IN A RELATIONSHIP? PLAY YOUR PART
Whether you are monogamous, monogamish or in a polyamorous situation, you and your partner(s) have a big part to play in ending HIV. In Australia, 25% of HIV diagnoses are among gay and bi guys who are in a relationship. We believe it’s around the same number in New Zealand.
REGULAR TESTING FOR HIV IF YOU ARE NEGATIVE, OR UNSURE OF YOUR STATUS
If you are sexually active you need to get tested for HIV as part of a regular sexual health check-up, even if you are in a relationship. Twice a year is the minimum. Fucking often without a condom outside the relationship? You need test for HIV every three months - your risk of HIV is very high.
Fear that a positive test result might impact the relationship is a reason some guys don’t get tested for HIV. They’re anxious that if they test positive it will put a big strain on things – particularly if there has been condomless sex outside the relationship that wasn’t planned.
For most people this is one of the most difficult scenarios they can imagine. If you are in this situation and need someone to talk to you can contact the NZAF free counselling service for support. Even though it can be scary, it is much better in the long run to test and know your HIV status. That way you are looking after yourself and your partner(s).
Another reason why people put off testing is because they don’t think they have any symptoms of HIV. It’s possible to live with HIV and not notice any specific symptoms for years. However, symptoms or not, HIV is still damaging your immune system and having adverse health effects. Delaying treatment may also reduce your treatment options and make reaching an undetectable viral load more difficult.
Staying safe is for everyone – regardless of what you’re into, your HIV status or how much sex you are having. Condoms still provide the most effective barrier against HIV and they’re readily available. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of condom use in the world – let’s keep it that way.
If you are in a relationship, staying safe involves agreements about sex outside the relationship. The important thing is that if sex happens outside the relationship, it’s safe. If it’s not safe, or not planned, there needs to be a conversation with your partner about it. It’s when honest conversations don’t happen, that the risk of HIV goes up for everyone. Conversations about unplanned or unsafe sex outside the relationship are scary for most people. If you need support to have this conversation you can contact counsellors at NZAF.
DIFFERENT HIV STATUS
If you are HIV negative and in a relationship with someone who is living with HIV you may be aware of PrEP. PrEP is a pill that provides protection against HIV and can be taken if you are HIV negative. The research shows that PrEP is effective when taken daily as prescribed. Find out more about PrEP here.
Recent findings from the PARTNER study show that if a person is able to obtain and sustain an undetectable [+U] viral load, then the chances of passing on HIV during condomless sex are extremely low.
HIV NEGATIVE AND HIV NEGATIVE
It’s important not to assume you are both HIV negative. It’s easy to trust someone quickly when you are having a great time hanging out and fucking, but until you are sure of each other’s HIV status you need to use protection.
If you are considering condomless sex, both of you need to get tested before you go there. Get tested once and then again after the window period. During the window period, condoms need to stay on – with everybody.
BOTH LIVING WITH HIV
If you are both living with HIV you have an important part to play in preventing the virus from being passed on, particularly if you are in an open relationship.
There is a very small risk of two guys living with HIV giving each other a different strain of HIV if one of them has a strain that is resistant to the others' medication.
If you are in an open relationship and having sex with someone who is HIV negative then condoms provide the most effective physical barrier to HIV as well as providing some protection against other STIs.
If you are already on treatment then your doctor will be monitoring your viral load. Reaching and sustaining an undetectable viral load means your chances of passing on HIV through sex are extremely low. One of the main causes of viral load blips is not taking your medication as it is prescribed. In a relationship with someone else who is also living with HIV? You can support each other to be adherent.
*Disclaimer: In New Zealand if you are HIV positive and you do not take reasonable precautions to prevent passing on HIV (for example, using condoms) you are legally required to declare your HIV status. Read more.
TREAT AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE
New research has confirmed that if you are diagnosed with HIV then getting on treatment as soon as possible is the best thing for your health. Treating early significantly extends life expectancy and can make getting your viral load down to undetectable more achievable. Early treatment also reduces the risk of HIV-related health complications by more than 50%.
If you are diagnosed positive for HIV seek treatment as early as possible. It's one of the most important decisions you will make in your life.