Although HIV is not gender specific, the 2016 rates for new transmissions were highest for men who have sex with men (MSM). Pacific communities have an important role to play in ending HIV by staying safe, testing often and getting on treatment early.
HIV is on the rise in Aotearoa – an estimated 1 in 15 gay and bisexual men of varying cultural identities are HIV positive. Having sex without a condom? The risk of HIV is really high. You need to test for HIV every three months. While treatments have improved massively, HIV is still a serious long-term health condition.
WE NEED TO TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
Getting tested for HIV is where we start. You can get free HIV tests at 20 locations across the country. In New Zealand, if you test positive for HIV, treatment and services are open to you, regardless of your residency status.
If you are uncomfortable talking about any of this with your doctor, or want help finding a doctor, you can contact the NZAF for confidential information and advice.
Safe sex is really important whether you are a top or a bottom or like to switch it up – having great and safe sex is your right.
Condoms provide the most effective barrier against HIV and they’re easy to get. Still getting used to condoms? Find out everything you ever wanted to know about condoms here.
Are guys asking you for casual sex without a condom? It doesn’t matter how hot he is, if you are having sex without a condom you are putting yourself at risk of HIV. Saying no isn’t always easy. If you want some confidential support or want some more information you can call the NZAF.
Put yourself first, and keep condoms and lube close at hand when you are having anal sex. Find out more about staying safe.
We need a lot more Pacific MSM to test for HIV on a regular basis. Test twice a year if you are sexually active, more often if you aren’t using a condoms every time with casual partners. Regularly having sex without a condom? You need to test once every 3 months as your risk of HIV is very high.
Don’t want to know if you have HIV? Lots of people feel this way because they are afraid of rejection from friends and family. There is a lot of support available if you do test positive for HIV. You will be automatically linked to an HIV specialist who will sort out your treatment. Treatment is free and there are a number of organisations that provide support. Testing often means you can be upfront about your HIV status and stay in control of your health. Find out more about testing here.
TREAT AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE
If you are diagnosed with HIV, there’s now solid evidence that getting on treatment as soon as possible is the best thing for your health. Treating early stops the virus in its tracks and reduces the amount of damage to your immune system.
The START study found the risk of HIV related health complications is reduced by 50% if treatment is started early. Many people are able to obtain an undetectable viral load within 6 months of starting treatment for HIV. Reaching and maintaining an undetectable viral load means the risk of passing on HIV during unprotected sex is close to zero.
GETTING MORE OF US TO TEST
In Aotearoa, we estimate there are over 1,000 people living with HIV who aren’t on treatment. Some of these will be Pacific MSM.
If you test positive for HIV, starting treatment early is the best thing you can do for your health. There is no doubt about this. Pacific MSM can lead the way by getting on HIV treatment as soon as possible and encouraging their friends to do the same.