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‘Being horny leads to bad decisions’ – Why many of us are guilty of not always practising safe sex

practising safe sex

As I write this, I have just had probably the most stressful HIV test I’ve ever taken.

I’m an educated gay journalist in my thirties. I’d like to think I know more than the average person about HIV. I’ve covered breakthroughs in treatment, I’ve written about the stigma of diagnosis and I’ve heard countless personal stories.

I know how you can get it, I know the risks. And yet, I managed to get myself into a situation that I completely regretted. I can’t blame drugs, I can’t even blame drink. Sure it was New Year’s Day, but it was the morning after. I was sober but I was horny. It’s hard to explain quite how bad our decision-making is when we’re horny.

So I got out my phone – and saw that a hot guy I’d been messaging overnight had replied and he wanted me to come over now. I was clear that I only had safe sex and when I got there I saw he had a condom and lube and we got down to it.

I asked him to use a condom during the sex and he kept on saying he would. But before I knew it he was inside me. I keep on asking myself why didn’t I stop him? Why in the heat of the moment could I not find the words? He came inside me.

Did I consent to having sex without a condom? I’m not sure. I know I wasn’t raped but it made me realise how hard it is to negotiate safe sex, no matter how confident you may appear to others. I spent the first day googling statistics and panicking over whether I should go and ask for a course of emergency PEP treatment. In the end I didn’t go.

In the time since, I’ve started to get angry about the backlash against the preventative PrEP treatment and the idea that people simply can’t be bothered to use condoms. That it’s simply a matter of self-control. The fact is, decision making in the heat of the moment is hard, and mistakes happen. PrEP, a daily pill you can take when you’re at your most clear-minded and sober, is a great defence against horny you, the you that probably doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

The new tools against HIV – treatment, PEP and PrEP, along with condoms – are having a real impact, but I guess for me I never realised perhaps I might not always use a condom.  That’s why we need all four pillars to stop HIV.

condom use

In the last seven weeks I’ve started dating and worried the whole time about what happens if I’m positive and how I will tell people. Will it end this relationship before it’s even started? Even mundane things like will I be able to get travel insurance (turns out you can)?

I spent lots of the daytime and many sleepless nights asking myself lots of questions, like why was I scared of going to ask for PEP? I was afraid of being judged or told I was overreacting. I was scared of side effects that I find out now aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be.

The test was negative. I’ve been lucky. But it’s a scare that’s hopefully taught me lessons – not the lesson to always use a condom – but not to judge people for their mistakes. Instead we should applaud the breakthroughs going on in HIV treatment. Breakthroughs that stop five minutes of bad judgement becoming a life changing experience.

*names have been changed.

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