This article was published on January 14th, 2015
Well the dirty little secret is out. Yes, you guessed it, the prejudice, and ignorance within the men’s community around HIV. In fact, the stigma around HIV is putting people at risk for acquiring it. Here is the typical scenario, whether its through geo-location apps like Grindr, Hornet, Scruff, etc., the uninformed asks “are you clean”? This assumes there are only two responses, yes or no. A no response implies you have HIV and are “dirty”. Aside from the ignorance of asking the question in the first place, it leaves those who are HIV in a position of disclosure, or not; here lays the risk. Some argue we are in an era with the younger generations of condom fatigue as humans want real human contact and risk reduction and prophylaxis is more important that the condom only messaging.
The concept of the #WeAreAllClean campaign is the brainchild of well-known HIV activist, Jack Mackenroth. In our selfie-obsessed culture, Mackenroth urges everyone to take a special selfie for an important cause to break the stigma around HIV and the concept that we are all clean.
In a community where confidentiality around status is negligible, it puts someone who is positive in a position of “shame and guilt” when the question is asked. We have all heard the comments; “Hey see the guy over there? He is so handsome. Oh and he’s Poz! Can you believe it?”. In other cases, many have been in a situation where someone wants to have bareback (bb) sex and when the partner says he wants to use a condom, the guy says “what’s wrong aren’t you clean”?
In an effort to reduce the stigma and to get better information on the HIV status of your potential partner, the best question you should be asking every single time you have a new partner is, “What is your HIV status, and when was the last time were you tested?” Asking this open-ended question reduces the stigma of HIV, it requires a specific response, and it gives you further information to make decisions on your sexual behaviours in terms of risk. It’s an important tool to have in your safer-sex toolkit.
Many health campaigns addressing HIV include risk reduction and education around the fact that anyone who has sex can, and likely will acquire a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in their lifetime. HIV is one of the more difficult to get, as it requires unprotected anal intercourse with someone with a high viral load.
Here is where the misconception emerges. Having a test two months ago does not mean you don’t have HIV. Asking someone to subjectively tell you his status is putting yourself at risk. Get informed and if you want to ensure you stay HIV free, use a condom, consider using Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and learn about Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). Talk to your primary care physician who is educated about the sexual health of men who have sex with men (m2m).
Its that simple. #Weareallclean