While slurping down a peach smoothie at the Big Cup, the other day,near my new home in New York City I read in a gay paper a littleclassified ad for Barebackers Anonymous -- a support group for negpeople who simply can't quit having unsafe sex. This stopped me in mytracks and made my stomach and heart ache. How unfair, I thought, thatI, still in my teens, feeling lost, alone and scared, didn't have agroup like that available in San Francisco. There I'd be standing onMarket Street, waiting for the BART to take home from another wild,Friday-to-Sunday, drug-dazed, barebacking bacchanalia.

Before then, from the fourth grade on, my head was pummeled withsafe sex education and I would only sleep with guys who said they werenegative. Then one day, while sitting on my floor cruising the Net, Ithought, "I could hook up with positive tops...if I really wanted."

All of a sudden, my luck changed. There were men by the dozensavailable to me. Most at first were wary about my age and status, but Iquickly dispelled their reservations by saying I was positive as well.

Then I stumbled on a few sites that piqued my curiosity.Bug-chasing. Giftgiving. Reading and researching this made my curiosityrun wild. I began asking about bug-chasing, through my blurry tinahaze, provoking excitement in some, utter disgust in others. On thephone line, some guys would yell, others would say something mean andothers would simply express concern. "Why would you want to bepositive?" they asked.

I never really had an answer. Maybe it's because growing up in theMidwest, I was taught through fear. HAVE SAFE SEX OR DIE! Barebackingseemed the ultimate rebellion. Most men in sex clubs seemed confusedwhen they'd walk by and see a guy my age lying in the sling, waitingand ready. Confused and excited. Legs open and ready for whatever. Or,maybe, to me, it just seemed easier.

The fact is, in the city by the Bay, there is no longer any pressureto have safe sex. But that didn't stop one of my closest friends,Linus, from trying to dissuade me. He spotted the acronyms BB(bareback) and PnP (party-and-play) in my male-for-male profile. Hewrote me an e-mail that to me seemed bossy and unfounded. "Take out thePnP, because as you've informed me before, you have quit, right? Also,take BB out, because if you bottom bareback, you will be infected. Andwe don't want that. DO WE? Mother."

After I discovered the party-and-play scene, Linus pleaded with me to quit, and to please pleasenot bareback. "It really hurts me that you would bareback and riskinfection," read one e-mail. I understood not a word. How could mybarebacking and possible infection hurt HIM? It was my life.Linus eventually dropped all contact with me. My suicide mission musthave been too hard to watch. Meanwhile, I continued.

It was mid-June when everything began to crumble for me. At six feetand 145 pounds, I was skinnier than I had ever been. I couldn't hold orfind a job to save my life. Any dreams I had before simply faded. Bymid-July I was hit with a flu unlike anything I had ever experienced.While I sought medical help and tried to recuperate, I missed too muchwork and lost my last job. I called my mom and said, "I wanna movehome."

A week later, I found out I was clear of heps A, B and C. The HIV results would come from a test I was to do at home.

In some ways I knew I was on a suicide mission -- it was my hope to,at some point, wear my body out and die. Some nights I'd wake in apanic, having realized I would spend the rest of my life deteriorating,because for five months at 19, I had decided I would invite a diseaseinto my life. All because I wanted to fuck any person that walked inthat door. Never thinking that one day I wouldn't want just any person,I would want that one person. That less was more, and what I was doing would surely bring me less than I had before.

I'll pay for that decision for the rest of my life. Every time a guyI really like doesn't want to date me because of my status. Every timeI have to watch a friend die and have to wonder about my own fate. Andevery time I think of what I haven't accomplished yet. I'll have toremember that decision I made, despite the disapproval of every singlefriend that ever really cared for me.