Your trick from last night has AIDS. That guy you’ve been flirting online with for the last few weeks has AIDS. The guy you’re thinking about hooking up with as you read this has AIDS.  You have AIDS.

Okay, maybe you don’t. But you better wake up and treat your lovers as if they do. Every single time. No exception.

I’ve always been open and honest about my status ever since I found out I was positive almost four years ago on Dec. 15, 2008. I made bad choices in my sex life, so now I’m trying my best to make the safest and healthiest decisions to protect myself and others.

Dating someone who is HIV-positive has relaxed the worry of me possibly infecting my partner. The relief I feel knowing for right now I won’t be contributing to the HIV statistics in America is very comforting, but in a very macabre way. In 2009, HIV and AIDS killed over one million people worldwide. The CDC estimates that 1.1 million people living in America are infected with HIV. Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, close to 600,000 Americans have lost their lives.

No pun intended, but sex in the gay community is the butt of many jokes.

Gay men have done nothing to suppress the whorish stigma that is given to them, myself included. Let’s face it, I didn’t catch HIV by being a saint. I was a little bareback slut in 2008. Even then my diagnosis came as a shock. I didn’t realize or know how bad HIV is in South Florida.

Miami-Dade County currently ranks number one in the nation with the highest number of new HIV cases per capita. Broward is right behind, ranking at number two.  Florida, as a whole, ranks number three in the nation for people living with HIV/AIDS (125,000 people accounting for 11.7% of all infections in the States) and second in pediatric cases.

People should treat everyone as if they were HIV positive when looking for sex.

When hooking up, disclosing my status gives people the chance to make an informed decision for themselves.

But think of this: 40,000 people are infected with HIV every year and 10,000 of them are unaware of their status. By telling an HIV-positive person no, and going out and hooking up with a guy that doesn’t tell you he’s negative or positive, you’re taking the same risk. Not knowing your partner’s (or partners’) status is a dangerous game. Do you really trust that guy at the bar when he says he’s negative, when he says you’ve got nothing to worry about? You know you do — or at least want to. You go home, bend over and throw caution to the wind. Then, you have the balls to tell me (someone who readily admits they’re positive) it’s too risky. Good reasoning there, buddy (and a thumbs up to ya).

Change in stigma and perception has to start at home, in the heart. Stop treating positive people like they’re something dirty. Everyone deserves the same respect, no matter what they’re living with. Treat everyone the same. Treat everyone like they have AIDS.

Because they do.