Talking about HIV and the gay community is a touchy subject. Perhaps it has to do with our history with it. Perhaps it has to do with the perpetuating misconception that the disease is deadly and unpreventable. Regardless, if you are a gay man and you are having sex, we need to talk about it.
People don’t just wake up one morning and become HIV positive. We now know that HIV is contracted (in most cases) through a sexual act (via transfer of blood, semen and/or breast milk). We also know there are preventative things that can be done, ways to test yourself and things you can do if tested HIV positive.
1. // Play Safe //
Guys guys guys, protect yourself! Use condoms and make sure you use them for the entire experience (no taking it off halfway DOES NOT COUNT). Know that if you ever hear the line “but it feels better”, or “I don’t use condoms but I’m clean” do yourself a huge favor and zip up those pants, tuck away your blue balls and walk away. PreP is a new drug guys are using that is supposed to help prevent HIV being transferred from a positive person to a negative person. That being said, like anything there are margins of error that come with both condom and med usage, which brings me to my next point.
2. // Get Tested Regularly //
Even if I don’t have sex for 6 months (I know, a somewhat embarrassing admission) I still get tested every 6 months. And without fail, every single time my heart beats a little faster than usual, my palms begin to sweat. And then the sigh of relief. One time I had a scare. I imagined his potential of being HIV positive and when I went to the walk in clinic on Church Street I told the guy testing me my concern. After waiting for that agonizing 2 minutes, he came back with a negative test and then said, next time be more careful, he wasn’t worth it. (which hindsight he absolutely wasn’t). This is a local Toronto clinic that does the tests: http://hasslefreeclinic.org/
3. // Have the Talk //
I get it, having the STI talk is a limp dicker conversation. However, it’s all about finding the right time to do it. In my experience, the best time is before you see each other. All you say is, “May I ask what your status is?” if you see the conversation going in that direction. That way you can have a clear mind on what decision you would like to make if it happens without any primal temptation.
4. // Seek Guidance from a Doctor //
According to the guys I’ve talked to, living HIV positive in 2016 is a life that you can manage and thrive in. If you are tested positive, one of the first things you should do is see a doctor. They will give you a medical understanding of where your body is and what can be done to help you manage your status.
5. // Reach Out to Your Community //
We may have our flaws, but the best thing about the LGBT community is the fact that you can always find someone to reach out to. Find your local community center. There are support groups and even educational events that will help you learn more about HIV. This is the local Toronto chapter: http://www.the519.org/
Let’s shatter the stigma around talking openly about HIV and living HIV positive. Thoughts