HIV+ = history of poor decisions? June 5, 2012 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Sex and the Negative Guy: " . . . you are choosing to trust your health with a person who has a demonstrated history of making poor decisions about their own health."

The OP asked about practices within a serodiscordant couple. One of the comments included this:
Perhaps this makes me an asshole for saying so, and I can deal with that... But with few exceptions (say, victim of a rape, or recipient of a bad blood transfusion long ago), nowadays, for someone to have contracted HIV, it's probably the result of a poor decision on their part. Whether it was unprotected sex, needle sharing, whatever... Both are still poor decisions, and so you are choosing to trust your health with a person who has a demonstrated history of making poor decisions about their own health. Whether that's an acceptable risk or not is a decision that only you can make.

. . . and I guess I just wanted to see what others thought about that perspective, about the idea that 1) being HIV+ is basically proof that one has made poor decisions, and 2) even if one HAD made poor decisions in the past, is that really a good basis on which to judge their whole character today?
posted by MeiraV to Etiquette/Policy at 12:03 PM (18 comments total)

Many people will come forward to offer their thoughs about that perspective in the thread itself, I'd wager.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:05 PM on June 5, 2012

...for which they'll be redirected back to the grey, I'll bet.

Man, that's kind of a crappy comment/answer.

Thinking specifically about a loved one who has lived almost 20yrs HIV+, only telling the very few, and even then encountering random sneering judgment like that. Wholly irrelevant random sneering judgment, at that.

Very disappointing.
posted by batmonkey at 12:13 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is this meant to be a poll of the community about the idea itself, or is it a question of whether answers that include ideas like that should be allowed in threads like that?
posted by juliplease at 12:16 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

in one sense, it has some truth to it.

But one could also extend it to cancer. Skin cancer? Spent too much time in the sun. Colorectal cancer ? not enough fiber in your diet. Lung cancer ? Shouldn't have smoked or been near all those aerosol particles.

Or heart disease: too little exercise, poor diet choices. etc etc

Being a shitty thing to say doesn't negate the (more than an iota of) truth in it, but also has no grace for the outliers (and there are always outliers).
posted by k5.user at 12:17 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've got a wild idea. Why not flag it?
posted by Gator at 12:18 PM on June 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Perhaps this makes me an asshole for saying so ...

All signs point to YES you are.
posted by ericb at 12:18 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well, you know, the law requires people with HIV to carry giant flashing marquees above their heads at all times, so they ALWAYS tell their prospective partners about their statuses and/or the fact that they spent the last three nights in a dirty, dirty alley next to a dirty, dirty bathhouse with dirty, dirty people.

So of COURSE people make bad choices, because EVERYBODY ALWAYS KNOWS.

posted by Madamina at 12:19 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

They had a stereotype in mind that they wanted to share so they tried to dial it down to a generalization.

That is actually a pretty reasonable thing to do with stereotypes, but when this commenter tried to indicate the limits of the generalization they only included the really extreme exceptions, excluding e.g. malfunctioning condoms, or the kind of stupidity that a person grows out of.

That suggests the commenter still holds an offensive stereotype of HIV+ people, but it still leaves the possibility that they just forgot to write out the exceptions that would have dialed it back to a pessimistic but reasonable generalization.

I bring up this possibility because I commit and observe this error all the time.

I think humans are generally bad at remembering the particular limitations of a given generalization, so we forget them most of the time, resulting in a stereotype; but then, if we care enough, we reason out the limitations again when we need them. Sometimes we miss that step or do it badly.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:25 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's a crappy comment but AskMe is pretty judgy in general, especially when it comes to DTMFA answers. I blame it mostly on the fact that when someone posts about someone else on AskMe, the people answering only use the context of whatever negative qualities are mentioned. So if someone posts about their boyfriend smelling bad then at least someone jumps to the conclusion that the OP should just dump that stinky loser rather than assuming that the boyfriend is perfect in every other way and it's worth trying to tackle the stinkiness problem. And that includes questions where the OP spells out that the person is perfect in every other way. People trust when someone posts saying that someone is terrible in some way and extend that to their overall worth as a person, whereas they are generally skeptical about any claims of that someone being great in every other way.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:25 PM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

NB. This doesn't mean the comment isn't offensive. It totally is. But if you want to reason with the commenter it would be best to have a sympathetic interpretation available.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:26 PM on June 5, 2012

NOTE: The passage quoted in this MeTa is excerpted from a longer comment, which gives a bit more context.
posted by googly at 12:28 PM on June 5, 2012

I'd actually missed the disappointing part of that answer because it started so reasonably and helpfully.

I had to go back to the thread to find it and was surprised what it was tacked onto. Very much wish the answerer had posted those as two separate comments.

It's said here a LOT that if you have to preface it with "maybe I'm being an asshole", you probably are and should rethink your response. I think this could have benefited from that process.
posted by batmonkey at 12:32 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sometimes important questions are not terribly popular. Yes it's horrible, so many deaths, so much stigma, so preventible if only we knew then what we know now.

But that's the point isn't it? We do know now.

To draw a similar conclusion - I work with a lot of disabled athletes and, as politically incorrect as it may be, it's not very surprising to find yourself working with an athlete who has had a terrible accident and completely understand that said accident was only a matter of time. Causation, correlation whatever - self selected sampling significantly changes the odds in any situation.

It is not often that one is able to thoroughly and completely investigate all possible options before beginning an undertaking with significant underlying risk. Sometimes the options have to be winnowed simply as a matter of practicability. Somethings should raise alarm bells. This is not to say they should continue ringing, just that a species without a little healthy paranoia doesn't have much in the way of long term survival prospects.

Asking whether you trust a prospective partner _enough_ to avoid a potentially life threatening (and certainly life altering) infection should be the first pull from your coping skills toolbox. If you don't it just doesn't matter what else is in there.

As always, though, context is important. The OP never mentions any of the background which could (possibly) ameliorate some of the concern. For example: contracting HIV 20 years ago does not necessarily preclude some of the same risk factors that doing so last year might. Yes it's all relative but any and all possible futures begin with trust.
posted by mce at 12:35 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seems like a thoughtful answer to me. It raises some knotty issues about weighing actions/consequences/circumstances and then leaves it to the OP to answer them for themselves.
posted by barrett caulk at 12:39 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think it's a crappy attitude, and unhelpful, since pretty much everyone over the age of 10 is going to have a history of bad decisions.
posted by rtha at 12:41 PM on June 5, 2012 [7 favorites]

it's no more than fair that people catching bad aids are judged on their moral culpability.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:42 PM on June 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

That was a crappy comment and I deleted it. People could consider possibly just emailing us at the contact form if possibly, another long MeTa thread is not your idea of a good time.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:58 PM on June 5, 2012

Yeah since this is deleted and dealt with, I'm going to close this up.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:01 PM on June 5, 2012

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