Frequently Asked Questions – Positive Alliance

Frequently Asked Questions

How long has Positive Alliance been around?

The group started out in early 2009 as a weekly party in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. Around the same time, monthly mixers were being organized in homes and small venues in New York City. The DC group launched a New York City event at Vlada Bar & Lounge in early 2010 and the two groups merged in May of that year. We moved to the Ritz in May of 2011, and over time the group has evolved to be much more than a party and to become the organization it is today.

How many people usually attend your events?

It varies. For our weekly events, it’s usually 40-50, but sometimes much more. For smaller events like picnics, it can be anywhere from 8-20. Obviously, the more, the merrier!

Is everyone at your events HIV+?

Not usually, but the vast majority are. We welcome friends and supporters, too. Why? Well, our events are obviously geared towards HIV+ men and their needs, but some poz guys really don’t feel comfortable coming without a friend; and some HIV- guys are dating one of our poz guys, or they came once with a friend and had a really great time and don’t have a problem meeting HIV+ guys for dating or sex. So, while we’re usually over 90% poz, there are typically a few negative guys there.

So I can bring my HIV- friend for support?

Yup, absolutely! Just make sure they know what they’re coming to, as a courtesy to them and to other guests.

What kinds of guys come to the weekly party?

We get all kinds: everything from 21 to 60+, and there’s a good mix for all. The bulk of the party is probably guys in their mid-20s through their early 40s, but don’t let it scare you away if you don’t fall into that range. We get twinks, hunks, men of size, daddies, cubs, athletes… newly diagnosed guys, long-term survivors… you name it. We welcome everyone and do our best to help them connect with the kind of person they want to connect with. To get the most out of the event, try to come more than once and stay long enough to actually get an idea of how diverse the community is. The number of guys who think of themselves as “hot” and have shown up one time for ten minutes only to leave in a huff because they didn’t meet their husband immediately could fill a bar all by themselves.

What if I run into someone I know?

Honestly, it’s not a big deal: that person is there for a reason, too! Either they are also positive, or they at least are supportive of and open to people who are. Either way, if you run into someone, just say hi. If you feel comfortable talking about HIV, do it; if you don’t, talk about whatever other shared interests you have. In reality, while the party might be for HIV+ guys, we usually spend most of the night talking about everything else – pop culture, ex-boyfriends, real estate, sex, theatre, movies…  by having the safe space, HIV can be something you don’t even have to think about very much.

Do you have any rules about disclosure of status?

No, we don’t, but we have some recommendations that we’ve learned from our experience of doing this for a few years.

Be discreet about the identities of other group members or party attendees when you are outside our safe spaces and closed settings. Unless you have express permission to disclose their status to someone who isn’t part of our community, be careful not to accidentally “out” that person as being HIV+. We encourage more open sharing, as the more of us share this information more freely, the closer we will be to ending stigma. However, it’s ultimately an individual’s choice in any given interaction whether or not to tell. Please respect that choice. If you haven’t set a policy with someone you meet, and a third party asks how you know each other, the safest answer is something like, “We met at a party,” or “We met at the Ritz a while back.”

Our events are safe zones. We strongly discourage outright lying about HIV status in general, but especially in a setting that is expressly intended as a space where that isn’t necessary. If you are put in a position where you feel inclined to lie, please think twice. And if it’s because someone you know is attending one of our events – maybe grant that person the benefit of the doubt and give them the truth. They’re there for a reason, too, after all.

I really want to come to an event, but I’m worried. What if my job/mother/friend/crush/the whole world finds out?

How are they going to find out, if they aren’t there? There are no public photos of any event unless it’s specifically arranged and people consent to be in the picture. We really do provide a safe place for you to relax, let down your hair about HIV, and meet some awesome people you might not otherwise meet. Each of these people can end up being a support, a friend, a night of fun, or a husband… depending on what you’re looking for.

Life is already short enough (though, mercifully, HIV isn’t going to shave much, if any, off of most of our lifespans, these days!) – why spend the time we have hiding in another closet, afraid, ashamed, and missing out on great opportunities? If you want to come and haven’t let yourself do it yet: take a deep breath, sneak into the event you want to join, and say hello to the host. Grab a beverage of your choice (if it’s a bar night), settle in, and relax. You’ll feel comfortable in no time, and you’ll be glad you came.

What if I run into the person who infected me or someone I infected at one of your events?

This has only happened a couple times that we know of, but we encourage people not to blame one another or wrack themselves with guilt over something like this. Unless a sexual assault occurred, most of us got into this the same way – by sheer accident (rare broken condom), via bad luck (that one time we put ourselves in a risky situation), or via repeated mutually-consensual behavior with higher risk for sharing microbes. It doesn’t do anyone any good to harbor a bunch of negative emotions about something that can’t be undone (at least not until there’s a cure). So if by some bizarre coincidence you happen to encounter this situation, try to set aside any guilt, any shame, any anger, and either get a drink together or politely acknowledge one another and move on.

Some people find that they still do have an emotional reaction to the whole thing, and some find that they can get into a more positive (no pun intended) mindset about it by scheduling a time to talk while not in a group-oriented environment. Some people find that it’s best to just let it lie and talk to their therapist about it. Some people just come and ask the host to introduce them to someone new, right now! All of those are acceptable responses.

The thing not to do is to get drunk and march over to confront the person. So don’t do that, because it’s exactly as bad an idea as it sounds like it is.

I’m in recovery. Do you have drink specials for non-alcoholic beverages at your events?

Yes! We only enter into a relationship with a bar if it will guarantee a special price for at least one beverage that does not contain alcohol.

I’m looking for love. Do people find more than just hook-ups at your events?

Yup! We have a number of couples who have found long-term love at the weekly party (the one sad thing is that they all stopped coming to the party – so you earn bonus points if you fall in love and still keep coming out to have fun and support the event). We also do speed dating in connection with The Men Event every couple months.

I’m looking to get laid. Does that happen at your events?

Our group consists of a bunch of gay men who don’t have sweaty palms about when to disclose to a potential partner. What do you think? We strive to be sex-positive, and in some ways our organization can provide a “third way” to the two extremes often serving the needs of HIV+ gay men – provide community without a clinical eye, and provide an openness to sexuality without setting up a sling in the middle of the room.

Can you give me his number?

No. If we do have it, it still violates his privacy if we give you his number or email without his permission (and vice versa if we give him yours). If you like him, talk to him and get his info. Chances are, he doesn’t bite!

What else do you do for the poz community?

We are constantly identifying ways we can contribute to the community. We do a lot of answering of questions via email, connect people with one another in the event of a medicine emergency (i.e., a pharmacy or insurance problem), we offer support and co-sponsor the International Poz Retreat, and we offer opportunities for other organizations to partner with us to raise awareness (and/or raise money), and we do a weekly newsletter. As we expand to other cities, we will continue to discover ways we can ally with other people and groups to create a strong, open, and supportive HIV+ community dedicated to helping all positive individuals to thrive, not just survive.