Silva Neves

Silva Neves
Psychosexual, Relationship and Couples Therapist

Thursday, 29 November 2018

World AIDS Day. The HIV stigma.

It’s World AIDS Day on the 1st December. 

Although HIV doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of people’s mind any longer, it is still a virus that once contracted, stays in your body and requires medications for life. 

The rate of HIV infection has dramatically reduced thanks to PreP, which is a very good news. And there is still hope that the excellent medical progress will find a cure one day. 

This does not mean that the problem has gone away. It is still important to look after your sexual health and to make reasonable decisions about your sex life to avoid negative consequences. 

Whilst there is much medical progress, the stigma about HIV is still very strong. 

Here is some information to combat the stigma: 

1- A HIV positive person on medication and with an undetectable viral load cannot pass on the virus. If you’re HIV negative, it is safe to have sex with a HIV positive person with an undetectable viral load. 

2- If you’re a HIV positive man with an undetectable viral load, it is your choice to disclose your status. It is the responsibility of all sexual partners to look after their sexual health, not just the one who is HIV positive. 

3- However, it is a criminal offence to intentionally transmit the virus to others without letting them know your status first. 

4- If you want to have sex with someone whose HIV status hasn’t been discussed, it is important not to make assumptions and protect your sexual health accordingly: with a condom, or PreP. 

5- You can have a sexual and romantic relationship with someone whose HIV status is different from yours. There is nothing wrong with it. HIV positive people have the same life expectancy as anyone else provided they take their medications as prescribed. 

6- Someone who chooses to be on PreP isn’t a ‘slut’ or ‘dirty’. He’s not necessarily going to orgies every weekend having bareback sex all over the place. However, he is someone who looks after his sexual health in a responsible and planned manner.  

7- Someone who is HIV positive is a human being first, not a diagnosis. They are worthy of the same respect as anyone else. And they deserve the same good, flourishing and vibrant sex life as anyone else. 

The gay community has been decimated by the virus in the last few decades. Some homophobic people used the epidemic to ostracise gay people even further. It is a traumatic history for the gay community. And the fight is not over: we now have to give a voice to those who have been shamed and together we can stop the stigma of HIV: start on World AIDS Day and keep the conversations going: talk with a friend about it today, have debates, share thoughts and ideas and spread the words. Eventually, we can educate and support each other, and become the truly loving community we have always aspired to be. 

Also, it is important to remember that the virus doesn’t discriminate sexual orientation. Many heterosexual people are at high risk of contracting the virus, primarily because it is thought as a ‘gay thing’. It is important to take good care of your sexual health, no matter what your sexual orientation is. 

Silva Neves