Joseph Contorer LMFT provides virtual/telehealth therapy sessions. This may include use of programs like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype or telephonic appointments.

For more information and appointment scheduling please contact the office at any time at:

310-486-0087 or you may also email directly:


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as it eventually became known as after an abrupt onset in 1981, was identified as the cause of the complex condition called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS became a widespread epidemic that was particularly catastrophic for the gay male community. This period brought intense emotional reaction, trauma, pain, suffering, anxiety, shame, confusion, anger, and the perpetual feelings of powerlessness. It created rampant, heartbreaking loss and induced traumatic fear that persisted beyond the initial 15-year epidemic.

I’m Almost Positive™: Living In Constant Fear: “Will I be next?”

As it applied to gay men, HIV was transmitted mainly via unprotected and also promiscuous sexual activity. Being a gay male having male-to-male sexual activity was considered a major risk factor. Life for many gay men in the GMC after 1981 became full of anxiety because of the AIDS crisis.

The aggressive onset of this initially obscure and frightening condition included a plague-like fear of contracting HIV or AIDS. Some gay men personally became HIV-Positive and or had friends, loved ones or significant others in the GMC that would be afflicted. A common stance in the GMC concluded that If you didn’t have it yet, you might get it still or you knew of someone who did or many who died. Those in the early years suffered and were stigmatized in and out of the GMC; many AIDS patients died a painful, sometimes isolated shameful scary death.

During this overwhelming period, some gay men perhaps maintained temporary denial about the reality and potential severity of becoming HIV-positive. Likely more gay men were inclined to worry after each sexual activity; they might be bargaining, wondering whether they were going to “seroconvert” to having HIV antibodies detected in tests completed after possible exposure and contraction to being HIV-positive. Other gay men who had already found out they were HIV-positive, would then feel anxiety about if or when they would be diagnosed with AIDS and if and how they would even survive; many gay men diagnosed during the earlier stages of the 15-year period did not survive.

During the AIDS epidemic approximately 1981-1996, gay men contemplated a sense of fear, terror and trauma about what would happen next; some positive men feared actually being and getting extremely ill after the development of AIDS complications, as the virus multiplied and mutated making it eventually treatment resistant. Many died within several years or less of the diagnosis; this depended on what point they were diagnosed and what treatments were utilized and the varied course of the disease progression at the time. If you didn’t have it, you knew someone who did, and plenty who died after a while when the virus started spreading more rapidly in to the later 1980s and early 1990s.

The history of HIV and AIDS has a critical impact on gay men, the gay rights movements, and the GMC specifically. After years of diligent campaigning, advocating, and marching in the streets, society became more aware about and responsive to AIDS and how it was especially destructive to gay men.

After AIDS was publicized, sometimes all gay men were negatively stigmatized by some people now as “having AIDS.” There was also a shift where other parts of society responded with more sensitive notice of gay men and gay issues. The advent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic triggered many complex events that followed.

Younger adult gay men who were born much   after 1975, are less likely to relate to the history and the more severe trauma of the epidemic. However, HIV/AIDS is a subject that is still somewhat relevant. Today, HIV status continues to factor into the parts of the dynamics of how gay men interact, rate, and judge each other both historically and today.

The Inequitable Impact of the AIDS Epidemic for Gay Men Created a "Have/Have-Not" Disparity

Some gay men who were exposed to HIV contracted the virus, becoming HIV-positive, while others who were also exposed, sometimes repeatedly, did not contract the virus, remaining HIV-negative.

Some HIV-positive men exhibited symptoms; some did not.

Some required immediate treatment; some did not.

Some who had the virus died immediately, and some held on longer but later died anyway.

Some accessed the drugs and were compliant, some did not.

Some responded to treatment well; some did not.

Some had access to limited earlier variations of treatment, such as “AZT.”

Some still survived more than 40 years later.

Some had unprotected sex but did not contract the virus; many having unprotected sex did contract the virus.

Some contracted the virus after one sexual encounter; others may have had multiple partners before seroconverting or they did not seroconvert at all.

Some became physically and medically impacted and compromised from the side effects of the medications and/or the disease itself; some did not.

Some remained negative even prior to the much later by 2012, with the advent and option of taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which HIV-negative gay men have the option to take as a potentially effective to prevent seroconversion to HIV if exposed.

Some lost unfathomable numbers of friends; some lost fewer or none.

Some had affirming family/community support; many did not, especially early on.

Some who thought they were having “safe sex” or only were active in “safer situations” were eventually either betrayed or they seroconverted to being positive

Gay Men Were Fearful, Anxious, Sometimes Scared to Death and Scared of Death

Particularly during and after the AIDS epidemic period of 1981–1996, the have/have-not dynamic was exacerbated because of a sense of terror about HIV and fretful attempts to remain HIV-negative. This constant looming fear of seroconverting to HIV-positive for many became a perilous gamble for some.

Becoming HIV-positive was stigmatized as an ominous, frightening element, particularly for gay men in the GMC. As familiar or sorry as they may have felt for those living with HIV, being HIV-positive, especially prior to 1996, was frightening and considered by some in the GMC to be an undesirable failure.

Some HIV-negative gay men commonly maintained intense adverse value judgments about HIV positivity out of self-protection. Some gay men developed serious anxiety or panic in response to even more trivial predictable medical symptoms from a cold, flu, sore throat, or a spot or mark or other physical symptoms and would rush to “get tested.” There was extensive information and marketing collateral available in relative public buildings and agencies of the GMC about “safe sex” guidelines, which was later re-termed safer sex guidelines.

The neurotic self-imposed gambling worry cycle would start all over again after they tested “clean.” Some gay men would have additional, even routine sex partners and urgently get tested for HIV again. They would subsequently nervously wait for test results that were built up to be a life-threatening scenario each time.

Even toward the latter part of the 1990s, when instant test results debuted, often resulted in a cycle of

Having sex➡️ get tested➡️

Wait for results➡️

Hope they’re negative and accurate➡️

Get tested again to be sure and then feel “clean” and➡️

Then, "ready" to start the cycle again after the next potential sexual activity-exposure.

I'm Almost Positive™ describes a neurotic state of being; it became like a nerve-wracking gamble with mortality to some. Depending on the HIV test results, the outcome and diagnosis could add another layer to the value and focus on feeling ashamed and inadequate, already for being gay.

Feeling the angst of I’m almost positive™ is still present for some gay men, but it is hopefully significantly reduced after more effective treatments, use of PrEP and markedly fewer incidences of AIDS diagnoses or deaths from HIV/AIDS.

Some value judgments and stigma about HIV linger in the Gay Male Community (GMC). HIV-status remains on the radar screen for some gay men, as they summarize their valuation of other gay men or of themselves; this tends to be more relevant to gay men born before 1980 or so.

Even with PrEP prescriptions and improved, more stable treatments that create less transmission or undetectable status, some stigma related to HIV remain in the GMC. Feeling like a have-not means feeling inadequate based on unnecessary comparison to other gay men. Some HIV-positive gay men may still feel ashamed and damaged.

HIV-positive gay men must overcome or manage any lingering resentment, envy, or idealization of HIV-negative gay men or even of unaffected heterosexual men. The consequences of maintaining critical judgments about HIV-positive gay men will complicate the ability to deflect feeling like a have-not. However, we have little control over other people's judgmental beliefs or ignorance.

Furthermore, HIV has a different meaning for most gay men compared to straight men, especially those who lived as young and middle-aged gay male adults in their 20's-30's, or so, and older, through the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and in to the 1990s.