Josh and Chanse, both 19 years old (right), have a lot to say about being gay teenagers in the conservative south. Queerty contributor Mark S. King sat down with the couple and got an earful about being out and proud, HIV testing, treatment and PrEP — and how irritating it is when people like Quinto call them apathetic.
Here’s the interview, as well as a video chat (below) with the couple for Mark’s blog, My Fabulous Disease.
These young men rock, that’s all we’re saying.
I grew up in Shreveport, too, and what I remember is getting kicked out of a school dance in 1977 for wearing platform shoes. They ran me into the parking lot.
Chanse: Wow. Nothing like that has happened to us. We have a lot of friends.
Josh: We hold hands walking down the street! I think once somebody yelled something from their car, but that’s about it.
How is your family with the gay thing?
Josh: Great. Everybody loves my mom. She’s really supportive.
Chanse: I got to see how much my family cares about me a couple of months ago when I tested HIV positive. My mom was really concerned when I told her, of course, and then she decided to throw me kind of a coming out party for our family. There were 20 people there, and we started pinning red ribbons on everybody. Then my mom says to everybody that I would need their support because I had tested positive, and she said how much she loves me.
Josh: It was amazing. Now some of them volunteer for The Philadelphia Center where we got tested.
Well, according to actor Zachary Quinto, the younger generation is lazy and irresponsible and doesn’t care about HIV.
Josh: Oh yeah. If I hear the word “complacent” again I might throw up.
Chanse: It sounded like he wants everybody to start dying of AIDS again just to make a point. He wants to label me irresponsible because I’m positive? I mean, I got HIV and I accept that and I am dealing with it. But don’t make it some defining thing about my character.
Josh: We’re both in school, we’re advocates for the gay blood drive, we do HIV outreach…
Chanse: I just don’t think statements like that help at all.
Josh: Chanse got his results first and was positive and we stood in the hallway and cried about it. I told him right away that I would never leave him.
Chanse: My freak-out lasted about five minutes. And then I wanted to know everything there was about treatment. If they could have given me pills right then and there I would have taken my first dose.
Josh: He was really nervous for me, not knowing my results, and so was I. But then my test came back negative. He was more relieved than I was. And then the staff started talking to us both about what we could do about it.
You mean treatment for Chanse?
Josh: Yeah, but also about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, or taking the drug Truvada to prevent HIV infection). I didn’t really know there was a pill that can keep you from getting infected.
Chanse: After they talked to Josh about PrEP he went home and researched it online.
Josh: I knew pretty quickly I wanted to take it. Whatever helps.
There’s a lot of different opinions about PrEP. The studies show it works when you take it, but not if you don’t take it consistently.
Josh: That’s what I do. I never miss a dose, it only takes a minute. What’s so hard?
Chanse: We’re good about reminding each other. The drug for PrEP is Truvada, and it’s one of the drugs I take for my HIV. So it’s like we’re “double Prepping.”
Does it make you want to be a whore?
Sorry. Mr. Quinto says –
Josh: Oh, lord.
He said that people take PrEP to have more recreational sex. And people are worried it will make gay men more promiscuous.
Josh: Wow. We’re not promiscuous to begin with. We’re together.
Chanse: Isn’t all gay sex recreational? We’re not trying to get pregnant or anything.
Josh: I take PrEP and Chanse takes his meds. I think we’re doing the right things. Where does all this come from? It pisses me off when they call us lazy for taking PrEP. I took a lot of time checking it out, I see my doctor and get tested every three months, I take the pill every day… what’s lazy about that?
Not to keep piling on, but they also say that PrEP is so guys can have bareback sex.
Josh: Yeah, I read about that. But honestly, it never even occurred to us. We use condoms.
Chanse: What is it about taking PrEP that they think makes guys change who they are and what they do? Josh and I definitely act the same as we did before Josh started taking PrEP.
Well, a lot of the people in the PrEP studies were not using condoms. That’s how they knew that PrEP was working.
Josh: Then it’s a good thing if guys who don’t use condoms are taking PrEP, isn’t it? They probably need it most.
Chanse: That’s just not us. I have to live with HIV my whole life and I don’t want Josh to have to deal with it. So we use as many precautions as we can get.
Josh: Basically all of these things you’re saying about PrEP, about what people think about it, don’t apply to us. Zachary Quinto doesn’t know anything about us.
Anything else you want to say, to represent young people?
Chanse: We can only speak for us, but…
Josh: Have a little faith, y’all. I mean, come on. Have some faith in us.
Related Headlines On Queerty: