The latest HIV surveillance report published by the WA Department of Health records the worst HIV statistics for gay men in the past 5 years. Two men under 19 and 24 gay men under the age of 29, who engaged in their natural birthright to have love, sex and intimacy also unknowingly acquired HIV. 26 gay men (aged between 30-39), 19 (40-49) and 7, fifty and above also unknowingly acquired HIV by the year ending 30 September 2014. Almost 30% of the gay men (23 of them) self reported acquiring HIV while overseas. Whether it was New York, L.A. London or Bangkok, WA is grand importer of HIV. So what could we do about it?
Stop thinking you can avoid HIV by saying so on your profile. Claiming that you only BB (i.e. bare back) so you only want to meet neg guys will not stop HIV, why? Because most of the HIV acquired overseas and in WA, is from guys who don’t test (or test often enough) and don’t know they have it. Logically people assume if I only have sex with neg guys I’ll never get it, the problem is we don’t actually know that we are negative (because we fuck BB more often than we test). Many of us just prefer to trust that we’re neg and assume the same in others. Truth be known, the HIV test currently employed is inadequate for the sexual life of many modern gay men. In can take up to 3 months to be accurately cleared of HIV, by which time many guys have already hooked up again and BB’d through their favourite mobile app. How many of us change our profiles to status unknown after we BB or say so when we are hooking up with Mr Next?
Imagine being a young guy just diagnosed and you’ve previously heard your friends trash talk or joke and trivialise people with HIV. What are your chances that a close friend who is newly diagnosed might just simply slowly withdraw from you and the scene or instead go extreme? Your ignorance about your friends living with HIV could be hurting them and you. When we hide from each other because of ignorance, stigma, fear of discrimination and judgement, our whole community is diminished. We hurt our friends and we hurt ourselves, we could be losing friendships, lovers and perhaps even the support we ourselves might need one day.
Do you know a person with HIV? you don’t? why not? There are approximately 2000 people living with HIV in Perth, the majority are still gay men. Could our own ignorance and fear behaviour be blocking an opportunity to grow, be real and loving? No one expects you to love a virus, but you can love a person living with it and have hot safe sex with them too. As a person with HIV who has been in a pos-neg relationship for almost ten years, I can vouch for love overcoming ignorant fear.
So how we going to reverse the past horror year of HIV? Well for some of us it means using condoms more often. For others it means getting tested more often. If you are diagnosed with HIV it means going onto treatments immediately for your health and so you’re not infectious. When overseas, knowing that you’re going to be big on parting, playing and somewhat condom challenged, be sure to demand and take your before pill Truvada to prevent acquiring HIV, so far if you take it as prescribed its 100% effective. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re having trouble locating a friendly doctor. Also take Truvada if you simply prefer to BB.
lastly as we start the new year lets choose to become less ignorant, less fearful and less hurtful to each other, have a most awesome, abundant and STI absent 2015.