|by Sal Seeley LCSW
One of the things that I enjoy when I am not working is checking out profiles of guys on websites. It's pretty interesting to see how men are crafting their profiles (the pictures aren't bad either!!). I always get a kick out of the "Rehoboth" area profiles as guys are starting to plan for their Memorial Day holiday. Already, we have guys looking for leather daddies for a week, guys who are smooth, and guys into groups. One of the postings on a popular website was for HIV+ guys only.
It's amazing to see how long it takes trends from bigger cities like NYC, San Francisco or Philadelphia to make their way down to the gay community of Rehoboth. Maybe I haven't noticed or maybe I am naive but "sero-sorting" has come to this area. Despite its criticism, I believe this is a good strategy and I applaud HIV+ men for taking the initiative to protect other men from getting infected with HIV.
What is Sero-sorting?
Sero-sorting comes from the word "serum" which has to do with fluids of the blood. If you are HIV+ then you are sero-positive, and if you're HIV- you are sero-negative. So, as I'm sure you've figured out, sero-sorting is the process of choosing your sexual/romantic partners based on whether or not they have HIV.
I think the HIV+ community uses sero-sorting to avoid potential rejection, reduce fear or anxiety related to condom breakage, or for a greater sense of shared intimacy. This really isn't unusual. I think many men have been doing this for a long time. Until recently, it's been about romantic relationships but now it's moved over to picking and choosing sex partners based on their HIV status.
While it's a great strategy for HIV+ guys, HIV- guys need to be careful about sero-sorting. I like to call this smarter sorting for HIV- men. Just because a guy says he is negative doesn't mean he truly knows for sure. It takes about two months for HIV to show up on a test, which means if they've had unsafe sex recently a negative result doesn't mean a thing. So, we're not
advocating having bareback sex with somebody who says he's negative as a way of avoiding HIV infection but maybe eliminating high risk negatives out of your potential pool of sex partners. But pairing off with someone of your same status, while still practicing safer sex, definitely reduces your chances of contracting HIV.
Just because you're sero-sorting doesn't mean condoms and lube should fall out of the picture, they are another important tool for maintaining your health whether you're HIV positive or negative.
What Do You Think?
I wonder what you are thinking about sero-sorting after you read this article? Let us know by logging onto www.campsafereho.com. Click on "CAMPsafe Connected" and then click on the blog link. Voice your opinion in the comments section under the sero-sorting blog entry.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 05 May 16, 2008