by Liam Scheff
In my eight and a half years of reading about HIV testing, I’ve yet to find a single piece of the published medical record that brought me to believe that HIV tests were anything more than a public farce, a poly-reactive, non-specific hoop that the chosen unlucky are led to leap through, as a punishment for their presumed lifestyle or skin color.
Bu I see the value of the test, nonetheless. Yes, it tests for no specific thing. Yes, it tests for almost everything. But the presumption of the test – in the public and private mind – is that it secures or forbids you for sexual liberty, or performance ‘à volonté‘ in the culture.
A ‘clean’ HIV Test result means that you can be a libertine, or at least “liberated” in the Western sense, leaning on pharmaceuticals to prevent pregnancy, and following no known rule or guide to safe, or emotionally conscious behavior. You can be a lout, a whore, a scoundrel, a trollop, a slut, a dilettante, a flirt, a ‘Carrie’ (a la ‘Sex in the City,’ exploring the world with your gonads, at will and at leisure, suffering only a heart broken so lightly that it mends by the next episode). So we’re told.
This is the great Western cultural lie, that once sex was removed from pregnancy (or pregnancy from sex) by chemical candy (those birth control pills, arrayed in their round, pink Pez dispensers, to be taken for years and years without pause)….that sex, once removed from ancient eternal biology somehow lost its meaning, its natural outcome, and its sting.
How naive were these libertines to think that the ancient mind would let go of its Levitical impositions? We were taught to believe that the old prohibitions had no value – they were the wretched chains of a by-gone era. We shrugged them off and embraced desire, and each other, willy-nilly, and without consequence. But with consequence. With alienation, and depravity, and empty hollowed out eyes and souls, like ghouls, like syphilitics throwing themselves into another Roman orgy, knowing they can’t be made any worse at the end.
And so HIV tests emerged, following the great drug and STD plague that was the payment in full of the liberated ’60s and ’70s. The tests were derived from the mixed blood and tissue of many men bearing many illnesses. They have been refined to consensus agreed synthetic proteins, which cling to proteins in your blood; they will adhere to almost any naturally-occurring antibody to any infectious or non-infectious particle entering the bloodstream. And so we use them carefully – only on those with guilty consciences or punishable skin color or orientation, who wish or agree to be reprimanded for their sexual sins.
That is how HIV testing works – and it does work in that sense. We need it to keep us believing in some limit to libidinousness. The science of it, the technical reality of it is all a sham, but that doesn’t matter at all.
What matters is our belief in the angry God who punishes us for our sexual misconduct. We need a code of rules. We need a rule of law. We have one. It’s that simple. “HIV tests” test for no specific particle, that is not reasonably contestable. But they do test for one specific thing: Fear, guilt, and a need to do penance for our disembodied chemical libertinism.
And so, what can we ask for? A return to an open prohibition against too much lust? A manageable punishment for over-indulgence, instead of this life-long drugged-to-death hate-fueled sham called “AIDS?” In that case…
Long live Leviticus. Down with HIV testing. (Except no sane person wants Leviticus back – and so we keep the technical version).
The truth is what it has always been: We’re all sinners, but only some of us have to pay the angry God to sooth our anxious, tribal soul.