This article was published on November 27th, 2013
“You’re HIV positive.” Three words feared by almost every gay man. Being HIV positive will change a persons life. There’s no cure today, but researchers are working hard and have come a long way since the epidemic of the 1980’s. Today, even if you are HIV positive, it’s not a death sentence. The advancement of drug therapy is allowing people with HIV to lead regular lives. But the question remains, does living with HIV change your life?
“Change is an understatement,” said 30-year-old Vancouver resident, Corey Ouellet. “I went from being extremely sexually active, to abstinence, to having sex on occasion. I always use protection now and make sure that it goes both ways.”
Corey learned three years ago that he was HIV positive. While it’s never easy for a person to find out they have contracted the disease, Corey rose to the occasion and has become a strong advocate for safer sex, HIV awareness, and volunteering within the community.
Getting tested for HIV should be something sexually active gay men do on a regular basis. Knowing your HIV status is important for your own health and for the help of your partner(s). It’s good responsibility.
“I believe both parties need to know the risks and how to protect themselves,” said Corey. “At first this was very difficult to overcome, hence the abstinence period, but I believe it is very important to disclose to sexual partners.”
In some jurisdictions, including Canada, not disclosing your HIV status to your partner and knowingly having unprotected sex can be classified in some instances as a criminal offense. It needs to be taken very seriously.
“It’s common for people to act out, experience a range of emotions, and potentially have some unhealthy thoughts when they learn their diagnosis,” Corey explains. “Please know that you are not alone. If you experience these, there are many organizations out there to assist you in coping and accessing the resources you need to move forward.”
Vancouver is a world leader in HIV/AIDS research and has some of the best doctors, researchers, and community support programs in place. Millions of dollars have been spend on educations and prevention programs, drug treatment programs, and clinical research to find a cure. There is even collaboration with other major research centres around the world to share learnings and to find a cure.
“We are at a stage in HIV research where it is completely possible to live a full, healthy, and normal live while living with HIV,” Corey continues. “Access resources provided in Vancouver at AIDS Vancouver and Positive Living BC, including councilors and a vast network of diagnosed peers are on site to help you navigate through the challenges you are about to experience.”
With some of the best medical minds hard at work, we can be certain that it is only a matter of time until medical science cracks the code to the cure for HIV/AIDS. In the meantime, those living with the disease remain optimistic and continue to lead their everyday lives.
“Some may take the new of their diagnosis harder than others,” says Corey Ouellett. “Many do not understand that having HIV no longer means you have been dealt a death sentence.”
If you haven’t been tested for HIV within the last six months perhaps it’s time to get tested again. If you have recently tested positive for HIV, Corey leaves these words…
“You are not alone. Remember that always.”