Furries & HIV

HIV is scary.

This article is going to scare some people. Some will find it difficult to read because it makes them feel queasy. Some people won’t click the “Continue reading” button due to fear.

Fear is a natural response. All people are naturally risk averse. We prefer to pretend that scary things like HIV don’t exist. We prefer to be ignorant. We find the following topics uncomfortable:

  • Furries who are HIV positive.
  • The incidence of HIV infection.
  • The symptoms you’ll experience if you contract HIV.

As Michael Harris, a gay Canadian journalist and author, wrote in 2011:

I live in fear — because HIV is a cipher for everything that constrains my sexuality and my potential for happiness.


The furry community is often perceived to be at risk of a HIV outbreak because we are closely sexually interconnected, far more so than a normal social group. There are three main reasons for our close interconnectedness:

  • Furries don’t strongly separate along gender or sexual preference lines. So a completely heterosexual furry male (or homosexual female) is likely to have a ‘short route’ for infection via a homosexual male.
  • The furry community is relatively sexually active. Consider that the average American, aged 15 to 44, has had just five sexual partners (Ref).
  • The furry community is fairly incestuous. This is because most furries socialize within the community where sexual availability is high, and furries often prefer to have sex (and relationships) with one another.

The best test of furry sexual interconnectedness that I am aware of is the Yiffchart, a social experiment conducted by Tursiae, an Australian furry. In 2007, Tursiae invited Australian furries to list their furry sexual partners, with collated results presented anonymously in a chart. The charts shows furries closely clustered together, with few ‘degrees of separation’ between any two datapoints. The results are particularly striking given the large distances between cities in Australia and the voluntary (and therefore incomplete) data collection method.

You can see the Yiffchart here (http://ofyc.thelair.org/).

There are some HIV positive furries, too. I had a chat with Yama Roo, who is HIV positive and was happy to be quoted publicly here on [a][s] (thanks Yama). Yama contracted HIV through unprotected sex with a stranger outside of the fandom. As he puts it: “It was after a bad breakup, so I just went out looking for fun”.

Yama has found that his HIV-positive status changed his relationships with other furries: “they usually run away when they hear the letters”.

Yama’s experience probably explains why the furry world has never experienced a significant HIV outbreak: our interconnectedness means that at-risk furries are likely to be identified by the community. Yama’s responsible attitude towards disclosure (“Anyone who knows me knows I’m HIV positive.” “I don’t even let [furries] flirt with me online without knowing about it.”) is probably matched by the capacity of furries to gossip.

While furry’s tight-knit community has provided some protection against HIV transmission to date, furries are placing themselves at risk by failing to practise safe sex.

I talked with Biramaye (@biramaye), an Australian furry, equality campaigner, and paid porn actor. He has noted the reluctance of many furries to use condoms, and thinks that furries should follow the gay community’s example and embrace condom usage. As he puts it, there should be “recognition of social responsibility amongst the more promiscuous”.

Biramaye’s point, that sexually active furries have a responsibility to use condoms, is simple and compelling. The need for change is illustrated by this story from Yama (before he was infected), an example of today’s furry world:

…we had a group of [furry] friends we played with. It was only those guys, and we all played bare because of it. One of them had a scare, and we all stopped playing for a while. He went outside of the group and it angered all of us. Still, instead of learning our lesson, we just stopped playing with that person (once we all tested negative for things) and started playing bare with each other again. It was pretty stupid.

Such attitudes are common within furry. Yama’s candour is rare (and greatly appreciated), but his sexual experiences are not. As he says:

[Furries] think that as long as they play inside the fandom, they’re safe. Hearing HIV makes them realise the reality and is a buzz kill, so they ignore it.

A large proportion of gay men are HIV positive. In major cities in North America (Ref), Western Europe, Australia & New Zealand (Ref), one in five men who have ever had gay sex are HIV positive. Worse, over 40% of these men do not know they are HIV positive (Ref).

This means that, assuming you live in a large western city:

  • If you have had gay sex with four men, the chance you have been exposed to HIV is greater than 50%.
  • It may statistically be safer to have sex with an HIV-positive man (with a condom) compared with a man who thinks he is negative (also with a condom). Men who are HIV-positive are likely to have sought medical treatment, and therefore have a much lower viral load than those who falsely believe they are negative.

Of course, exposure to HIV – which I define as sexual contact with an HIV-positive person – does not guarantee transmission. The transmission rate from unprotected anal sex is around 1% to 10% depending on viral load, dropping to close to zero if you use a condom.

If you have contracted HIV there are common physical symptoms which will usually occur together, two to four weeks later:

  • A very high fever.
  • A very sore throat.
  • A whole body maculopapular rash, which is like heat rash or measles.

There are a few other symptoms which are common but not universal as the first three:

  • aches and pains
  • headache
  • mouth ulcers and sores
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting and diarrhoea

HIV is, of course, very easy to avoid: always use a condom.

Condom usage among gay men has become commonplace in the wake of the 1980s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Today, condoms are much more likely to be used in homosexual intercourse than heterosexual intercourse, to the point that only around half of new HIV infections result from male-to-male sexual contact (Ref). This is despite the much greater risk of contracting HIV through gay sex, and that’s not just because a homosexual sex partner is (much) more likely to be HIV-positive:

  • HIV transmission rates are higher for anal sex than for vaginal sex.
  • Transmission rates are much higher when the penetrative partner is HIV-positive. This means that HIV transmission from women to men is rare.

Condoms as a normal part of gay sexual contact is reinforced by many facets of gay culture. This includes fantasy representations of gay sex – the porn.

Condom usage is depicted in 80% of gay porn scenes, compared with 3% of straight scenes. Gay porn scenes without condom usage are typically marked as being unusual by the term ‘bareback’, and some gay male audiences regard such scenes as ‘viewing death on the screen’ (Ref).

Such depictions help make condoms an expected element of gay sexual contact. There is an argument that increased visibility of condoms in furry art would similarly normalize their usage among furries. As Biramaye puts it: “most [furry] art is bareback fantasy“.

Yama’s experiences also suggest that depictions of furry sexual contact should include condoms more often:

As for the furry fandom, it seems for us majority of the fandom works off of innocence. We came into the fandom young, we have cute characters, and cute words for things. We don’t fuck, we yiff. We snuggle, we cuddle, we’re very open about the innocence and the cuteness of it. I think a lot of the fandom chooses not to believe in HIV because it destroys that feeling. We all go off to a fantasy land. Furries (in art and stories mostly) don’t get HIV. They fuck who they want, and they have fun, and they don’t have to worry about consequences.

Most of the fandom is done on the internet, and in the mind. It’s an escape, and it has a world of its own. The unfortunate side effect of that is thinking that a mental escape also equals a physical one. We can choose to ignore the social rules of the regular world all we want, that’s the mental aspect, but you can’t physically remove your body from the rules that govern it. I think that’s where things go wrong, and I think that’s why most furs “choose” to ignore that STDs even exist.

Furry art, of course, is often set in a world where condom usage would be anachronistic (such as in a medieval setting) or otherwise out of place. However much furry art is ‘real world’ enough to include condoms. Based on a keyword search of e621.net, I estimate that condoms are depicted in less than 1% of penetrative furry porn although, happily, such depictions show condoms in a positive context: either as a fetish item or as a positive part of the seduction process.

Condoms sometimes appear in the written furry world too: [adjective][species]’s own Kyell Gold uses them at times in his novels, including in the upcoming Out Of Position 3.

Yama goes further:

I think [increased depiction of condoms in furry art] would only be a small start. One of the main ways furries interact and see each other is at conventions. I think cons should, for one, hand out condoms. The second thing they should do at conventions is have a safe sex panel. Possibly even have someone who is dealing with HIV who is willing to talk at the panel. I think in person, real life awareness, is the first step to getting the word out. The Internet can be ignored, but if someone who you’re talking to has it, and is telling you their stories, it’s harder to ignore. You can’t just turn them off.

I agree. I started researching this article sceptical of the value of condom depiction in furry art, but become otherwise convinced as I learned more and chatted with other furries – Yama and Biramaye in particular. Free condoms are handed out at many sci-fi conventions, a practice that should be emulated at furry conventions. The logic is compelling: normalization of condom usage will reduce HIV transmission rates within the furry community.

Hopefully this article is a small step in the right direction. I would like to encourage you to share this article among your furry friends and social groups: forums, Twitter, FA, whatever. I’m also curious to hear your thoughts and reactions – you can comment below or contact me directly at jm@furrynet.com (email/MSN).

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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68 thoughts on “Furries & HIV

  1. I’m rather glad this article was written. It is a topic that is spoken about so rarely in the fandom, and when it is they are often excluding rather than embracing. It’s rather odd to me. There seems to be an air of, “Not us.” which is the stupidest thing I can think of anyone saying. We’re all at risk, don’t risk others lives just because you like to go bare.

    As someone who does love it bare, I can understand. But I also have no trouble, and in fact some times prefer wrapping up. Due to a sensitivity issue. And often found it quite annoying to the point of ending the encounter when I’ve brought out the condoms to have push back of, “Nahh i’m clean it’s cool.” Or the worse, “Oh you like condoms and rubber things?”

    On the topic of arts, it seems to be that the set of those who make and view the furry art relating to condoms. Are relegated to a fetish group. Those who use them because they like them rather than because it’s the smart thing to do. Or because it makes things too real.

    I could easily go on on why people enjoy their erotic art, videos, and stories to be broken from reality and how the addition of condoms makes it far too real for them to find enjoyable but that’s for another time. In short, thanks for talking about something so few will.

    1. Thanks Dach, your kind words are much appreciated.

      My keyword search on e621 confirmed exactly what you’re saying: that most depictions of condoms are in a fetish context. I think that’s good (because it’s positive), but it’s no surprise that some furries go on assume that condom usage must be fetish-related. All the more reason for them to be depicted more regularly as a normal part of sexual contact.

      1. Just as a caveat-emptor, E621 is a very selective subsection of furry art and only a small group of furries get their art there. Add to that the tagging is often incomplete and only select artwork is ever even posted there (not to mention a large DNP list), and it really crumbles as a valid place to conduct useful research. While I agree it can give a general idea, the margin of error is likely quite large.

        1. Unfortunately, e621 is the best research tool I am aware of. I know it’s hardly comprehensive, but the statistics from the keyword search are pretty compelling: about 1 in every 1000 posts (total posts over 225,000) are tagged ‘condom’. Given this, I’m comfortable enough to conclude that less than 1% of pics depict condoms, which is a rate ten times higher.

          My conclusions on how condoms are depicted is based on a scan through the tagged pics. Purely professional browsing of fury erotica, of course.

          1. The thing is, far from all of those 225,000 images are tagged at all, far fewer that are tagged properly. So the real figure may be 1% or it may be 5%. I don’t know about you, but that’s a big difference to me. I think that would make the difference, honestly, in making the issue visible and send a message.

  2. Interestingly, I’ve actually received several negative comments on some furry art I’ve drawn that depicted condom use.
    Some comments alluded to the fact that the condom use made the characters look “slutty and sleazy” and “ruined the fantasy”.

    1. Furry fandom is diverse enough that no matter what you do, there will be detractors. I, for one, like seeing condom use in furry art – and I’d like to see more. So here’s my positive feedback about it. =) Also, keep in mind that for a lot of furs, seeming slutty is a BONUS, even if using protection. ;D A ton of furs are shy and idealize characters that are bold and forward and getting exactly what they desire in life. Doing it safely and responsibly is just that much more sexy to me!

        1. Absolutely. =) And I’m all for that, too! I will say that in the last few months I have indeed seen more condoms and condom use in furry art, even before this article was posted. I think there’s a very small but already growing trend to show this display of responsibility in furry art.

    2. Yup, when researching this article and chatting with furry friends about the concept, I heard the “ruining the fantasy” line a few times myself. Interestingly, some people said that they really liked to see condoms being used, because it made the acts “seem closer to reality”. It just goes to show how important interpretation is.

      By the way, can you give us a link to your gallery? I’m sure some people visiting here would like to take a look, and I’d like to be able to link to you when/if we follow up on this article.

      It’d also be greatly appreciated, perhaps on a future pic, if you could link back to this article here to help explain why depicting condoms is good for the furry community.

  3. Personally, I actually like to see condoms and condom use in furry art. For me it’s not a kink or fetish reason, it’s because I live in the real world where condoms are a sign of safety and security. Seeing them being used by characters instantly makes me like and be drawn to them more because I’m seeing them as safe, protective and concerned about the health of themselves and their partner. It’s hygiene, just like taking a shower or brushing your teeth, and I agree that furries in general need to disassociate the stigma from it.

    1. As I mentioned to Zilch, this is the flip side of the “ruining the fantasy” comment. You’ll be pleased to hear that several furries I spoke with during the gestation of this article reflected your words almost exactly.

    1. Morgan, thanks for the kind words and I’m really pleased to hear you’ll be contributing to the cause in your own way. Can you give us a link to your gallery? I’d like to be able to reference you when/if we follow up on this article.

      And please link back to this article, to help explain why you’re showing condom usage.

  4. Personally, the reason I prefer not to use condoms (Apart from using them for birth control) is that it seems to imply distrust in your partner, it’s an environment were you want to be relaxed and happy, not suspicious and worried. Much better to know you’re safe through testing and knowing your partner. Although I have felt at risk twice, both times from male partners. Having felt safe and comfortable at the time, but the easyness of shown love and compassion turning into honest admission of “I lied just so I could get a root” even from an ex-boyfriend I had known and trusted implicitly for just under two years. Does make me wish I had used protection at the time, if they had lied to me about motive then I certainly couldn’t trust anything else about them, I now get tested before and after every partner. Fortunately I’ve not had anything left with me apart from a bit of bitterness and regret, but at least the good experiences outweigh those ones. Anyway, as long as I keep on focussing on finding a good longterm relationship to be in, while enjoying the time and relationship (and perhaps occasional experimentation) with close trusted friends. While keeping a watchful eye and making it clear that I’m not interested in anything purely sexual (Porn and a hand is more than enough for that need) I should be as safe as anyone who has sex could be.

    1. Hello Anon, I appreciate your time and candour to make this comment. Obviously the article is intended to change the mind of people like yourself. However your opinion is commonly held within furry, and it doesn’t surprise me that your local furry friends either feel the same way, or are not actively resistant.

      Having said that, I want to point out that your belief, that you “should be as safe as anyone who has sex could be”, is demonstrably wrong. I’m guessing that you live in Australia from the way you use ‘root’ (I’m originally from Perth), which means that it is very likely that you live in, or around, one of the capital cities. In such a place, you stand as much chance catching HIV from someone positive (without a condom) than someone who thinks they are negative (also without a condom, because some people who are negative are wrong, and they tend to have much higher viral loads). Failing to use a condom is, simply, not safe.

      You say you’re careful with your sex partners, yet you’ve already experienced two scares. Pretty clearly you’re not careful enough.

      People who contract HIV are people with your attitude. It’s not just a personal risk you are taking either – you’re risking the health of your friends as well. It’s not complicated to see that condom usage implies personal responsibility, not ‘distrust’.

      Perhaps it is worth, at least, raising the topic with your friends to see their reaction. Perhaps you could share this article.

      Again, thanks for sharing. I’m aware that this response probably comes off as a bit preachy and for that I apologise. Your comment provides a good counterpoint to the article itself.

  5. It’s worth noting that european conventions such as Eurofurence and Confuzzled have been including fliers, leaflets and printed announcements promoting safe-sex in the conventions conbooks and complimentary goodie-bags for many years.

    1. And perhaps they could take an extra step and include a condom into their goodiebag, for the 18+ crowd at least. (I was at CF this year and don’t recall seeing one. I can’t speak for EF.)

      For what it’s worth, I chatted with the RBW organizers while writing this article. They didn’t include condoms, simply because they didn’t think of it.

      1. I have been trying for YEARS to get the US conventions I’ve been involved with to distribute condoms, and I’ve been told time, and time again, “No, it would be promoting sex!”

        I wish folks would get real, sex is gonna happen anyhow, you have a largely male attendance with a median age of 24, what do people think is going to happen, genial games of go fish? Sex always happens at cons, I believe is a part of why we go.

      2. As far as I remember Eurofurence has stopped handing out “safe sex” flyers after 2010, which means the last two Eurofurences had no such flyers.

        I personally think such a decision is a step going backwards in terms of making people aware, cause we all know that stuff does happen behind closed doors whether you hand out said flyers or not.

        I think that decision was mostly dictated from PR and “giving a clean, politically correct image of the fandom”

  6. This all still leaves me puzzled as to where the association between furry fandom and permissive sexual activity actually began. I’ve never understood it, and find it quite alien.

    1. I think for that, you need to dig way, way back to the first furry conventions, and into fen gatherings and events in general.

      To start with the latter, fandoms are a sort of subculture that has popped-up around various thematic or cultural phenomenon for decades now. With the advent of affordable long-range transportation coupled with broadcast media, it gave people from distant areas the ability to connect with fellow like-minded individuals who were ‘into’ something like Star Trek, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, King Arthur, Bugs Bunny, ad infinitum. Events evolved into subcultures of people who spent much of their free time co-fantasizing and roleplaying, which inadvertently built communities of (often) open-minded people with a willing bent on exploration and fantasy. Along with that came an open mind in the area of drug use and sexuality as well, often times. As a regular attendee of ‘fen’ events for over 20 years now, I can say that while the amount of sexual availability may not seem exceptionally higher than in mainstream society, it is at least more open and embraced. (For clarity, ‘fen’ is a term commonly used to describe someone who is involved in some sort of fandom-based subculture, be it furry, sci-fi, fantasy, renfaires, etc.)

      Come forward to circa 1987 with the first furry convention, ConFurence 0 hosted by Mark Merlino, which was mostly operated by experienced fen from various other subcultures. So it had a strong start being based on the same mentality and open-mindedness from people engaged in the existing brew of alternative/fantasy fandoms as a launching point. Add to that the fact that Mark Merlino heavily solicited the local gay community to attend his events (his personal preference), and you’ve mixed two highly sexually-charged groups into the foundation of a wholly new fandom: furry fandom. For many, many years the homosexual bent lingered (I remember when I joined furry fandom in 1995, it seemed like there were 15 males to a female, and nearly everyone was gay) and sexuality has always been a strong foundation of furry fandom, most likely due to the open-mindedness (or extreme interest in sexuality of the founding forebears such as Mark Merlino, Reed Waller, Kate Whorley and Lisa Jennings as it may be) and the interesting and unique slant furry ads to sexuality.

      Coming forward another 15 years, furry is on the verge of being a mainstream subculture, new members are joining the ranks in record numbers, and those of us who started out in the sex-positive liberal-minded atmosphere of the early furry fandom now have families and children. All of that has been bringing a more family-minded and sexually-downscaled attitude to furry conventions, furry art and the ‘furry lifestyle’ as it were. Right now you can join the furry fandom and be mystified by the strange sexual context and not ever have to be involved – but 15 years ago I don’t feel it was possible to ignore it. Cultures change with time. =)

      This is a very simplified explanation, but hopefully helps give you a better understanding about where furry fandom has come from and why some of the traits exist that are there.

      1. Well, the first furry convention I ever attended was in 2004, but I’ve been active online with furry fandom since the early nineties. What you say sounds more like a rationalization after the fact to me than a factual explanation. Furry literature and art go back much farther than any of us do. Anthropomorphics have been around since ancient times, and though there were occasional sexual elements, they were nothing like the over-emphasis we see today.

        There seems to me to be more of a chicken-and-egg issue to it. Did furry become oversexed because someone accused it of being so, thus attracting a lot of people who had only one thing on their minds (if you can call them minds) or was it really always that way and I’m too blind to see it (despite multiple degrees and years of study in literature and the arts?)

        1. I think the rampant sexuality was imported by the founders of the “modern furry fandom” as a subculture. That was the whole point of what I was stating.

        2. I’m super-late on this; but my understanding is that furry was, in part, born from the concept of depicting mature topics, including (but not limited to) sexual themes; and that this was in part what distinguished it from mere “funny animals”. This goes back to the inclusion of “Omaha the Cat Dancer” in “Vootie #8”.

          Fandom also tends to provide that which is not being provided by the mainstream. In the last century we’ve seen lots of companies focus on cartoons as children’s entertainment. When those children grow up, they still like the humour of cartoon characters and the style of artwork, but they don’t necessarily want to stick with children’s stories.

          For the community side, you could say that furry fills a hole for those who don’t feel like they belong to other local communities. I’m not convinced by the “founding fathers” explanation, if only because furry probably wouldn’t have lasted this long if it didn’t meet a underserved market.

  7. This is a tough one and somewhat unique. Furry by its very nature is escapist and fantasy, from the ground up. We adore and want to be creatures that never were, never are, nor never could be (except in our wildest dreams). Risks in our fantasy world are as arbitrary as our fictional creatures. Combine that with furry artwork intended to arouse and titillate, and you’re much further removed than the ‘reality’ of condoms, than any gay porn might be.

    I’m not sure it’s realistic to suggest people quell their fantasies, but certainly a lot more can be done to spread awareness and really basic facts, out there in the real world. As has been said above, EU cons do have pretty nice safe sex advice leaflets, we could stand to see more free condoms too. American cons, especially the squeaky-clean family-friendly sex denying ones, could stand to bite the bullet and put out the sex advice and free condoms too. Pretending it doesn’t go on benefits no one.

    1. Frankly, I don’t understand the hush-hush from convention leaders in the US about the sexual aspect of furry fandom. They all partake in it and are involved in it, just like other furries. It’s not dirty or filthy to admit it, and it can be painted in a positive light. It just seems like abject denial, and it confuses people who see leaders present furry fandom as squeaky-clean but then who are renowned for drunken gay orgies in their hotel rooms during the events they are operating… Sex isn’t dirty, it’s a normal part of humanity, and it’s better for everyone to be open about it than embrace ignorance and dishonesty.

      1. That’s exaggerated. We don’t “all” get involved. I have been in a monogamous relationship (and yes, I’m gay) for more than 30 years. I’m neither inclined nor tempted to change that.

        1. I said THEY all, not YOU all or ALL furries. THEY as in the convention organizers. I’ve never met one that wasn’t very obviously sexually active with their con-goers.

        1. I understand the sentiment and the reasoning, but if sci-fi and other fandom conventions can do it, then furry conventions can do it.

          By the way, I’d love to see Flayrah get involved in the discussion…

          1. Well, that depends on what “it” is! There’s a difference between surreptitiously leaving a box of free condoms outside the entrance to a late-night dance and promoting public displays of sexual attraction as a highlight of the event.

            I think that after what some saw as hedonism of the nineties, and strong negative media coverage at the turn of the century, there was a move to distance the fandom and its events from perceptions of sexuality, to the extent of outright denial in some areas. Perhaps it’s time for the pendulum to swing back a little.

            As for Flayrah, you’re welcome to submit a piece! I’m not much of an opinion writer, myself; bad things tend to happen when I try…

    2. Furry erotica is certainly subject to more fantasy than regular gay porn, so there are more situations where condom depiction would be out of place. If gay porn depicted some sort of medieval scene (and I’m sure these must exist somewhere), then condoms could be a bit jarring as well.

      But a lot of furry art shows furry characters as fantasy stand-ins for real people. Condoms can, and should, be shown in these cases: it brings the art closer to reality and should, if anything, intensify the fantasy.

  8. I like this article. Perhaps the spread of other STDs could also be discussed – for example, the rates of chlamydia in Australia have tripled in the last decade. The rates of gonorrhea have increased as have the rates of syphilis in men who have sex with men.

  9. So as a person in an open ish relationship my partner and I have both discussed the rules about condom use. We don’t use them together but when we play with others we do use them. Also we know all the others we play with well, but no matter how much we trust them we wouldn’t do stuff without protection. We also both get checked regularly regardless as.

    It isn’t the best solution of course, only a monogamous couple should have unprotected sex, but it’s an effective half way measure both of us have agreed on.

    As a writer though I will be add condom into stories that are more realistic or if the setting allows for it. It’s not any particular feeling of social responsibility but because it should just be the automatic reaction we have when having sex with someone you have no extended sexual history with. In my personal life I have found it does tend to disrupt the flow of events, but not massively, and of course in fiction it is as simple as a single sentence. If they use lube they could use a condom!

    in art I like seeing them there, and not in a sexual fetishism way either, it just ads a little more realism. The real life porn I watch usually has condoms so why shouldn’t the furry stuff?

    1. Putting a condom on doesn’t have to interrupt the flow of things in bed, in my experience. It certainly can, and if someone disdains it then it only adds to the displeasure. But putting a condom on can be a sexy experience, esp if you have your partner do it and find a fun/pleasurable way to do so.

  10. First of all, I’d like to say that this was a very well written and somewhat eye-opening article! It has definitely made me stop to think about the whole HIV situation within the fandom.

    Though I’m sure you’re not intending to scaremonger, your article does seem to lack some key information that would be relevant to anyone reading who was concerned.
    In naming such broad symptoms for such a terrifying ailment is not dissimilar to packets of paracetamol listing side effects such as death. With a complicated disease such as HIV, there is no cookie cutter listing of symptoms that you will or will not develop – As is the nature of a lot of autoimmune diseases.
    Also, I can guarentee that after reading your article there will be some folk who would rush immediately to their local GUM clinic to be screened without paying any mind to the fact that after unprotected intercource (or any high-risk transmission behaviour), you need to wait 12 weeks before getting tested to be confident that you’re in the clear. Whilst a some HIV infections are caught between 2-6 weeks of the initial potential infection date, it is only after a painful 3 months wait that you’re able to consider the results conclusive enough to conclude that you’re HIV negative. This is something that I cannot stress strongly enough, given the number of friends who have told me that they had a scare but followed it up the next week with a HIV test.
    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. As you so rightly stated in your article, “HIV is, of course, very easy to avoid: always use a condom.”

    1. Hi Blue, thanks for the kind words. Those symptoms are not symptoms you can expect if you are HIV-positive: those are symptoms you can expect shortly after becoming infected. They are (which was news to me) almost universal – essentially anyone suffering flu-like symptoms 2-4 weeks after potential exposure to HIV has cause for concern. And as you rightly point out, regardless of those symptoms, it still takes 12 weeks to be sure you’re in the clear.

    2. Just a minor nit: HIV is a virus (well, family of related viruses) that attacks the immune system, it is not an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are caused by your immune system itself, hence the name.

      And yes, to further clarify: it is possible to become infected with HIV without ever experiencing any symptoms. That’s part of why it’s so insidious and so dangerous.

      Finally, I should point out that the CDC has an entire website devoted to HIV: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/

      1. I replied this morning after just waking up without having had a coffee! In hindsight I meant immunocompromising rather than autoimmune.

  11. I have a few comments about the piece which I’ll post on both Flayrah and [adjective][species].

    Firstly I do think it’s important to use condoms. I’m part of the furry fandom but I’m also in a country which has the highest HIV/AIDS level in the world. I think it’s currently at around 20% of the population (lower in certain circles but it’s always in your mind). I know not everything I do is the safest but I will insist on testing before doing anything particularly risky and condoms for any penetration. It’s easier for me because my university provides free HIV tests and free condoms.

    If you want more condoms in art it might be best to use them as a fetish item. I’ve got some furry pics that depict condoms and know at least one artist who thinks it makes pics sexier. But the problem, and it has been mentioned, is that furry is a fantasy. Disease is reality. They don’t mix well. Just like we can’t do vore and macro/micro activities in real life, most will be opposed to bringing reality into their fantasies. I got moaned at when I pointed out a scene described in one story would require one of the characters to pass through a wall.

    Lastly is just a point of interest. You talk about how furs haven’t embraced condom use and that it’s widespread in the gay community. I find that really strange because we know there is a large overlap because many furs are gay or bisexual. I can see two ways to explain that and it would be nice to know which is correct. Either gay furries are isolated in the fandom and are not part of the larger gay community, resolving the paradox, or furries are already aware of the issues of safe sex but don’t include it in their furry fantasies. You mentioned there is a lack of acceptance of condoms, making the former more likely, but how reliable is that? Is that from some survey or just a few peoples experience that may be local? Complaining about a sex panel at a con is not necessarily a rejection of it’s aims.

    1. Hi Rakuen. In the small flood of comments this article received – here and elsewhere – I missed yours here. It’s a pity, because it’s an intelligent one and you raise some interesting points. Better late than never I suppose.

      I think you’re spot on about condoms as a fetish item, or at least as part of the seduction process. By making them sexy rather than medicinal, it’s going to be a lot easier for people to incorporate them as part of the fantasy. I think that’s how they can be (and often are, although less often in furry circles) perceived, which is a good and healthy thing.

      When it comes to condom use by furries, I’m not drawing on any data. It’s not a question that has ever been asked in a widespread survey as far as I am aware. Any comment about the apparent lack of acceptance is always going to come down to opinion rather than evidence, so you’re right to point out that there are always different ways of looking at the same issue.

      I’ll stand by my article of course, and I do think that furry in general, and furry conventions specifically could do more to normalize condom use. Just a few weeks ago, I heard of another couple of furs who recently tested HIV-positive. Given furry attitudes towards condoms in general, I expect infections become more and more common. I remain convinced that we’re a vulnerable group.

  12. As you said furs keep it in the fandom. WIth us not playing with outsiders it helps to prevent STDs. Most furs are innocent virgins when they enter the fandom and stay innocent with other innocent people. While there is a lot of sex in the fandom its with people that are innocent and STD free so that is why we feel safe not using a condom. I feel that if you play outside the fandom, as this roo did. . .well your putting yourself at risk for getting an STD….and he proves this fact all the more true. Sure not every fur is pure as most but most furs know how to smell a real fur from posers and we’ll more then likely know whats going on. For those that are unable to tell the differences or those that dont know how to spot things well….better the stupid then us.

      1. I believe I’d call that delusion rather than Naivete; but apples and oranges I guess.

        As to the topic: Condoms should be a must no matter who, what or where you are getting sexy. Furry or not condoms are your absolute friend and should be used each and every time you pursue night time encounters. I don’t care if your partner swears up and down that they are a virgin. They could be Jesus’ momma and you would still be better off wearing a condom.

  13. Thank you so much for posting this article! It was very well written, and informative. I’m honestly glad that it exists, so that folks can get a dose of reality. Sure, going bareback with your partner sounds hot and all, but is it really worth the risk? I love my boyfriend to death, but I would never go bareback until we’ve both been tested. I haven’t had sex yet, and he says he hasn’t either, but we both want to play it safe, and I don’t blame him a bit!

  14. This article is very well written and I am glad someone created it! The last thing any of us want to see is an HIV outbreak in our community. But it is possible sadly. Most furries as the article states, conduct the majority of there sexual behavior within the confines of the community. But as most of us already know. If an outbreak did start at a con somewhere it would have the dangerous potential to spread like a wildfire across several cons before any of us realize whats going on and try to stop it since HIV often is asymptomatic at first. And that is because of the very fact we are so open with each other sexually, which I still don’t think is a bad thing if done responsibly… Myself, I get tested for HIV yearly with my checkup, as of this September I was still negative :).

    We do need safe sex panels at cons, I would like to sit in on one. For the mere fact, furry or not, were humans and humans like to enjoy sex…

  15. Thanks for writing this article. :3

    I was diagnosed as positive last year, and it sort of became rather more public knowledge than I had hoped. In the middle of it all, I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with Yama Roo during the worst of it. He’s a very nice guy, and very knowledgeable on the subject (if a little hard to get a hold of :p). I was very fortunate that he was available to talk to me, because his insight as someone living with it was invaluable.

    I was rather public about my incident as well, mostly in hopes that people would learn from it. The testing center I went to had a pretty good spike in the amount of people they had coming in for a while, so that was about the extent of what I could hope to accomplish.

    I fully agree that HIV and STIs are a subject that need to be discussed, especially since the fandom has the affinity for sex and sexuality that it does. The sheer amount of people that don’t like to use condoms if they feel they can avoid it is staggering. Shamefully, I was the same way. I’ve known people far more reckless than I was, that may still not have learned their lessons on this.

    Probably the thing that baffled me the most about all of this was how little I knew about it, and just how much misinformation there is out there. Everyone could so easily keep themselves safe by just using a simple condom. Looking back, I never felt that much of a difference between with and without, I just went without one to keep my partners happy if they wanted me to. I actually let myself get talked out of using protection by a guy I was seeing regularly, just a month into getting to know him. I don’t think I’ll be able to forgive him, there, much less myself for being so malleable.

    I guess I’m rambling, but I really do want to thank you for writing this article. It is great that this is still a subject that warrants discussion. I fully agree with Yama about the safer sex panels, but getting people to listen to the message itself can be difficult sometimes. I sincerely hope that the fandom at large doesn’t have to have more people get infected for everyone to start taking this seriously.

    1. Hi Shakko, thanks heaps for taking the time to comment, and thanks for the kind words. I’m sorry that you contracted HIV but pleased to see that you’re being open and responsible. Like Yama, I’m sure it might often seem easier to keep your status private, but it helps the community in general when HIV is presented as something ‘real’.
      Your (previous) lack of knowledge isn’t rare, as this article has proven in the week or two since we published it. The comments here reflect well on the excellent commenters we have here at [a][s] – intelligent, knowledgable and thoughtful – but some of the feedback I’ve seen elsewhere has been (occasionally) surprisingly ignorant. The responses have been very positive though, so it’s nice to know that there are plenty of responsible furries out there.

  16. I think it’s smart to put this information here. I think it’s a good idea to have an imagination in the furry world, so RP is a must… but not all things are second life

  17. A bit late comment, but still… I would like to tell the same thing from the perspective of Russian furry community – reluctance to use condoms by community members is just scary.

    Just let me tell my story. I’ve entered the community at the age of 21, when I was a fool regarding relationships, thinking that I must do what everyone else want, pleasing as many people as possible, and being not able to distinguish good people from bad. As result, I had twelve sexual partners in two years, and possibly I could have even more, but fortunately I stopped when I suffered from major HPV infection (and its gruesome consequences), which crippled my personal life. The problem with HPV is, it’s impossible to cure, just like HIV.

    The disease was the ultimate reason why I have abandoned community completely. I have broken all the contacts with all furries. I have changed my telephone number, moved to other city and completely erased myself from FA / DA / VCL, removed social network profiles, and such. I have removed furry from my memory completely, because in my mind “furry” now equals with “incurable sexually transmitted disease”. Moreover, I just couldn’t look at and talk to furries that I knew, knowing that I carry some nasty infection, and I could have infected them as well. Of course, I have warned my past sexual partners that I carry HPV, but I was shocked how simple-minded some of them were, telling me that “surely it wasn’t them, period”. As you may understand, no one of them were using condoms. Except just one partner, who was bullied and banished from the community.

    My self-removal from the community was especially painful for me, because I had very delicate beliefs connected to furry. Of course, now they are gone – there is no such thing as “furry spirituality” for me anymore, neither I gain inspiration from it, neither I find furry art cute or beautiful. I have completely ruled out homosexual relationships out of my life as well, and I hope it’s for good.

    Many years have passed since then. Unfortunately, now I understand that I lost lots of good friends there, and possibly lost my realization as an artist and, generally, as a person. Possibly I shouldn’t have done it that way. But back then it was pure shock and life trainwreck, considering that I had no sexual experience prior to furry fandom, and I believed that it’s just not possible that such kind people could carry something deadly. I guess, it’s also the reason why so many furries just don’t want to believe they really need to play it safe and use condoms.

    1. Hi v, thanks for taking the time to comment and tell your story. I’m sorry that you have had such a negative experience.

      However—while you are correct to say that HPV transmission risk can be greatly reduced by using condoms, and that HPV is incurable—it’s wrong to say that HPV is like HIV.

      80% of sexually active men, homosexual or heterosexual, will end up with HPV. In the majority of cases, people are not aware they have it because most people with HPV don’t get any symptoms. Of those unlucky people that do get symptoms, like yourself—genital/anal warts are pretty gross and are most common—those symptoms will disappear within a year or two. With treatment (there are creams for the warts) they will go away faster.

      HPV is not “deadly”. In fact it is no big deal, unless you are female because it can cause cervical cancer. For men it is, literally, completely normal.

      All said, I’m sorry for your experiences and you can count yourself lucky that your sexual activity didn’t lead to something serious. I do hope you can find a positive way to relate with furry in the future, if only because I know how important it has been, and will continue to be, for furries like myself.

      Coincidentally, later today, we are running a short Russian-language furry survey here on [adjective][species]. (It will be published in the early evening Russian time, about 6 hours from now.) We’re interested in the size and shape of the Russian community, so I’d appreciate it if you could add yourself to the Russian speakers who fill it in. It will be open for a month or so, and is anonymous.

      1. Hi, JM, I didn’t expect such a fast reply, thanks!

        I do realize that HPV is not so serious as HIV, and sometimes I also think that I got away lucky. I learned a lot about HPV from different doctors ever since, and for me, the problem with HPV is that it could be undetectable and “hidden” for classic STD male tests. In Russia, we don’t have special STD testing or screening procedures for gay/bi men, which makes passive male sexual partners highly susceptible to become “hidden” carriers of STDs, which are only detectable by local PCR skin tests or smear tests – with HPV being only one example. Another ones include chlamydia and herpes. Hence, my STD tests may show negative results on paper, while I may still carry certain infection. In my case, HPV was detected only after five years of initial infection (before that time, all tests showed negative).

        Sure, HPV isn’t deadly by itself, I rather meant that any community member may carry something more serious, including HIV, or being not aware of carrying certain STDs, despite negative tests (see above). If we dig deeper, in far perspective, HPV may cause rectal cancer, chlamydia may cause generalized Reiter syndrome, and so on. I was lucky enough to catch low-risk HPV strains, but I have no idea which strains are running wild in our community right now – they may very well be high-risk ones.

        It’s good to note that russian furry fandom population sky-rocketed just after I left (in 2009), with the help of “vk” social network (Russian facebook equivalent). There were three or four hundreds of russian furries before vk, now there are tens of thousands… Moreover, when I look into some furry social groups in vk, I realize that it blends more and more with “classic” LGBT community – therefore, a chance for “outsider” break-in is huge.

        I’m sure that I wasn’t alone with my problem. When I was still in the community, I heard stories about furries who suddenly disappeared from community and broke all the contacts. It’s fully possible that some of them left for the very same reason. One big contributing factor is, in Russia, any type of STD is a huge social stigma, and whole theme is highly tabooed. I hope it will change in the future.

        P.S.: I can’t find a link to survey you mentioned, surely I would like to contribute! Although technically, I’m not a member of community anymore.

        1. The survey has just gone live this minute – just refresh the main page.

          We’ll be publishing and discussing the results in a month or two, and the plight of LBGT furs in Russia seems like an obvious topic. It is certainly one of the first things that people mention to me when I tell them we’re looking into the Russian-speaking population.

          If it’s okay with you, can I quote you (anonymously) from your comments here when I write that piece? And if you are interesting chatting more, you can contact me jm@furrynet.com, email/Skype.

          Thanks again for taking the time to comment, it is very generous of you to do so.

          1. Of course, feel free to use my comments as you wish. I really hope that it may help someone or change someone’s mind on certain things.

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