Sunday, June 20, 2010

What does “Poz-Friendly” mean?

Short Answer

“Poz-Friendly” means “HIV-negative, but willing to have sex with positive guys, using rubbers and such.”

Much Longer Answer

In the 1980s, AIDS and HIV had the gay community running scared.  Early on, no one knew what it was or how it was contracted.  For guys who didn’t have AIDS and who weren’t especially well informed, avoidance became a major method of dealing with it: avoid social contact and especially avoid sexual contact.

Later, when the sexual and body fluids transmission routes became better documented, the social avoidance issues eventually mostly went away.  Of course, habits born of emergency and fear are hard to kill, so it took years for the bulk of the gay community to re-establish suitable social engagement, and that cascades outward, such that you still get bizarre transmission avoidance notions in third-world countries, such as eating lots of garlic with ward of HIV.

But if social avoidance largely ceased, sexual avoidance didn’t.  How safe are condoms?  How safe is oral sex?  How safe is open-mouthed kissing?  These sorts of questions, coupled with the push to desensitize people to the idea of HIV by encouraging guys to reveal their HIV status prior to a sexual encounter, kept sex with HIV+ as a major avoidance subject.  That continues to this day.  You can see online profiles loaded with terms like “negative”, “clean”, and “DDF” (drug and disease free), all of which are code for “HIV+ need not apply.”

One of my regrets from the mid-1990s is that when I was dating Eric, and he informed me of his HIV+ status, I broke things off with him.  Not directly, consciously because he was positive, but over the following year or two, I realized that was the core of things, and that embarrassed me.  That brought me to a few realizations:
  1. Drug advances at the time were making HIV less of a death sentence than it had been in the previous years.
  2. I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, so I was cutting off a large pool of potential boyfriends and sex partners by cutting out HIV+ guys.
  3. Until I was told, I couldn’t tell if someone was HIV+, and due to incubation periods and other issues, a guy might not know his own status, so any reaction I had might be only after we had had sex, at which point the risks had already occurred.
After achieving these realizations, I accepted that my own behaviors were the most important part of the equation.  If I insisted on appropriate measures, I could have hot sex and even pursue relationships with guys regardless of their HIV status, and even if they didn’t know their status accurately, I could avoid being a blocker to pleasure.

Obviously, I’m not the only person to have come to these realizations.  They are fairly widespread (although not universal) in the leather community, where there is a more strongly stated awareness of both what safer sex practices mean (due to the broader range of sex acts leather guys engage it) and an awareness of the costs when aspects of the community are sidelined and pushed away (since leather has been itself in the past).

Today, many guys who have come to these realizations and want to be sure that other people are aware of it — especially HIV+ guys, since they are those who are primarily targetted with the phrase — use “Poz-Friendly” (often as “Safe Sex/Poz-Friendly”) in their online profiles as such, indicating both that they engage in safe sex (rubbers and gloves) and that they don’t discriminate based on HIV status.

Mr. Friendly

An effort has been made to attach some iconography to this concept, called “Mr. Friendly”, a smiley face with his nose a + and one eye a -.  (Myself, I think the icon fails.  I identify the icon as the Jack In The Box mascot before attaching sex-related meanings to it.)  You can read more about Mr. Friendly here.


  1. interesting and revealing article..I suppoe if I ever met a guy and he told me he was poz before our first high threadcount egyptian cotton adventure , and we truly clicked and sparked, I guess that would attract me even more,unfortunatly this is becuse of my personality type coz i tend to associate poz with vulnerability,he dumped me anyway and I kept running into him in places named manhole, web,or on the webb looking for ffun, so in then end i was too vanilla for him, although I am known as The frottage King, I guess it was my own fault for projecting on him, I was looking for boyfriend he more nsa or fbud, and the thing I dont like about fbuds are they often fbud je one night fbuds who knows else until you see them again, and there is no real relationship. They might even fbud je when 1rst choice falls thru.Moral of story, there are no types/rules just make things very clear at the very beginning coz it can be a dangerous game and if meth is involved even deadly

  2. F POZ UNFRIENDLY if that means I won't get into a romantic relationship with a HIV+ guy, and there's NOTHING wrong with my choice. Don't judge me either!