That awkward negotiation before imminent encounter with a sexual partner met on mobile apps, online or at a bar often includes a brief health information exchange about HIV. Health educators recommend discussing HIV status before sexual encounters. Disclosure could lead to safer sex, more relaxed rendezvous and enhanced intimacy.
While in recent years having this conversation has gotten progressively easier for all parties involved, in many cases the exchange ends up being a useless formality made of insensitive questions (“Are you clean?”), superficial acronyms (“DDF?”), and uninformative answers (“I’m good”, “Yeah, clean”, “Neg”, “Poz”, etc.).
To have a meaningful conversation about HIV status, people should corner intentions and sexual partners in the realm of actuality, by keeping it to-the-point and asking the following questions: “When did you last test for HIV? What was the test result?” Equally important is to open minds to reality by remembering that the time of binary HIV statuses is pretty much over.
I can count five HIV statuses, plus a new one. They entail different responsibilities, possibilities and risks.
Let’s review them on a continuum from the safest to the problematic ones.
- “I’m HIV positive, undetectable.”
- “I’m HIV negative. I test regularly. I always use condoms.”
- “I’m HIV-positive. I don’t know what my viral load is.”
- “I don’t know my status.”
- “I’m HIV negative.” (Or at least he thinks he is).
- “I’m HIV Negative on PrEP.”