Let’s Stop Shaming Ourselves on HIV/AIDS Prevention

In the fall of 2015 Danny Pintauro, who came out as gay in the late 1990s, revealed that he has been HIV positive for since the age of 27 in an interview with media mogul Oprah Winfrey. Shortly after that interview, Pintauro appeared on The View talk show with hosts Candice Cameron Bure and Raven-Symoné. During the interview Cameron Bure asked Pintauro if he “took responsibility” for his actions related becoming HIV positive (at the 3:00 mark).

This question from Cameron Bure led a few gay bloggers to claim that she was blaming the victim, or shaming Pintauro for his HIV status. I don’t see it that way.

Whenever we in the gay community talk about prevention of HIV transmission we talk about taking the responsibility to make that happen. We talk about using a condom every time. We talk about not accepting excuses, either your own or your partner’s, for not using condoms. We talk about having “the talk” about HIV status with the Mr. Rights or the Mr. Right Nows. We talk about not just accepting a verbal ‘ya, I’m negative’ with our sex partners. All of these actions are responsibility accepting actions. The whole premise of HIV prevention education is about empowering you with the responsibility to stay, and play, safe.

Criticism was also lobbed at Raven-Symoné for asking about Pintauro’s current safer-sex practices with his husband. He stated that he and his husband haven’t always had safer-sex. Symoné’s question was an honest one, and it’s a subject that we should shy from discussing if we are serious about HIV prevention.

Further criticism was then given to Cameron Bure for reading a statement on HIV transmission after Pintauro made his statement on he and his husband’s sex practices. This disclaimer is just a variation of disclaimers we’ve heard and seen many times before with discussion of HIV prevention.

The only thing that we should feel shame about with this interview, is that we’re uncomfortable with the honesty and openness of it. If we really want to prevent HIV transmission, we can’t be demure because it makes us uncomfortable. That discomfort with talking about sex practices and answering questions leads to less discussion, less education and more shame.

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