Wednesday 25 April 2018

'I'm clear about my HIV on Grindr' - man (25) on being the only 'poz' in Ireland

Eoin Keegan gets mixed reactions to his 'poz' status. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Eoin Keegan gets mixed reactions to his 'poz' status. Photo: Gerry Mooney

“Most schools under Catholic patronage don’t go into the realities of anal sex,” says Eoin Keegan (25), from Firhouse in Dublin who is HIV positive.

“Fifteen to 16-year-olds are, generally, introduced to gay sex through really aggressive hardcore pornography.

“They don’t realise that the men performing in these videos are trained pros. Chances are, if they try and repeat what they see, they are going to bleed really badly. Anal bleeding, minus condoms, is one way you get HIV.

“Parents should have a conversation with their children when they come out about the realities of gay sex and what they have to do to protect themselves. Do they not have to take responsibility for the health and safety of their gay kids?”

A survey of the general population, undertaken by HIV Ireland this year, uncovered some worrying findings. Twenty percent of 18-to-24-year olds incorrectly thought HIV could be passed through the sharing of a public toilet seat, 24pc believed HIV could be transmitted by kissing, while 11pc incorrectly thought it could be transmitted through coughing or sneezing.

Only 19pc of respondents reported correctly that the risk of someone who is taking effective HIV treatment passing it on through sex is extremely low, while 10pc of people stated that they wouldn’t feel comfortable working with a colleague who was HIV positive.

Eoin includes his status on his Grindr profile. He is sometimes the only ‘poz’ on the island.

“Reduce your search to people under 30 and you can get all the way to the west coast of Canada before finding another.”

The reactions, he says, are varied.

“I don’t get called a poz whore that often. Maybe once every couple of months, I am told I’m worthless, that I’m going to die. But it’s mainly silence. Irish guys are good at the polite ignore.”

More often than not, Eoin finds himself having to educate those who contact him.

“People ask me really basic questions, like where they can get tested. These are men, in their 30s, who’ve been sexually active for a decade. But you have to educate.”

Eoin has lost friends who implied he deserved the illness due to his perceived sexual history.

“What I love is that people expect me to tell them,” says Eoin, “but no one ever asks me when was I last tested.”

But as Eoin concludes; “James Baldwin once said that ‘not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’

“Not getting tested is not going to change your status. If you are having sex without being tested, you are more of a liability than I am.

“Most transmissions come from men who have never been tested.”

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