Shame on me for not knowing another language in a country with 52.6 million native Spanish speakers.

Whether you realize this or not, your question illustrations the big problem with condom-only narratives in HIV prevention. Various figures fighting AIDS — including the regrettable and bombastic Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation — have outright smeared HIV prevention methods that don’t include condoms with unfounded and anti-scientific rhetoric. To date, he is still trumpeting his belief that condoms are the best way to prevent HIV — an insulting stance from someone who heads the largest HIV and AIDS services provider in the world.

The primary condomless HIV prevention method Weinstein takes aim at is PrEP, the once-daily pill for HIV-negative people that prevents HIV. Like other prudish, anti-science scaremongerers, Weinstein has touted a disaster scenario that PrEP will eventually fail, and that other organizations including the Centers for Disease Control are actively pushing PrEP as a replacement for condoms and, presumably, all other HIV prevention methods as well — a claim that is patently false, as the CDC clearly states on its official website that PrEP should be used in conjunction with condoms to be most effective.

The fact is, condoms don’t feel great. You’re one of many, many men that don’t enjoy using them and can’t stay hard using them. And if statistic data tells us anything, sexually active men who have sex men aren’t going to use an HIV prevention method that doesn’t feel good — regardless of the risks.

A method we don’t enjoy is not one we’re going to use consistently and consistent condom use is the only way for them to be effective. Occasional, infrequent use helps no one. You yourself are evidence of that: Condoms were uncomfortable, you struggled to stay hard, so you used them less. As a result, you now have HIV.

I’m sorry about your diagnosis, but I hope someone has told you by now that you’re going to be OK. If no one has, I’ll say it: You’re going to be OK. Your sex life will continue, and it may be even better than it was before. It does not have to be a sterilized sex life filled with a thin latex membrane wrapped around your dick. If you hate condoms and can’t stay hard when you use them, stop using them and consider HIV prevention alternatives. PrEP — the one Mr. Weinstein is so ardently against — is not something you really need to worry about. We missed the boat on that one. We must encourage our friends and lovers to take PrEP, but the most PrEP does for us is reduce the stigma of HIV. And it has — in ways I can hardly describe. That’s huge. But PrEP is explicitly for our HIV-negative lovers, not us.

There is another HIV prevention method that does not necessarily include condoms, and if you’re taking anti-HIV meds diligently, you’re already doing it. Taking meds successfully to the point that you’re undetectable will make you physically unable to transmit HIV — regardless of condom use. This is called TasP, or “treatment as prevention.” You being on treatment prevents the spread of HIV. You may have heard about the U = U (undetectable = untransmittable) campaign, which is working hard to spread this message.

I don’t know how to make condoms more enjoyable because I don’t enjoy them. I used them on and off before I tested positive, and I caught HIV the same way you did, albeit as a bottom. I was using condoms when I felt like it, but I didn’t enjoy them so I didn’t use them every time without fail. As a result, I got HIV. After living with my new status for a few months, after I was undetectable, I decided I didn’t want to use condoms anymore. This was in the early days of PrEP — not a lot of people knew about it — and before U = U was part of the gay lexicon. Many guys turned me down and blocked me on apps because I was poz and only played bareback. That’s not the world anymore, at least not for the gay men I hang with, HIV-positive and HIV-negative men who’ve all but abandoned condoms. Using them isn’t “mandatory” now that you have HIV.

The condomless HIV prevention methods we use — PrEP and TasP — only prevent the spread of HIV, so many of us get frequent testing for other STIs on a very regular basis (say, every other month, or every three months). Doing this catches STIs quickly and treats them before they worsen and spread. If you’re going to forego condoms and have the kind of sex you enjoy, you should do this too.

I know this answer may not be what you wanted. You wanted my advice on how to get or keep an erection when it’s wrapped. I can’t do that, because I can’t keep an erection when my dick is wrapped, and I know many other men who can’t either. So I’m giving you the next best option: Take your meds every day and play bare. Get tested for other STIs like syphilis and gonorrhea frequently, and when you catch something, treat it immediately and wait at least a week before having sex again.

To call these prevention methods “condomless” is perhaps misleading — PrEP and TasP are not explicitly marketed as condom alternatives, but they are options for guys like us who hate wrapping up. They are simply other ways to protect ourselves — nothing more or less. Enjoy the bare boners.

Beastly

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