There’s Something You Should Know.

Kevin mugshotBefore you have sex, let the person you want to have sex with know you’re HIV positive.

Use a condom when you have sex.

Don’t share needles if you shoot up. Always use a clean needle, regardless of your HIV status, or clean your needle before you share it with someone else.

Should be pretty easy, right? Wrong. It’s still difficult. In fact, for some people, it’s kind of like coming out of the closet every time you want to have sex, and it often ruins the moment, to say the least.

At least, that’s what some of my HIV positive friends and clients have shared with me. And yet, it’s the law.

I thought I’d share my strategy, and why it has worked for me as not only a way to do the right thing and share my status, but also as a means of reducing stigma and empowering me as a person living with HIV.

The-Art-of-Self-Disclosure-Summary

First, know yourself. Not easy. But, what I’m proposing is to gauge your comfort level of sharing your status in the first place. Trust your gut. Assuming you haven’t yet had sex yet–Have you been having a conversation with this person for awhile? Has the flow of chat been easy?  Have you been able to ask him or her a few other questions, maybe share some other intimate details of your life? If the answer is “yes”, then you may have more surety that when you share your status, it will be well received…maybe.

Here’s how I feel, and I stand by this. If I’ve invested fully in another person, have had a few conversations with the hot guy I’m interested in knocking boots with, and if he’s shared some personal stuff with me about his life–in other words, we’ve both been vulnerable to a degree–then my ability to share my HIV status becomes a bit easier. It’s less of a bomb drop, and more of a gentle offering.

“Hey, so since we’re sharing some personal stuff here, I figure we might both be interested in each other. I don’t want to make an assumption that we’re going to end up with clothes on the floor of my bedroom, and be en flagrante delectus, but just in case, I’d like you to know–need you to know–that I’m living with the HIV virus. I’m also undetectable and healthy, and 100% compliant with my meds, which means the chances of passing my virus to you through unprotected sex are less than 3%.”

That’s more or less my spiel. If it sounds both compassionate and confident, it is.

Because I started first by being compassionate and confident to myself about being HIV positive. I thought how I’d want to hear the information from someone else–and I thought I’d like to hear it in a way that made me think, “wow, this guy’s got his shit sorted out”.

To quote my favorite band, Duran Duran, “I’ve got my own way”…and it works for me.

So here’s a little approach for how to get comfortable with disclosure in your own way. First, ask yourself three questions: 1. Do I need to disclose? 2. Do I need to disclose right now? 3. If I answer yes to the first two questions, how can I disclose in a way that feels like I’m honoring myself and being impeccable with my word to the other person?

Our biggest fear is rejection, followed by the fear that person to whom we’ve disclosed will go spilling our business to the neighborhood, to Facebook, whatever. That’s a concern, sure. Here’s how I got around that, and I invite you to see the logic in this: I don’t take it personally. If someone rejects me after I tell them I’m positive, then it’s not that there’s something wrong with me, or that I’m not good enough for them.

Through deep self acceptance and a journey toward wholeness I have come to believe that there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m living with a virus, and I have it under control. I’ve got this locked down, and there’s no shade on me. So, I say to the person who rejects me, “I appreciate your honesty. If you want some education, I am happy to provide it for you, so you might understand just how “not risky” it is to date an HIV positive person. If not, hey–no harm no foul, because I actually wouldn’t feel comfortable having sex, or dating, someone who wasn’t comfortable with ALL of me.”

As for someone running off and telling everyone else about my business, I had to realize that ultimately, I have no control over that. Instead, I have my impeccability and integrity in tact, where they have lost both.

My status is mine to disclose, and it neither defines nor limits me.

Thoughts on AIDSWatch 2016

AIDSWatch AIDS UnitedHeld yearly in Washington, DC, AIDSWatch is a caucus of citizens living with or affected by HIV, assembled to discuss with elected officials the issues impacting those with HIV/AIDS. With over 300 represented from 36 states, North Carolina had the third largest delegation in the country, with 23 members.

The conference is a melting pot of diversity—so many races and ethnicities, that were I to attempt to list them all, I would leave several out—men, women, and transgendered men, transgendered women, gay, straight, bisexual, lesbian; mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, veterans, immigrants, disabled, clergy, sex workers, CEOs, the list goes on.

Without the lanyards around our necks advertising our names with the “AIDSWatch” logo, or the signage visible near the conference rooms at the hotel where the yearly event is held, passersby would have no idea what we share in common.. Without those three letters, “HIV”, it’s not obvious.

But when I looked around the room, I saw the faces of HIV/AIDS today. It’s all of us here, and it could be any of us. HIV/AIDS doesn’t discriminate. People do.

AIDSWatch Kevin

Hearing the stories of those affected by HIV at the plenary session in Washington, D.C.

This nasty virus binds us in solidarity for those experiencing stigma, barriers accessing affordable and consistent treatment, and those without basic needs like food and housing, made more urgent by HIV’s presence. We speak to our Senators and Representatives on behalf of those who cannot, sharing triumphs and struggles, praise for their past support, and concerns for the future.

Most of all, we bring our collected stories to lawmakers.

Stories make HIV visible, saying, “See us. Hear us. We have HIV and we are living, not dying. We are growing older and aging. We are told to expect long, healthy lives, and we believe it. But this isn’t over. We need help to thrive in the face of stigma, discrimination, and barriers to healthcare, housing, and HIV Prevention for those most at risk.”

Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) is a federal program providing stable, affordable housing for people with HIV/AIDS. HOPWA gives stability to those in unstable, homeless situations living with the virus. Unfortunately, the HOPWA funding formula is still based on an antiquated model that includes national census data combining all people—both living and deceased—identified as having AIDS in a state. Updating HOPWA to include only those who are alive, not dead, would greatly increase the amount of funding available. North Carolina stands to gain a significant amount of money if this passes the House and Senate. Currently, the HOPWA waiting list is miles long, and HOPWA modernization would significantly reduce that waiting list.

One of Senator Thom Tillis’ staff asked me to explain how stable housing relates to stopping the spread of HIV. “Will you connect the dots for me?” he asked.

“My training is in Counseling Psychology,” I explained. “Are you familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?”

“Yes, I am,” He said. He was clearly paying attention, helping me feel less nervous as I sat in a blue leather chair in the ornate conference room of Senator Tillis’ office on Capitol Hill, flanked by my NC AIDSWatch brothers and sisters.

“Okay,” I replied. “Before a person can begin to deal with HIV, they must have some basic human needs met—food, clothing, and shelter. Of those three, food and clothing are fairly easy to come by. We don’t have naked homeless people wandering the streets of our state, and in most cases, a homeless person can find somewhere to get a meal. But stable housing is another matter entirely. Housing someone with HIV provides safety and security. Within those walls, they can store their HIV meds safely, rest and heal. Their medicine can be mailed, they have a place where they can be picked up and taken to their appointments, and they may more easily receive Ryan White Funding, AIDS Drug Assistance Program Funding, and access other programs like Medicaid. Through stable housing, the odds are greater of staying medically compliant, not missing doses, suppressing HIV to an undetectable level, living a longer, healthier life, and lowering risk of infecting others. That’s how modernizing the HOPWA Formulary will help stop the spread of HIV.”

I assumed that the Senator’s staffer would smile and nod, take a photo, pretending to listen, but not really “hear us”. I misjudged. I’m not sure what will happen with HOPWA. But all of us from NC who participated in AIDSWatch felt we had been heard. We shared stories, were fully present, and spoke with strength and dignity on behalf of those in our state living with HIV.

“AIDSWatch” reminds our lawmakers that we are paying attention to the choices they make. We are diverse, we are strong, and we have a voice in the fight to end HIV, and we will be watching what our elected leaders do next.

Why Sex is No Longer a Tee Shirt.

I’ve been HIV positive now for ten years. I became positive through unprotected, or “bareback” sex with someone, I’m not exactly sure who. At this point, it doesn’t matter to me; I have accepted what is.

Glasses KEV

In this time, I’ve had plenty of sex. Some of it was good and memorable, some of it wasn’t. Some of it has been with condoms, some of it hasn’t. Since I’ve become undetectable and viral-suppressed, most of it hasn’t. Even so, I’ve made my sexual partners aware that I’m positive, shared with them what I’ve learned, (with statistics and backed-up medical research if they requested it) that it’s highly unlikely–less than 3% chance–that I could pass the virus. I’ve been impeccable, and to the best of my knowledge, have kept my virus well-hidden and asleep inside of me, and haven’t spread HIV.

I’m single again. I just turned 45 last week. I have gotten the question from friends, my sister, even from my dental hygienist this morning, “So, are you going to throw yourself back in the dating pool?” This question has made me defensive and uncomfortable, and I wasn’t sure exactly why…so I gave it some thought. Here’s my answer. I hope this answer will resonate not only with others who are living with HIV, like me, but also those who are single by choice, newly single, or perhaps on the fence about re-entering the dance of dating and sex.

It’s just not appealing to hop on a sex and dating app like Scruff, Growlr, Grindr, Adam4Adam, or Bear411 and find someone. As tempting as it is to look at all the hot guys, most are either partnered or geographically unavailable. I find I need more. After my relationship ended, I went down that familiar route, as I’d done in the past…only this time it felt different. I have less tolerance or patience for the utter bullshit of fast-food dating and order-in sex, and the subsequent ugly feeling of being weighed, measured, and found wanting because of my HIV status, or because of my age. I’ve become frustrated with myself more than with anyone else when I feel myself on the auction block, and realize I’m using an extremely inhuman, manufactured and artificial means to “find someone”. It may be for some of you, and I don’t judge that. I found it is not for me…it’s not how I want to meet someone. I’d rather sit at home and read.

At the end of the day, I’m seeking intimacy over sex. A connection that goes deeper than inserting body parts into other body parts, and playing at kissing and holding like I mean it, when in reality, I just don’t. I have grown tired of sex as a place-holder until something–or someone–right comes along. How will I know who is right? 

Sex is not casual for me anymore. I need more than a tee shirt and jeans. I need nakedness on the inside before I remove my outer clothing. For so, so many years, I have used sex as a drug, as a way to wield power, as a way to feel appreciated and loved, even if for a short time. I have been sucked by emotional vampires and bled by predators who use sex as a safari, bounding from one conquest to the next, tallying up their conquests like invisible heads mounted on the walls of their experiences. I know, because I was one of them. It’s time I stopped being a predator, a hunter and gatherer, and a consumer, and became a farmer and a scholar instead.

One recent evening, after I’d deleted all the apps, all the distractions and temptations and had nowhere to turn outwardly, I decided to sit with my horniness. I didn’t go to internet porn, I didn’t “sext a buddy” on my phone or on Facebook with enticing offers and photos of my junk. I sat with it. It was uncomfortable, but I breathed in and breathed out. The jumpiness and antsy feeling deepened and turned into longing…an emptiness. There is a hole that begs to be filled within, in a place just below my heart and above my solar-plexus…a small place that has its own rhythm and secret shape. I tuned into it, and realized how I had misused this part for such a long time.

You’re free to disagree, but I am convinced that too much casual sex will erode you. Only you know what “too much” is; only you know your level of tolerance. But it’s important to know. Sex can be as addictive as heroin, with as difficult a detox period. It’s easier to get than heroin, too, and there are plenty out there who are all too happy to provide you a fix. I’ve learned this the hard way, and continued to do it long after it was “too much”. Someone once told me that when we have sex with each other, we take a piece of that person into us, and we leave a piece of ourselves behind. It’s invisible, it’s not like sperm or any other fluid. It’s a spiritual piece, a stain left over. Enough of these pieces get taken from you, and you begin to lose your ability to recognize real intimacy and love when it comes. Every sexual act becomes a transaction rather than a connection. I believe that.

When I sat with the feelings of longing and loneliness, I realized I’d been running from the person who needed intimacy the most–myself. I’d been fumbling in the dark all these years, expecting boyfriends, lovers and strangers to know how to love me…how to work the gears…how to solve the Rubik’s Cube that is my heart, because I’d never successfully solved the puzzle. I’d grown frustrated and distracted and given up. I wanted to be loved so badly, and in the worst way, and often that’s exactly the kind of love I got. I had been a consumer, and had allowed others to consume me. When I couldn’t find anyone to innately understand me, to be everything and everyone I wanted them to be, I said “fuck it, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” and became a hunter and a predator, too. It was much easier than being vulnerable and truly naked. It was simpler than doing the hard work of loving myself and messing that up, then trying again and again through diligent practice until the pieces began to line up into a recognizable pattern.

That’s what I learned about myself when I sat with my feelings. It’s evolved since. I know differently now than I did before. Call it age, call it an acceptance of my HIV status, or call it becoming more aware, if you will. I don’t plan to fuck anymore. I plan to make love and cultivate intimacy, and not just in the bedroom with another man. I’m going to begin at the source. I’m connecting more often with that soft and secret part of my body where my Self waits on a balcony like a true and patient lover for my visit. I’m going to ask him questions, feed him with kindness, woo him and seduce him with new things, remind him of old things we used to enjoy doing together, and take him on adventures. I’m going know every part of his beautiful and masculine body. I’m making a life-commitment to him before anyone else, and we will grow old and die together.

And when I meet the other soul on this journey through life whose path crosses mine, and when he chooses to walk with me, he will be a man who has done and continues to do the same difficult work.

 

 

Walking My Talk.

In The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, the first agreement is Be Impeccable with Your Word. Words have power. They have magic in creating new ideas, setting goals, new standards, and showing ourselves and others how accountable we are. Words also have the power to wound, destroy confidence, and destroy trust and accountability.

Kevin 2015 THP

As a leader, partner, friend, and a person living with HIV, I continue to learn the power of words. I set an example to my co-workers by agreeing to show up, be accountable, uphold good work ethics, and set an example to myself, my loved ones, and the larger community by living a healthy, positive, and affirming life with HIV. When it goes well, I don’t think about it very much. When it goes poorly, I tend to focus on accountability and my words with a microscope.

How could I be an advocate for someone newly diagnosed with HIV, encouraging that person to meditate, seek support from friends, live a healthy life, advocate for their healthcare, take medication, and get to a level of viral suppression, if I’m not doing it?

At work, how can I encourage open communication and mindfulness, accountability with work schedules, keeping accurate notes, staying on top of my employees’ calendars, and encouraging others to be organized, if I am not doing it?

My father once told me something when I was a little boy. Even then, it didn’t make sense, but the power of his words stick with me today. He said, once while smoking in the car, “Son, don’t ever start smoking. If I ever catch you smoking, I will wear your butt out!” I thought about it for a moment, and very timidly responded, “But dad, you smoke.” He looked at me as he exhaled a cloud of smoke and said, “Do as I say, not as I do”. That didn’t sit well with me at the age of eight, and it doesn’t sit well with me at the age of 44.

I struggle with smoking to this day. Attempts to quit, cutting back, and finally quitting several times have brought me to the conclusion that if I’m going to be impeccable with my word—and put my health first—I need to stay smoke free, and do it for no one else but me.

I like the phrase “Walk Your Talk”. As a leader, as an HIV positive man, and someone who practices mindfulness and meditation, the power of my word to help, to heal, to encourage, to build motivation, and to show empathy and compassion must outweigh the word’s ability to shame, blame, criticize, judge, and destroy. I must walk my talk.

Let’s look closer at the words we choose. Are they compassionate? Are we casting a positive or a negative spell on someone else, or ourselves, with our words? Let’s examine accountability. Who is counting on you? Who notices your actions? What power do your words have to create, or to destroy the precious world around you?

By taking my meds, working out, being on time, setting goals and reaching them, fostering open communication, showing compassion, and forgiving myself and others when we all fall short and don’t quite hit the mark, I’m doing my best.

“Always do your best” is the 4th of The Four Agreements. I’ll discuss that more in a future post.

Namaste.

How Soon Is Now? (Rapid testing vs. confirmatory testing).

ImageYou have options.

It just depends on how long you want to wait. It may depend on how important it is for you to quiet the voices in your head, or how recently you had unprotected sex or shared needles, and need to know your status.

Rapid tests are fantastic, fast, and reliable ways of finding out if you’ve been exposed to HIV about 3 months ago, or longer.
It’s important to know that! If you had unprotected, risky sex two days ago, two weeks ago, it may not show up as a “positive” on a rapid HIV test.

Why is that? The HIV-rapid tests for HIV antibodies. It can take as long as 3 months for antibodies to HIV infection to show up in blood or saliva DNA samples.

A rapid test is still a great idea, and has made regular HIV testing a more viable, less stressful option. Results are generally available within 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the test sampling method. Accuracy of rapids is good, too.
Oraquick Rapid HIV test: (Taken from the http://www.oraquick.com/FAQs page on their website):

“Oral fluid HIV tests are very accurate. In studies, the OraQuick oral fluid test detected 91.7 percent of people infected with HIV, and 99.9 percent of people not infected with HIV. If you have more questions about oral fluid HIV tests, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. He or she can help you figure out the best test for you.”

From the Unigold rapid HIV test: Results show up in 10 minutes, and must be read immediately. Reading test results earlier or later than 10 minutes may give erroneous results. So, it’s good advice NOT to take a bathroom break while you’re waiting for these results to show.  The accuracy of Unigold is close to 100% with whole blood (finger stick or venapuncture) at detecting HIV-1 antibodies at the 3 month mark. This test only tests for HIV-1 antibodies.

Want to know more and enjoy looking at tables and statistics as much as I do? Please go here:
http://www.aidsetc.org/aidsetc?page=cg-209_rapid_testing#t-1

Your other option is 4th Generation Confirmatory Blood Draw Testing. This, in my experience, is the most accurate and dependable method for detecting BOTH NEW, ACUTE HIV infection AND HIV INFECTION PAST THE AFOREMENTIONED 3-MONTH WINDOW PERIOD.

This 4th generation test will look for the HIV p24 antigen and the presence of HIV antibodies. In other words, the test looks for the virus itself, BEFORE antibodies form, AND also looks for HIV antibodies. Therefore, this test is good at finding a brand new case of acute HIV.

Why is this awesome for the treatment as prevention approach to HIV care?
Because, the sooner we can detect HIV infection, the sooner we can get that person into care, get them on medication to suppress the HIV virus, thereby lowering the infected person’s level of virus and making it much less likely that they will infect others.
*Note: A person is at their most infectious during the HIV “window period”–the period between initial infection and the presence of HIV antibodies. 97% of infected HIV patients show HIV antibodies within about 3 months. However, a person can have HIV virus, and a lot of it, within days after being exposed to HIV. 

North Carolina, and (as far as I know) most other states in the U.S. use 4th Generation testing today. It will detect the HIV p24 antigen after about 2 weeks and will also detect HIV antibodies at or before the 3 month mark.
For more, click on the video of Dr. Peter Leone,MD from UNC-Chapel Hill here: http://www.hivcombo.com/home.html

In NC, it takes about 10 days to process and return confirmatory results to the testing agency or clinic. At Triad Health Project in Greensboro, where I work as Director of Prevention and Education Services, we are getting our results back within 14 days or less.

So, to break it down:
A rapid HIV test: tests for HIV exposure 3 months ago or longer, results available within 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the test. Accuracy: Good, in most cases.

4th Generation Confirmatory blood draw testing: tests for HIV p24 antigen (virus) at the acute stage (about two weeks after exposure) AND tests for antibodies like the rapid test. In NC, results are available within two weeks, depending on the lab. Accuracy: Excellent in detecting negative and positive HIV results.

Is There Something I Should Know? (Please, Please Tell Me Now)

A disclaimer: I am an HIV/STI educator and counselor. I am HIV positive since 2006, undetectable, with a high cd-4 count. What I am not is an expert or a doctor. The posts in this category are suggestions from my experience as a counselor and educator, and as one of many living positively with HIV. It is not meant to take the place of your doctor’s advice.

I’m here to learn and share. If you’ve found a particular practice works for you, please share. There’s plenty of room on my blog page, and in the vast blog-sphere, for more than one solution.

That being established, I’d like to provide some answers to FAQs I tend to get asked in counseling, particularly by newly infected clients, and clients who are at high risk for contracting HIV and STIs. I will also include some links I find useful in my work. Please visit these links to learn more:

I visit them weekly, and encourage you to do the same. Like School House Rock used to say every Saturday morning, “It’s great to learn, ’cause knowledge is power!”

Oh, and lastly–another thing you should know about me is that I have a tendency to title my posts after song lyrics. Thanks.

How frequently should I get tested for HIV and STIs?

Short answer: The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends testing for HIV and STIs at least once per year.
What I recommend: Rule of thumb–you’re only as negative as your last risky, unprotected sexual encounter with a different, non-monogamous sexual partner. With this in mind, I recommend testing every six months, or every three months, depending on an individual’s level of sexual activity, and their sexual behaviors. *I’ll break this down in the questions that follow.

How do I define “risky” when it comes to HIV? 

I often get this question when I do pre-test counseling for HIV testing. It’s useful in helping a person define their level of acceptable risk behavior. So let’s break it down from “most risk” to “very little risk” to “no risk at all”.

Most risk (aka “not a good idea”):

  • Unprotected (without condoms) receptive (being a bottom) anal or vaginal sex with a person who is HIV positive and has an unsuppressed, untreated viral load, where blood/ejaculate or pre-ejaculate may combine. 
  • Unprotected insertive (being a top) anal or vaginal sex with a person who is HIV positive and has an unsuppressed, untreated viral load, where blood/ejaculate or pre-ejaculate combine.
  • Unprotected receptive or insertive (top or bottom) anal or vaginal sex where either person is unaware of their HIV status, or has had risky sexual encounters since their last confirmed negative HIV test.
  • Sharing needles during intravenous drug use–whether using legal or illegal drugs. The type of drug you’re using doesn’t make a difference. It’s needle sharing that puts you at risk for HIV. Whether you’re shooting heroin, or getting a tattoo, if the needles are “shared”, and a clean needle isn’t used with each new injection of drug or ink, you’re putting yourself at risk for HIV, and also Hepatitis C infection.  **Getting a tattoo? Ask the tattoo artist to walk you through his/her steps for sanitizing and insuring that health department compliance measures are followed. Ask to see their updated and recent health department certifications. Most reputable tattoo shops have them displayed proudly.

Okay, why?

  • The tissue inside the anus is very thin (kind of like tissue paper), with many mucous membranes, and tiny blood vessels near the surface. It’s easily torn with the friction that occurs when we’re in the throws of passion, knocking boots, getting our freak on, etc. When that thin tissue gets torn, mucosal membranes are exposed, and bleeding, even on a small scale, often occurs. When that happens, and when pre-cum or cum with a high concentration of HIV virus gets released into that fragile, dark and protein rich environment, infection can occur.
  • The tissue at the tip of the penis is also a thin, membranous area with an opening for virus and bacteria to enter. If a man has unprotected anal or vaginal sex as the insertive partner with an HIV positive partner who has unsuppressed virus, the man is at risk of contracting the HIV virus, even as a “top”. It’s a myth to say, “I’m 100% top, I never bottom, so therefore, I can’t get HIV.” You can–the head of the penis can “suck up” infected blood, HIV infected vaginal fluid, and other bacterium/virus. An open cut or sore on your penis is a pathway for infection, too.  As a result, you can also get every other STI out there, too.
  • Having an STI already, especially one where there is a sore, or inflamed area during unprotected sex will put you at greater risk for contracting HIV because you’ve already created an infected, open sore pathway right into your bloodstream. When skin is broken, cut, inflamed, has a chancre sore, or blisters from an untreated STI, you’re creating an opening for HIV transmission. You’re also exposing your sexual partner to your existing STI through unprotected sex.
  • A syringe is an “air-tight” environment. When you inject a drug intravenously, you may also draw a small amount of blood back into the needle, or into the syringe. If you have an unsuppressed, untreated HIV or Hepatitis C infection, and you share that same needle without taking the time to clean your works, or use a brand-new needle and syringe, you can very easily inject some of the infected blood along with the drug you’re using, thus infecting your needle-sharing partner with your virus or bacteria.

I just had unprotected oral sex. Am I at risk for HIV infection?

This brings me to the next category–Little to no risk. (or, proceed with caution.) Doctors used to recommend using condoms or dental dams for oral sex as a risk reduction for HIV. While it’s definitely a way to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, oral sex, (either mouth to penis and/or mouth to vagina) has been proven to be of negligible risk. 

Okay. Why? 1st, HIV doesn’t live for very long (less than a minute) when it hits the air and has no direct contact with blood vessels or mucosal membranes inside the body.  For more on this from Dr. David Wohl, UNC-Chapel Hill Medical Center, go here: http://www.thebody.com/Forums/AIDS/SafeSex/Q219717.html?ic=2003
2nd, stomach acids will destroy HIV. With this in mind, there’s a LOT of air inside the mouth, so there’s much less risk of HIV transmission. HOWEVER–and these are the kickers: Check before you have oral sex. If you have, in the last minute or so, JUST flossed, JUST bitten your tongue or your cheek, or have a mouth ulcer, cold sore (which is a type of herpes, by the way), chancre sore, or any kind of open wound inside your mouth, AND if your partner has a recent, bleeding active cut on either their penis or vagina or anus, AND if either of you have an unsuppressed, untreated HIV infection, you MAY be exposing your sexual partner to HIV infection. So it’s probably not a good idea to floss and two seconds later give your partner a blow job.  I’m just sayin’.

While the risk of contracting and transmitting HIV via oral sexual activity is a negligible risk, there are FIVE OTHER STIs that are VERY EASY to give and get through oral sexual contact.

  • Herpes Simplex 1&2 (HSV 1/2) which is treatable, but not curable
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) also treatable, but not curable (there is a vaccine for a few types of HPV that is being used for kids before they become sexually active)
  • Syphilis, which is treatable and curable with an aggressive round of antibiotics
  • Gonorrhea, and
  • Chlamydia, both of which are treatable and curable with an aggressive round of antibiotics.

Oh! By the way–the above STIs are easily transmitted via unprotected anal and vaginal sex, too.

Less risky also includes: Unprotected, anal or vaginal sex with an HIV positive person who knows their status, has a viral load that has been suppressed at an undetectable level (less than 40 copies of the HIV virus) for AT LEAST one year or longer, and is currently on ART (anti retroviral therapy)…WHAT? AM I CRAZY? UNPROTECTED SEX WITH A KNOWN HIV POSITIVE PERSON IS LESS RISKY?

Read what I wrote again, please. Unprotected anal or vaginal sex with an HIV positive person who is undetectable, with a high cd-4 count, who is on their meds and not missing doses, and whose virus is classified as suppressed (less than 40 copies of HIV detectable at any time), is less risky. There is still a 3% chance the virus can be transmitted, so, if you want zero risk, USE A CONDOM.

Also, keep this in mind. Of the 1.3 million people who are infected with the HIV virus in the U.S., less than 325,000 of those fall into the category of virally suppressed for over one year with a high cd-4 count. And, while your risk of contracting HIV may be low, it’s still possible to pass along other STIs, or contract a new, different strain of HIV if the other partner doesn’t know their HIV status.

So what’s No Risk, then? (or, Green Light means GO FOR IT):

  • Protected, insertive anal and vaginal sex with a condom, REGARDLESS of the partner’s HIV status
  • Kissing, touching, hugging, mutual masturbation
  • Sharing a bed, utensils, shower, food, a drag off a cigarette (although smoking is very bad for you. In case you’ve been living under a rock.)
  • Treating a cut from an HIV positive person with cold water, pressure, topical antibiotic or alcohol and a band-aid–zero risk.
  • Caring for a person who is HIV positive, or a person who has AIDS.
  • Loving, dating, being friends with, and being in a long-term, sexually monogamous relationship with a person who is HIV positive

Remember–You’re only as “negative” as your last unprotected, risky sexual encounter. I recommend:

  • The 3 Ps–Protect your Pink Parts. Use condoms and condom safe (silicone or water-based) lubricant when you have insertive anal and/or vaginal sex.
  • Know your status by getting tested. Encourage your partner(s) to get tested. Don’t assume your partner is negative just because they tell you they are. In North Carolina alone, it is estimated that there are 7,000+ people who are infected with HIV and are unaware they’re infected.
  • Get tested at least once a year, but I’d recommend getting a test every six months. Hey–you’re supposed to go to the dentist twice a year, which takes longer and can cost more. Why not get tested twice a year, too?

There’s more to share. Next time, I”ll talk about the differences between rapid tests and confirmatory blood draw testing.

Thanks for stopping by. Please feel free to leave your questions and feedback!