This article was published on February 2nd, 2015
When you have gay friends, it really opens up your eyes to a whole new world. HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is definitely one of those worlds. It leads to a lot more questions, like, why is it that when hetero couples get together, the question of HIV never comes up?
Hetero couples are not any different at all biologically. We are all human beings, and as such, can succumb to the exact same illnesses. Since both men and women can spread the virus, things need to change. When you sleep with someone without practicing safer-sex, it’s like playing Russian roulette.
Whether you are straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender, the best way to protect yourself, and your partner(s), is to get tested regularly, and to ask your partner the simple question, “what is your HIV status, and when were you last tested?”.
During the HIV epidemic of the 1980’s and 90’s, millions of people were dying from the virus. Medical advances over the past couple of decades have changed all of that. It’s not longer an automatic death sentence. Today, people who test positive for HIV can lead healthy, normal lives, thanks to antiretroviral drugs. Someone who is exposed to HIV can even reduce their risk of HIV infection by up to 99%, by taking PEP within 72 hours!
Here’s a perspective on how HIV has impacted humans around the world. The United Nations estimates that there have been 36 million deaths from AIDS (up to 2012). That is approximately the same amount of people currently living with the virus. That is also the equivalent to the entire population of Canada.
While the gay community has received education for decades, training them to get tested, use condoms and ask their partner his or her status before sexual interactions, the hetero sexual community hasn’t had the same regard or practices around HIV.
Once antiretroviral drugs started to reduce the number of deaths of people who have HIV, HIV and AIDS fell out of the spotlight. Most straight people have misnomer that HIV is something only gay men need to worry about.
Anyone can get HIV. It can be transmitted through blood transfusions, pregnancy, using used intervenes drug needles, the exchange of blood or semen, and sexual intercourse (anal or vaginal, equally).
How can you protect yourself?
- Get tested every three months
- Talk to your partner, and ask this HIV status, before you engage in sexual activity
- Use condoms
- If you are at high risk, talk to your doctor about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to reduce your risk by up to 99%
- Don’t have sex. Haha… Joking!