My career in Public Health started in the STD/HIV clinics of a southern coastal resort town. I was responsible for interviewing and educating clients that sought HIV testing and follow-up counseling, therefore I’ve heard a wide variety of sexual histories and a curious mix of truth, denial and out-right lies. What follows are a few of the insightful things I learned along the way.

Denial speaks volumes: A middle-aged male presented for HIV testing and in the course of the interview he answered yes to time at a mid-level security prison, no to sex with men, no to IV drug use, and no to prison tattoos. He tested positive and was reinterviewed at which time he quite sincerely stated that he believed he was infected by the grits served at the prison. In the course of his interviews and case management he never acknowledged being raped in prison.

Lesson learned: It is a rare circumstance when men will acknowledge they have been raped. But men are raped in society in a variety of settings to include prison, gang/street violence etc. Any rape situation exposes the victim to risk of infection with any STD. The denial surrounding male rape makes the use of condoms and STD screening all the more important for women to protect their health.

Don’t judge a book by the cover: I have always enjoyed the gift of intuition and sharp personal assessment skills in knowing where an interview and sexual history were headed with a client. But there are always a few wow moments along the way! On two separate occasions I interviewed married men with no readily apparent indications of bi-sexuality. Yet both were actively engaged in sex with men while remaining sexually active with their wife. Both indicated the bi-sexual status was unknown in the marriage. One was career military and the other frequently traveled with work.

Lessons learned: Don’t be afraid to push your sexual partner for details in their sexual history and don’t be afraid to ask a traveling partner how they are spending their time. Vagueness should be a warning sign. There are bi-sexual men that have no effeminate indicators and will resist revealing their preferences to the spouse. This reinforces the need to keep sexual communication open and honest in a relationship.

The IV Drug Connection: I lost track of the number of times I had interviews that revealed a partner found drug works or heard after a break-up of suspected IV drug use in the former partner. These individuals, male and female, were in a very legitimate state of panic over their exposure to HIV and Hepatitis. It may take several months for the body’s immune system to reveal through blood tests if an infection has occurred. The distress, remorse, and frustration experienced by these clients as they worked through the testing schedule were quite striking. Their life was on hold while they awaited each round of test results. Given the stigma of IV drug use, HIV and Hepatitis, the clients frequently endured the waiting period in a private, isolated hell.

Lesson learned: Take the time to learn the large and small clues of IV drug use. Realize that IV drug use is not something people readily admit, so all the more reason to practice safe sex.

In closing, I would say take to heart the responsible and insightful messages of safe sex brought to you by the wonderful ladies of ButtercupPunch. Their collective wisdom and compassion will serve you well throughout a lifetime.

*Contributed by AGreenEyeDevil*
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