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All posts tagged with: testing

Know your HIV status and the questions to ask

Corey Ouellet, Vancouver, BC

Finding out you are HIV positive isn’t easy. Just ask 30 year old Vancouver resident, Corey Ouellet. He found out three years ago that he was HIV positive. Thankfully for him it was a blessing in disguise, but for others it can be a troublesome time.

Thoughts of suicide are very common for people who learn they are HIV positive. Most communities now offer extensive programs to help people cope with living with HIV, providing valuable resources, councilors and assistance.

When a person finds out they are HIV positive they think back to the moments in life where they put themselves at risk to try to pinpoint the exact date, time and location of when they could have become infected.

“I have a good idea as to whom I contracted HIV from, but I do not hold them accountable,” said Corey. “Although they were at fault for not telling me, I feel I was just as much fault for having unprotected sex.”

Corey admits that in his past he was very sexually active and at times didn’t always use protection and engaged in high-risk activities.

“The best time to discuss STI and HIV status with a sexual partner is before you engage in sexual activity with them,” Corey explains.

Many people skirt around the topic of HIV status by asking questions, which can leave a lot to interpretation. Take these common questions for consideration:

  • “Are you clean?” = Have you had a shower? Did you douche?
  • “Are you safe” = Are you going to show up with a gun?
  • “Have you been tested?” = Tested for what? Cocaine? Algebra? HIV in the last 10 years?

The best way to handle the question is to be direct and specific.

  • What is your STI status?
  • What is your HIV status?
  • When were you last tested?

These questions should be asked before any sexual encounter with any sexual partner.

“I try not to hold anger inside for anything in life, this included,” Corey stated frankly and honestly. “I am scared of being alone, of not finding a partner that can accept that I have been diagnosed as HIV Positive.” For those that know Corey personally, he’s one of the sweetest guys and is certain to find a partner, regardless of his HIV status.

Knowing both your own and your partners sexual health status is important. If either partner does not know their current STI and HIV status, you are putting both parties at risk.

Know your HIV status and the questions to ask. Get tested and get tested often.

 


Testing HIV Positive. “What if? What now?”

Corey Ouellet

HIV. It’s one of the biggest fears in the gay community. It has been since the early 1980′s, when AIDS was discovered and it became an epidemic. For over three decades millions of dollars has been poured into education and resources. While HIV/AIDS is no longer on the dramatic rise that it once was, there is still no cure. Unfortunately, not enough men get tested regularly to know their status.

“I had a friend who worked at Qmunity Resource Centre,” said 30 year old Vancouver resident, Corey Ouellet. Qmunity is a Vancouver-based not-for-profit resource centre providing support to the LGBT community across British Columbia. “I was taking him out for dinner and he had a couple of things to finish up before we left. Knowing there was a testing centre down the hall, I used the time to get tested.”

While his sexual encounters were adventurous, he made a point to always carry condoms with him. However, there were times in his past that the heat of the moment overtook logic and reason.

“I was diligent about getting tested every six to nine months,” said Corey, who self-admits he was extremely sexually active throughout his life. “I frequented bathhouses and cruised online sites.”

At the time, Corey has no idea how this simple blood test would change his life, forever.

“I didn’t even consider the chance of testing positive,” Corey said, remembering the day he went to get his test results.  Corey would learn at that moment that he was HIV positive.

“My first reaction was slightly alarming to the nurse,” Corey exclaimed. “I said ‘Thank God!’” His reaction wasn’t based on receiving news he was HIV positive. Corey had been suffering from severe tiredness for several months and wasn’t able to receive the medical care he required. “It was a sigh of relief knowing that I would now have some of the top medical minds at my reach to determine the cause of this fatigue.”

After receiving his test results Corey first action was to call a close friend who he knew was HIV positive. He had a lot of questions on his mind and wanted to get some real answers from a trusted source.

“I needed to tell someone,” said Corey, knowing full-well that his friend had gone through the exact same thing and would be a good starting point for this new chapter of his life. “Emotionally, at first, I was numb and I felt disconnected. My mind was racing with questions of, What if? and What now?

Corey would later learn that his fatigue was the result of a life-threatening platelet count, which was unrelated to him being HIV positive.

“I have been blessed with meeting some amazing survivors of HIV/AIDS and I have become more in touch with myself and my body,” Corey explained. “I have a nearly perfect bill-of-health and my outlook on life has changed for the better.”

While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS today, and it is impossible to turn back time. Three years after learning he is HIV positive, Corey is still the same friendly and out-going person he has always been and remains up-beat. He is passionate about learning more about the subject, raising awareness for others, encouraging others to practice safe sex, sharing his story, and most importantly, offering advice to others to practice safer sex.

“Educate yourself and be aware of what you are getting into,” says Corey. “There are safe ways to explore sexuality and condoms are available within a couple of blocks of wherever you might find yourself. Understand the risks and if you are engaged in sexual activity, get tested regularly to protect yourself and your partner. The risks involved in sexual activity are not just limited to homosexuals, these transmissions occur amongst all people.”


When To Get Tested For HIV/AIDS and STI’s

“My personal views on barebacking are to just do it with your boyfriend,” said 24 year-old gay male porn star, Brian Bonds. “Just know your partner by asking. Some may think it’s offensive but I just look out for myself by doing so.”

For gay men, knowing your HIV status is important. People have their own reasons for getting tested. Some get tested routinely, others when starting a new relationship, and some because they engage in high-risk sexual activity or have been put at risk. No matter your reason for wanting to get tested, it is important to get tested and know your status.

“Yeah, we all end up [having unprotected sex] on occasion, willingly and by not thinking about it,” said Bonds. “I strongly advise to do it with a boyfriend or a good fuck buddy.”

Although new cases of HIV/AIDS are on the decline in British Columbia, in other jurisdictions this is not the case. Here are some general guidelines to follow, however, it is recommended to consult a health professional for complete information.

For individuals who engage in low risk sexual activities including oral sex, intercourse with condoms and sex with a regular partner, testing is recommended every 12 months. Although transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STI’s are lower under these circumstances, it is not impossible.

Unprotected intercourse (barebacking), sexual activities with multiple partners in a short period of time, and intercourse with a partner who has the opposite HIV status or unknown status, are all high-risk activities. In these instances, testing is recommended every three months.

Education and knowledge is key when protecting yourself and your partner from transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STI’s. If you know you will be engaging in sexual activity be prepared by having condoms, discus the risks in advance, and ask your partner for their HIV/AIDS status.

There may be a time in a monogamous or committed relationship when a couple may choose they no longer wish to use condoms. It is strongly recommended that couples be tested after they have had  a three month window of risk-free sexual activity and have not been exposed to HIV/AIDS or other STI’s outside of the relationship.

Getting tested is recommended in situations where a condom breaks, after having unprotected intercourse or after engaging in sexual activity with a partner whom you do not know their status.

To learn more about getting tested consult your physician, or if you are in metro Vancouver, check out the Health Initiative for Men (HIM) resource centre and clinic.


Dayton O’Connor – Safe or Unsafe Sex?

Used with permission.

“Safe sex is best!” says 26 year-old gay male porn star, Dayton O’Connor. Professionals in the health and LGBT community would agree, yet even with aggressive education campaigns since the outbreak of HIV / AIDS in the mid 80’s, unprotected sex still continues. It’s a sensitive topic and one that generates a lot of discussion.

“It may not feel the best, but let’s face it, the world as a whole is going through tough times and it seems with all the crap out there why people wouldn’t take the small step to at least try to be safe is beyond me,” explained Dayton.

HIV is primarily spread through unprotected sexual contact including anal, vaginal and oral sex. HIV is not spread through closed mouth kissing or casual contact like holding hands or hugging. There is a remote risk of HIV infection from deep, open-mouth kissing if there are sores, bleeding gums or if blood is exchanged. Saliva, tears or sweat have not been shown to be a cause of HIV infection.

Today, more than half of all new infections are among men who have sex with men; coincidentally is also the only risk group for which new infections are on the rise according to Greater Than AIDS.

If you are in a situation, don’t wait for your partner to bring up HIV. Take charge and ask your partner. It’s easy to explain it’s not about trust, it’s about taking care of each other. It’s your health and your life. Have this conversation when you have time, privacy and before things start to heat up.

“I feel like if you are in a committed relationship and there are no other partners and if everyone is clean, then between two adults, so be it as long as no one else is in the picture and you know both partners status, then it’s ok,” Dayton very carefully explained. “The best thing is to be aware of each other status. The question of wrapping before slapping is up to the people doing the deed.”

Dayton, who is in a committed relationship does admit to having unprotected sex.

“I have barebacked in my personal life and that is ok with me,” said Dayton. “I am not sleeping with anyone else. Neither is my partner. So I am not worried. We are two mature adults and it’s our decision.”

There is no vaccine to prevent HIV, nor is there a cure for those who are already infected. There are medications to help people with HIV to live longer and healthier lives.

The US Centre of Disease Control and Prevention recommends sexually active gay and bisexual men to get tested at least once a year. Other health professionals suggest more frequently. It’s best to talk to your doctor. Specifically ask to be tested for HIV and STI’s. The only way to know for sure is to be tested.

It can take as long as three to six months after exposure for antibodies to be measurable in an HIV test. During this time you could test negative for HIV but still be infected and be able to transmit the virus to others.

For more information on HIV testing, visit hivtest.org or speak to your doctor or local health professional.


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