You shouldn’t be scared of HIV. Really, I mean it – you should not live in fear of getting HIV as a man who has sex with men, or part of the LGBTQ community.
Did I just say “there’s no risk, go out and have bareback sex with strangers”? No. Not being scared doesn’t mean being irresponsible – but having the right information can mean that you can live in total peace with your decisions. Here below, 7 reasons you shouldn’t be scared of HIV.
1. HIV is not an easy virus to transmit
It is not an airborne disease, it cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine and it dies very quickly outside of the body. In fact, many people living with HIV can’t transmit the virus at all, but we will go further into that later. I’ve known HIV positive people whose friends were scared to breathe the same air as them, use the same cutlery, or sleep in the same bed. This isn’t only wrong but couldn’t be further from the truth. Actually, you can safely have sex with HIV positive people. Points 2 to 6 will explain why.
2. You can f*ck all you want and never catch HIV
Of course you can, if you know the right methods of protection – and there are more than one. Condoms are the most obvious. Depending where you are in the world, there are often centres and organisations that give them out for free – and you can often get them in pride events – useful as we’re just coming into pride season! Using lubricant also reduces the possibility of transmission, and the chances of the condom breaking – if you use a condom-friendly lube. If the condom breaks, as a last resource you have PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis).
3. PrEP is becoming more and more available
What’s PrEP? Pre-exposure prophylaxis – “the preemptive use of drugs to prevent disease in people who have not yet been exposed to the disease-causing agent”. Data has suggested that 99% protection is achievable if the drugs are taken every day. Although you must take into account that PrEP does not protect against other STIs and STDs. If you are considering this option you can find out more about PrEP here.
4. HIV and AIDS are not synonyms
You can be HIV positive and never develop AIDS. In fact, an HIV positive person who is diagnosed quickly and on HIV treatment (just one pill per day) has the same life expectancy as any other person. Remember, HIV is the virus and AIDS is the syndrome caused when it is not treated – today, in the developed world, it is extremely, extremely rare to develop AIDS.
5. Many people living with HIV can’t transmit the virus at all
In fact, almost everyone living with HIV and who knows they are living with HIV, and is taking treatment correctly, has a status known as “undetectable”. This means that their viral load is so low, it cannot be detected in some versions of the test. This doesn’t mean the person is “cured” – if they stop taking treatment, the virus will eventually become present again, but it does mean that they live as healthy a life as any other person. Here’s the other thing: there has never been a confirmed transmission of HIV from an undetectable HIV positive person to another person. In other words, undetectable can be considered intransmissible. Do be aware that official recommendations are still to use condoms – other STIs and STDs exist, and only you are responsible for your wellbeing, even if the other person tells you they are undetectable. HIV positive persons who do not know their HIV status may have high viral loads and can transmit the virus.
6. HIV tests are free and confidential in many parts of the world
I can’t list all the countries and centres here, but make a Google search, visit a local LGBTQ organisation or your health centre and you’ll quickly find out. Actually, I did my HIV test yesterday in the centre of Madrid, Spain. It’s a very simple test, the results can come back in as little as 20 minutes and can give you peace of mind. Do note that there is a window period – the test I took is 99.97% accurate after 45 days of exposure – although in reality, even if it was a much more recent exposure it’s likely to come up.
7. Living with HIV is not the “hell” it’s made out to be
There are a number of HIV positive people in my life – they are healthy, they have boyfriends, husbands, or are single and have amazing sex like everyone else. They take one pill per day, with minimum side effects, and that’s it. They don’t look any different, and if they don’t tell others their status it’s because of the stigma the negative population holds. You are responsible for your sexual health – but maybe something will happen, you might lose your inhibition due to drugs or you might be cheated on by a loving partner. It doesn’t really matter, if you are responsible, you can still live a complete life.
So no, don’t be scared of HIV – and definitely don’t be scared of people with HIV. The end of the HIV epidemic is in our hands, and we must all take responsibility to educate ourselves – and end the stigma which impedes the community from being open about a topic which does not need to be in the closet.
Do you have any more questions about HIV? Are you HIV positive and do you worry what people may think? Would you feel comfortable dating an HIV positive person? (You should!) Join the discussion on #playsafe on Moovz, the LGBT social network 👉 www.moovz.com/r/playsafe.