We’ve heard time and again that we need to practice safer sex in order to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections. But while many of us know this, is it as simple as putting on a condom?
For gay men, the fear of HIV is very real. Thankfully, people living with HIV today are able to live happy and healthy lives, but as time has gone on, to what extent have safer sex practices evolved?
Of course, condoms are an extremely effective method of preventing us from passing on sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, to our sexual partners. That being said, many gay and bisexual men are not using condoms and I don’t blame them – they’re not exactly the sexiest things in the world, are they?
FS magazine carried out a survey recently that explored the idea of risk during sex. 65% of the gay and bisexual men surveyed reported that they had gone without their rubber friend when they had last had anal sex. Some said that this was due to the fact that their partner was undetectable or that they were taking PrEP.
Perhaps these results add to the argument that a condom-only option is simply not enough for gay and bisexual men in 2017. With this in mind, it seemed like a timely coincidence to see Do It London rolling out their latest wave of adverts.
In an attempt to educate Londoners about the many ways they can prevent HIV transmission, the London-wide HIV prevention programme brings to the forefront the latest scientific evidence on how we can all prevent HIV from being passed on. PrEP and being ‘undetectable’ now form part of the quartet of HIV prevention methods, alongside the more well-known methods of using condoms and getting tested. This allows for greater choice for gay and bisexual men when it comes to making decisions about their sexual health.
I think it’s important that Do It London have acknowledged ‘undetectable’ as a means of preventing HIV from being passed on. To date, it seems that it has been left to those living with HIV to educate others within the gay community about what it means to be undetectable, resulting in them at times facing a barrage of abusive language, particularly on dating and hook-up apps. Perhaps now that this campaign has brought this into a more ‘mainstream’ conversation, we will start to see a change in attitudes towards people living with HIV and a greater understanding of treatment for people living with the virus.
As gay and bisexual men, we are all too aware that we are disproportionately affected by HIV compared to other groups within society, so why is this campaign so important? One of the biggest barriers to effective HIV prevention is the notion that HIV is a taboo subject of conversation. If we’re afraid to broach the subject with our sexual partner, then how can we negotiate safer sex practices with them?
Equally, if we continue to demonise those living with HIV on dating and hook-up apps, we are pushing this topic further under the carpet, resulting in people feeling unable to discuss their HIV status with their sexual partners.
Do It London are bringing HIV back into conversation, whilst educating the general population about new developments in the fight against HIV. But let’s not forget, this campaign is London-focused and what seems like a logical step forward would be a similar nationwide campaign.
In the meantime, I’d invite you all to educate yourselves about these new developments, be it asking someone on social media who is living with HIV to visiting an HIV charity’s website. It is only then will we feel more empowered to have open conversation about HIV and negotiating safer sex with our partners.