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When Peter hit me up on Grindr, I was quite surprised. He was much more attractive than me—perpetually tan, pumped up shoulders and pecs, and a chiseled (if not primped) face. For years I’d seen him at all the pretty-boy parties and gay galas. He always circled in a cavalry of beautiful boys. We talked a few times at the gym, but I was intimidated by his Grecian-statue good looks. All in all, he was out of my league, so I couldn’t believe it when we recently exchanged a series of flirtatious messages and pictures. I was at his house in minutes.

We curled up on his tiny couch with vodka and lime LaCroix. He was shirtless and wore a skimpy pair of running shorts. I slummed it with long basketball shorts and an ancient t-shirt. I half-expected that he would lose interest in me, and I would leave after one drink. He looked even more studly here, relaxed in his own space. I felt like an intruder into his beautiful world. When I reached forward to kiss him, all I could think about was my puny body and unwaxed back.

“I can’t believe that you are here,” Peter said. “I always thought you were out of my league.”

I nearly choked on my drink. I admitted to Peter that I felt the same way, and we laughed at how long it took for us to get together. We both thought the other was way hotter than we could land, and we saw each other’s respective scenes as impenetrable. Peter thrives among beautiful circuit-party men, and I’m tied up with the art-drag underground. We live in the same city, but we are worlds apart as gay men.

I felt relieved to know I would not be sent home early. Our revelation gave us license to play even more, and we were soon naked on his couch. He became more handsome as we rolled around unclothed, and I could see a hot daddy peeking out through his striking 20-something face. I tugged at him to retreat to his bedroom. He turned to me with all of the sexual energy drained out of him.

“I need to tell you something before we go on,” Peter stopped to say. “I’m HIV-positive. I am healthy and on medicine. But you’ll be the first guy who I’ve had sex with since I was diagnosed.”

The idea of serodiscordance (where one partner is HIV+ and one is HIV-) scares the shit out of me. I’m not sure I’m emotionally strong enough to love someone who is positive. Can I be a good man for Peter and fuck him without fear of infection? I want to shake my lingering distrust and love my fellow man regardless of HIV status. I knew this would not be the first or last time I had sex with somebody who was HIV-positive but this time I knew his status going in. I’ve had several tricks call me up and tell me they’d been diagnosed with HIV, and that I might have been exposed. On a few occasions, I challenge my limits by letting a positive guy blow me, which I know very low-risk. My relationship to the virus is one of fear, even though HIV+ men make up a large part of my community. Men like Peter now lead happy, healthy lives on antiretroviral treatment, and actually pose lower risk of infecting me than someone who doesn’t know their status. We need to remove the stigma our society places on HIV, and for me that means opening myself up sexually to HIV+ men. When I reached into my pocket and pulled out a gold-foil wrapped condom, Peter’s eyes lit up.

We moved upstairs where we continued to make out, and we soon found the same energy we had before his admission. As we rolled around kissing and grinding, I could see the studly man who I was initially attracted to, but I also saw the face of a lost boy in Peter. I wanted to dominate his body, but I also wanted to comfort him in my arms. Peter had me hard quickly, and once I started topping him, it wasn’t long before I pulled out, took off the condom, and drenched him. In this moment I saw myself reflected in his eyes, and as I orgasmed I could feel his energy moving into my body. I no longer saw a man who was HIV+. I saw in Peter someone beautiful, someone I could love, someone just like me—flawed and searching for the answer amongst men we think we don’t deserve.

The gay community should lead us towards a more compassionate society for people infected with HIV. This disease is no longer a death sentence, and HIV+ people can now live long lives alongside everyone else. Serodiscordant relationships are now safe and possible with antiretrovirals, so there is no excuse to say you won’t date somebody because they are HIV+. We no longer need to sort ourselves into categories based on infection, because we have the ability to love anyone without fear.