HIV Prevention: More than just condoms

Writer: Jason Lie

Illustrator: Sarah Sordelli

 

My high school sex education consisted of me learning about puberty then skipping straight to pregnancy. Why they bothered to call it sex educations is beyond me? In fact, we were told that because we attended a catholic school, we wouldn’t be learning about STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) prevention or contraception. As a gay man, this was especially problematic for me.

 

According to Kirby Institute’s 2015 Annual Surveillance Report, in Australia 70% of HIV transmission occurred among men who have sex with men.. To be honest, I was not expecting a hetero-centric religious school curriculum to include information about gay health, but it would have been nice. I resorted to the internet and here’s how, as a gay man I’ve learnt to reduce my chances of contracting or transmitting HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

 

Screenshot (171)Perhaps the most obvious suggestion: condoms, when used regularly and correctly are effective in preventing HIV. To ensure a condom’s effectiveness make sure it is stored in a cool and dry space and that it is not expired. During sex, make sure to avoid oil-based lubricants as they can weaken the condom. You can purchase water based lubricants that have a silicon texture. When removing the condom after sex hold the base around your penis and then pull out to prevent any cum from spilling out of the condom. A report by the Centre for Social Research in Health from the University of New South Wales revealed that the number of gay men engaging in sex without condoms rose to 39% in 2014, up six percent from 2005. So expecting all gay men to use condoms may be an unrealistic request. That is why it is important to use a combination of preventative methods.

 

Screenshot (169)Don’t have anal sex. I don’t mean never have it again, but avoid it when you aren’t sure about the person’s HIV status. The anal lining is susceptible to tearing meaning that HIV can enter the body more directly. As a result, engaging in anal sex becomes risky but you can always try some fun low risk alternatives. Speak into the microphone or in other words, give someone a blow job, it is a practice as old as time and can be a breath taking experience. If you want a more hands on approach, shake hands — then each other’s penises. Be careful of cut and sores when engaging in mutual masturbation or hand jobs . Finally, if you need your bodies to press together, try Intercrural sex. Practiced by the nobles of Ancient Greece and Japan, it involves someone placing their penis between someone’s lubricated and tightly pressed thighs and then thrusting to creating friction. Talk about thigh gap!

 

Screenshot (170)Knowing your status is important for yourself and the people you’re having sex with. If you know you are HIV positive, you can seek treatment and make an effort to reduce your chances of transmitting it to someone else. Pronto offer free and rapid HIV testing. With the Trinity Biotech-Uni Gold Rapid HIV test, the results are given to you within 15 minutes. The test is administered by other gay men in an effort to create a less intimidating experience. Visit their website to learn more about their services and to book an appointment.

 

Screenshot (172)You wake up from last night’s bareback festivities with a bad taste in your mouth: No condoms were used. If you think you’ve had a risk of HIV exposure in the last 72 hours then consider PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis). It is a one-month drug course that you must start within 72 hours of exposure. Begin by calling the PEP hotline 1800 889 887 and an experienced sexual health/HIV nurse will help you access PEP if needed. PEP works by helping the body’s immune system stop the infected cells from multiplying. These cells eventually die out.

 

PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a HIV prevention method for people who do not have HIV. It involves taking a pill (Truvada) on a daily basis that can reduce your risk of getting HIV by 90%. To reach its maximum potential, the pill needs to be taken for 20 consecutive days. Swallowing the pill an hour before ‘daddybear69’ arrives at your house will not guarantee you protection. Truvada has recently been approved by the TPA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) meaning doctors no longer have to describe it you ‘off label’. A year’s worth of Truvada is $13,500 as it is not subsidised by PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme) but may soon be thanks to the TPA’s approval. Alternatively, you can buy it from overseas supplier for about $1300 per year but be careful.

 

Screenshot (168)Someone who is HIV positive can protect the people they are having sex with by adhering to their antiretroviral treatment (ART). ART reduces the HIV viral load in the blood and other bodily fluids. The HPTN 052 clinical trials found that the HIV transmission rate could be reduce by 93% meaning TasP can be as effective as condoms and PreP. But it should be implemented immediately after a positive HIV diagnosis to ensure full effectives. This is why it’s important to get regularly tested.

 

On her YouTube channel ‘sexplantions’, Dr. Lindsey Doe answer HIV related questions.

 

Jason studies Professional Writing and Editing at VU Footscray Nicholson.

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