Living with HIV and HIV Disclosure
While most HIV prevention information and campaigns you see are directed towards HIV negative men. This section is dedicated to men who are HIV+. Poz guys care about their sexual health and that of their partners. This section helps provide information that can assist us Poz guys. We'll look at our sexual health, treatment adherence and disclosing your HIV status to potential sex partners.
Q. We're both HIV positive. Do we need to wear a condom?
Some experts say that if you don't wrap it up and you're having high-risk sex (more on that below), you may risk superinfection with a rapidly progressing, multi-resistant new strain of HIV. However, if you and/or your partner are on meds or have low viral loads, superinfection is pretty much reduced. Condoms remain a good idea for a higher risk activity like anal sex.
Condoms win bonus points for blocking syphillis (if your sores are covered), gonorrhea and chlamydia - although not always herpes, HPV (genital warts) or crabs, all three of which are transmitted from skin to skin. Remember: HIV makes it easier to pick up STI's, and they tend to hit us harder as well.
Q. Can you transmit HIV if your viral load is undetectable?
"Undetectable" means the amount of virus in your blood is too small to for the lab to measure, but you still have the virus. There is new research that strongly suggests that blood viral load is NOT necessarily the same as in your other bodily fluids, particularly your semen. If your viral load is undetectable (and/or you're on HIV medications), you're less infectious but there still is a risk of transmission, albeit a much smaller risk than when your viral load is detectable.
This section contains quick info spots pertaining to issues faced by POZ guys
WHAT IT MEANS
Taking your HIV medications as directed: number of doses per day, number of pills per dose, with food or on an empty stomach. Your doctor should spell out these guidelines before writing the prescriptions for your combination, and once you fill them, the labels on the bottles will remind you.
WHY IT MATTERS
The HIV in your body can become resistant to a drug if your blood doesn't get a steady supply - crossing that drug (and maybe others like it) off your list of treatment options for good.
With the real world outside your doctor's office (and your own stubborn self) conspiring to slip you up, you may need help staying on schedule - whether it's with phone calls, alarms, Post-It's or pill holders - or getting ready to start taking meds in the first place.
NOTE TO ROOKIES
Before starting on new meds, adherence is one of the most important issues to discuss with your doctor. With the number of HIV medications out now and so many combinations, you can likely find one that you can 'adhere' to. But if your lab tests say "go", but something in your life says "stop" - you're depressed, using substances/alcohol or scared of side effects, for example - your doctor needs to know. It may take some work before you are ready to start.
WHAT TO AIM FOR
The percentage of the time that HIVers need to take their meds exactly as prescribed in order for them to work.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
In a recent study, the top four reasons HIVers gave for missing doses were:
- changing routine
- side effects
- being away from home
(These questions and answers and the information for POZ Tidbits were taken from www.poz.com)
STARTING TREATMENT STORIES
by three people living with HIV. Produced by CATIE.ca
These next three video's below offer some helpful information for better health & living with HIV
Websites dedicated to the needs of those of us who are HIV positive typically tend to be serious and frankly a bit of a downer as we read through all of our health issues, treatment problems, stigma, etc.
For the editor-in-chief and founder, however, a sense of humour is what has gotten him through the last 20+ years of living with HIV. There is no question about the role of humour and its relationship to positive health outcomes, there needed to be something different available that celebrated having fun.
The result is the creation of Positive Lite, a Canadian-driven website for both positive gay men and their friends, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender or nationality.
Check out and join PositiveLite.com by clicking the logo below!
The following is not legal advice. It is information about the law. You should speak with a lawyer if you want legal advice.
For legal information and advice you can contact: HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic (Ontario), known as HALCO
Phone: 416-340-7790 or Toll Free: 1-888-705-8889
Some Facts around Disclosure
- If there's a significant risk of passing on HIV, if you lie (I'm HIV-negative.") or you don't tell your partner about your HIV infection ("He didn't ask, I didn't tell."), you can be charged and convicted.
- You can be charged and convicted even if you didn't know or think that you had a legal duty to disclose.
- If there's a significant risk of passing on HIV, you have a legal duty to disclose your HIV infection; no matter where you meet or have sex with the other person; whether the sex is anonymous, you know the person, or how long you've known the person; or whether you have sex for fun, to make money, or in exchange for drugs or other things.
You may not want to disclose that you have HIV because the other person might tell others or post your HIV status on the internet. Although this may make it more difficult for you to disclose, it doesn't change your legal duty under the criminal law.
If your going to disclose your HIV status to your sex partner, avoid code words or hints. Don't assume your sex partner knows what words like 'poz' and 'positive' mean. It's best to tell him or her that "I am HIV-positive" or "I am infected with HIV". Also, make sure your sexual partner understands what "HIV infection" or "HIV positive" means.
Protecting yourself from those who might lie about your disclosing
Even if you told a person before sex that you are HIV positive, after you have sex the person might lie and say you didn't disclose to them. So you may want to get evidence that you disclosed your HIV status before sex. Here are some suggestions:
- Have witnesses. Tell the person you want to have sex with that you're HIV-positive in front of a friend or someone you trust. Your friend becomes a potential witness who can say that you disclosed your HIV infection. A group of friends is even better.
- Double check: Have a friend ask the person if he or she knows that you're HIV-positive. If the person answers that he or she knows, then your friend can be a witness.
- Save online conversations and emails. If you disclose in an internet chat or by email, be clear about what you wrote and the other person's response. Print it out, too.
- Create support and counseling records. If you're thinking about getting into a relationship, you and the person can go to see a counselor or support worker together. Ask the counselor to make notes of the session. During the session, disclose that you're HIV positive.
- Sign a document. Before having sex, ask the person to sign and date a paper acknowledging that you're HIV positive and that he/she knows what it means. This is also the most unrealistic strategy.
You may not like what the criminal law says. You may not agree with it. It can seem very harsh and unfair. But it's still the law. When you have information about what the law says, hopefully you'll be able to make more informed decisions about your life and your sex life.
This information comes from 'Living Poz Magazine', 'Positive Side Magazine' and from 'HIV disclosure: a legal guide for gay men in Ontario', published by the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic (Ontario) and Gay Men's Sexual Health Alliance of Ontario.
HIV Disclosure: A legal guide for gay men in Canada