Gay Adult Star Turned HIV Educator

Rocco Steele

Rocco Steele talks Charlie Sheen

Rocco Steele lives with HIV. A gay adult performer and director, he is now having a second act as an HIV awareness educator.

A strong advocate for educational dialogue, Steele is not your average porn star: he entered the business in his late forties. Prior to his foray into the adult world, Steele admits to having been a corporate "suit." An avid photographer, he cites his strong spiritual background and support network for keeping himself grounded.

Steele spoke to SFGN in the aftermath of the Charlie Sheen HIV revelation on The Today Show. Among other topics, Sheen spoke to Matt Lauer about hiding his HIV status for four years. The Hollywood bad boy finally spoke up in order to end the blackmail that says he was subjected to from several of his sexual partners, among others.

"According to Sheen, he chose to be quiet about his status but disclosed his status and used condoms with those he had sex with," Steele said. "I have announced my status to the world but that's not a requirement of every HIV positive individual. Jobs and families and a society that still stigmatizes the disease dictates that some must keep it private. Beyond full disclosure to sex partners, it’s up to the person whether to go public beyond that. I think its unfortunate for anyone to take something like this and exploit it for personal monetary gain – as in the blackmailers. I think these individuals are disgusting."

Steele also addressed those who judge Sheen's "wild ways," which included partying with prostitutes.

"Who are we to judge that?" Steele asked. "Other than shooting porn, my life is pretty dull. I don't drink or do drugs or hook up online, but I don't judge anyone who chooses that path. We all have our own journey."

Gay men, according to Steele, have done quite a bit of partying of their own. "Let's be honest, we as gay men know about 'the party' and 'wild ways,' and many of us became positive because of because of alcohol, drug use and abuse, and bad decisions," he pointed out. "One could definitely argue that my 'wild ways' albeit clean and sober at the time, led to my being infected. I think it’s interesting that some in this sub-section of our community are so quick to be judgmental."

Steele urges people who are sexually active to know their status. "HIV can and still does kill people," he warned. "Condoms should be worn as pretty much iron-clad, guaranteed for safe sex and STDs. If a person chooses to bareback, they need to talk to their doctor and see if they can take PrEP. If a person is on PrEP, he needs to be aware that it is in fact not an iron clad guarantee."

Though the drug offers a relative level of safety, Steele said that there is still a 1-3 percent risk of infection with PrEP, which offers no protection from other STDs. He pointed to a recent rise in STDs in the community.

Steele urges people to get tested for HIV.

"The important thing is education," he said. "We need to be talking about this more. HIV, AIDS, STDs, our status and getting tested. I came out in the late 80s – everyone was talking and getting educated, or you died. I feel the dialogue isn't happening among gay men as much as it should be. This isn't over and we have no guarantees that we are in the clear and that there isn't some drug-resistant super-virus around the corner. It's not a time to let our guard down."

 


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