A Discussion with an HIV Counselor

Bryan Kutner is an HIV counselor who shared his knowledge and experience with us for last week's "Please Don't Infect Me, I'm Sorry" story. However, Kutner has taken exception to the overall tone of the piece, so we invited him for a discussion (slash debate?) on HIV risk, prevention, stigma and what all else you want to ask him about.

Here's Kutner's bio:

Bryan Kutner holds an MPH in Epidemiology and has worked in public health for the past 15 years. For nearly a decade, he traveled throughout California to train HIV service providers for the UCSF AIDS Health Project and to collaborate with the California Department of Public Health on policies and procedures related to HIV counseling and testing. In New York, Bryan counseled men in bathhouses for the Men's Sexual Health Project. He now consults with the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs on HIV programming in South Africa, trains frontline workers for the Harm Reduction Coalition, and freelances with a handful of other NGOs involved in mental health, supportive housing, sexual health, and HIV prevention.

And here's more on Kutner's position on "Please Don't Infect Me":

I was hoping last week's post "Please Don't Infect Me, I'm Sorry" might cool down our collective fear of HIV, but readers got snagged on the alarmist elements and kept ringing that bell of terror, as though fear would save us. I see a few of the snags. Right after quoting me about the potential lessened risk of sex with an out HIV positive guy, Rich wrote, "No firm answers to be had here, except that abstinence is the only way to stay truly safe. And abstinence, as we know, is impossible. How terrifying." I'm with Rich: abstinence isn't realistic. But it's as though the information I shared went in one ear, got contorted by fear, and came out sounding more alarming than it really needed to be. The same thing happened when Rich alluded to oral sex not being as safe as once thought, even though every study on the subject tells us that people aren't getting HIV from oral sex. That's not to blame Rich, really. I can relate - fear of HIV runs so deep in many of us, it's not amenable to course correction with only information. It's just that the information in the post got parsed into an argument to support fear of HIV and justify discriminating against sex with positive men, which didn't sit well in my waters.

We're hashing this out below.

[Image: Fenton/Shutterstock]