This article by Renato Barucco, Transgender Family Program Manager, Community Healthcare Network previously appeared in the Huffington Pos/Gay Voices here.
That awkward negotiation before imminent encounter with a sexual partner met on mobile apps, online or at a bar often includes a brief health information exchange about HIV. Health educators recommend discussing HIV status before sexual encounters. Disclosure could lead to safer sex, more relaxed rendezvous and enhanced intimacy.
While in recent years having this conversation has gotten progressively easier for all parties involved, in many cases the exchange ends up being a useless formality made of insensitive questions ("Are you clean?"), superficial acronyms ("DDF?"), and uninformative answers ("I'm good", "Yeah, clean", "Neg", "Poz", etc.).
To have a meaningful conversation about HIV status, people should corner intentions and sexual partners in the realm of actuality, by keeping it to-the-point and asking the following questions: "When did you last test for HIV? What was the test result?" Equally important is to open minds to reality by remembering that the time of binary HIV statuses is pretty much over.
I can count five HIV statuses, plus a new one. They entail different responsibilities, possibilities and risks.
Let's review them on a continuum from the safest to the problematic ones.
"I'm HIV positive, undetectable."
People in this group clearly know their status. They take HIV medications every day and see a medical provider regularly. The amount of HIV virus in their blood is suppressed below the threshold detectable by available tests. An undetectable viral load greatly reduces the likelihood of HIV transmission. News coming from the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston highlighted the encouraging results of a recent study: HIV positive patients on anti-retroviral treatment who are virally suppressed did not transmit HIV to their negative partners.
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