YOUNGER? PLAY YOUR PART
If you are a young guy who likes to fuck other guys, you have a big part to play in ending HIV. While many older guys experienced the early days of the HIV/AIDs epidemic, to many of us, HIV may seem like a thing of the past.
The reality is HIV is alive and well today. 2015 saw the largest number of new HIV diagnoses ever in New Zealand. Guys under 30 made up a significant proportion of those new diagnoses.
Because there are so few degrees of separation in our community, if we don't stay safe, HIV can spread among us very quickly. Now, more than ever, we need to look after each other. Together we can end HIV by staying safe, testing often and treating early.
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. Still getting used to condoms? Find out everything you ever wanted to know about condoms here.
PrEP is a daily pill taken by HIV negative people to protect against HIV. While PrEP is an important tool for keeping safe, it will be some time before it’s easy to access here. Learn more about PrEP.
Fucking with someone who is undetectable will significantly reduce your risk of HIV, but remember, someone's viral load can go up and down even if they are on treatment. Unless you know a person well, its hard to know for sure what their HIV status is, or whether they are undetectable. Until you know someone really well, its safest to use protection when you are having sex.
REGULAR TESTING FOR HIV IF YOU ARE NEGATIVE, OR UNSURE OF YOUR STATUS
One of the main ways HIV gets transmitted in our community is though guys fucking without a condom when they don’t know their HIV status. A recent study suggests that as many as 1 in 15 gay and bi guys in New Zealand have HIV, and 1 in 5 of them don’t know it.
Young guys have a huge part to play in getting tested for HIV. It’s something we all need to do. Testing is easy, free and quick if you go to one of the 20 rapid HIV testing locations around the country.
Test twice a year if you are sexually active, more often if you aren’t staying safe. Regularly fucking casual partners without a condom? You need to test once every 3 months as your risk of HIV is very high.
There are lots of reasons why someone might put off testing. Testing for the first time can be intimidating, but after the first time it becomes something you just do – like getting your car registered. Make getting tested for HIV part of your regular sexual health check up. If you have trouble remembering to do it, put a reminder on your phone.
Think you might be at risk of HIV? Fear of a positive test result is a common reason people put off testing. If that’s you, it’s important to know you aren’t the first person to feel that way. Even though you may feel anxious about the test, it’s better to know your status. That way you can be upfront with others and get started on the treatment you need. While HIV is serious health condition, these days, most people on treatment for HIV are leading full and active lives. Knowing your status is not only the best thing for you, its empowering and hot.
Not ready to test? If you have any questions about testing check out the information here. And if you just want to talk to someone about it, you can contact the NZAF counselling service.
TREAT AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE
Getting on treatment as early as possible is important if you are diagnosed with HIV. Many people living with HIV who are on treatment have a similar life expectancy to those who don't have the virus.
New evidence from the START study shows that getting on treatment early is the best thing for your health. It stops the virus in its tracks and reduces the amount of damage to your immune system. The study also found that the risk of HIV related health complications is reduced by 50% for those people who start treatment early.
Many people who start treatment early are able to obtain an undetectable viral load within 6 months of starting treatment. If you are able to obtain and sustain an undetectable viral load then the risk of passing on HIV through sex is virtually zero.
GETTING MORE OF US TO TREAT
In New Zealand we estimate there are 3,200 people living with HIV, but only around 2,059 people on treatment. This means there are over 1,000 people living with HIV who haven’t started treatment.
As a young person you have a big role to play in shifting these numbers. Test regularly so you can be upfront about your HIV status and take control of your health. Encourage your mates to do the same. If you are diagnosed positive for HIV, lead the way, and get on treatment early. It will be one of the most important decisions you ever make.
RainbowYOUTH is a charity that supports queer and gender diverse youth in New Zealand. They can help with lots of stuff. For more information and support visit their website.