I recently had a discussion with a friend who like me was HIV positive. He was excited as he recently met someone new and unlike his past several relationships he felt that this was going to be the one. Despite the fact they had only been dating for two months, for him wedding bells were ringing and he was ready to give himself fully to this person. Despite how I felt he was rushing things and knowing how hard it is to find someone in this crazy world, I had nothing but good wishes. My friend was always one to divulge too much information so I wasn’t prepared when he shared how they were choosing to not use protection. He then shared that his new boyfriend was also HIV. So putting the two positives together, he felt was no need to worry and also no need for any type of protection.
It was important for me to not come at his relationship with any type of judgement or to put my own baggage at his feet. Mostly because I understood where he was coming from as I once had the same belief that once you were diagnosed HIV positive you no longer had to be safe. The reason I felt that way is because everyone’s opinion on this topic seemed to differ. Some will tell you as long as you’re both undetectable then it should be okay. Others gave good points on why it wasn’t a good idea and even more came with dialogue on why it was okay.
It was hard to talk to him based on the various beliefs and theories on the science of whether two positive people should forgo using condoms during intercourse. Before I go any further I’m going to state a disclaimer and say that the following is just my own belief and also maybe a little bit of Googling on the internet, but in no way what I write is the definite answer.
Myself I advocate that two people who are HIV positive practice safe sex. In a way it eases any fear you may have of getting re-infected. Like I stated before I didn’t readily know this information so some of my earlier encounters was filled with fear and what ifs instead of enjoyment. With no clear answer I decided it wasn’t worth taking the chance. My body was having enough time holding my own virus at bay and now I was going to open the door and make room for more. Homey don’t play that!
The reason I advocate for protection between two HIV positive persons is for the following reasons. The danger of being re-infected I felt was very much real. At the same time it didn’t meant I avoided those who were positive. I surely didn’t want to join the chorus of those who reject people based on their status, but choosing to protect yourself is more along the line of being smart. My motto was, ‘you can protect and not reject’.
Knowing the virus comes in different strains should be one motivator. For instance my HIV virus may be different from your virus and by sharing body fluids, before you know it my virus which I called Clark Kent now has a cape and now I have a Super Infection as it flies away in my system doing damage. The chances of being re-infected are also real when you’re taking medication. For example, I am being treated for HIV and my medications are working well. Then I have unprotected sex with another person living with HIV and get re-infected with their strain, one that is resistant to most medications. Over time, that new strain will flourish in my body, rendering my once successful treatment useless. Eventually my viral load skyrockets and my immune system pay the price.
The second thing to take in consideration, especially for my friend who had just met his new boyfriend and even though he’s know him for two months, although HIV is the dominant reasoning, you also have to take into consideration that it’s not the only guest at the party. There’s other STD’s that have to be taken into consideration and although some may be treatable, is it worth it especially knowing you can prevent it? Especially in this environment when other STD’s such as syphilis and gonorrhea are on the rise and gonorrhea is becoming resistant to medications.
The good news is that you can have a great sexual relationship with another positive person and still be safe. My last relationship was a great one as he was also positive and in that relationship we supported each others health and that included our sexual health. Just because we entered a relationship didn’t mean we had to discard our education on safe safe. If anything it was more exciting as we learned and explored new ways to be intimate with each other. We sometimes buy into the belief that safe sex is boring or it’s like eating a saltine. It may start out as a saltine but so much more can be placed on it that makes it exciting, reinvigorating and a wonderful experience.