When a guy shares sensitive information with you, consider what the effects of your response might be.
It’s up to each of us to have the conversations we want to have with our sex partners. The more we talk about tough stuff, the more skillful we become at doing just that. Being honest and kind has a bigger impact than just being a nice guy — it also helps make for more safety and freedom in our sexual networks. There are lots of things to ask yourself when sharing information or talking about sexual health, and lots of things to consider when responding.
If a guy tells you that he’s HIV-positive, lets you know that he’s trans, or discloses something else, remember that it can take a lot of courage for us to share or ask about this information. Be gentle and generous when you react. Remember that if someone discloses to you that they’re HIV-positive, or perhaps that they have an STI, it’s because he cares about your health, too. He probably trusts you to be respectful, confidential, and understanding.
Think before you ask a question.
- Is this respectful?
- Will this offend them?
Know the facts before making assumptions.
- Do I know the key facts about this topic?
- Guys who have been diagnosed with HIV and are on treatment can’t transmit HIV. In Ontario, over 97% of HIV positive guys who are on treatment have an undetectable viral load. A lot of new infections happen when guys have HIV but have not been diagnosed. This is because they are likely to have a high viral load, may do things they wouldn’t if they knew they had HIV, and would likely tell you they’re HIV negative if you asked, when they don’t actually know for sure.
- Remember that it can take a lot of courage to talk about this stuff. He probably trusts you to be respectful, confidential and understanding. Make sure he knows that you appreciate his honesty
- Give this conversation the space it needs for both of you
Have sex without stigma
- There’s enough stigma out there. Guys who have an undetectable viral load can’t transmit HIV to their partners. Even if a guy doesn’t have an undetectable viral load, condoms and PrEP are both also highly effective at preventing HIV transmission.
- You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. But it’s worth asking yourself how you can reduce stigma, and if you understand all the science.
Get on PrEP
- If a guy is undetectable, you don’t nee to also be on PrEP to stop HIV transmission, but if you don’t know the status of all your partners, or you find yourself dealing with a lot of anxiety about HIV transmission, getting on PrEP is a great way to alleviate that stress, regardless of whatever another guy’s situation is. Learn more about how to get on PrEP.
Make it all about yourself
- He wants you to know something about him and he’s putting trust in you.
- Talking over him, acting as though you’re a victim, or acting overly dramatic makes it seem like you don’t value his experience
- You may have questions about his health, about transmission, or his history.
- You can ask questions that are respectful, but remember that he’s going to have limits about how much he wants to share with you.
- If you have questions in the days after you hook up with a guy who told you he’s poz, respect that he might not have the energy or time to respond to questions or anxieties in the days after.
Act before you think
- Rejecting someone right away means you probably didn’t think it through.
- Give yourself a moment to think through what you know about HIV transmission, sexual health, and viral load.
- You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, but remember that fucking poz guys who have an undetectable viral load is less likely to end up in HIV transmission than choosing partners because they tell you they are HIV-negative.
Tell anyone else
- It’s never cool to share someone’s private information without their permission, especially if there’s a lot of misunderstanding about that information in the world. Even if you feel betrayed, sharing this information can really hurt others socially, in the workplace, even legally.
Use it against them
- Somebody’s honesty is not a bargaining chip. Don’t exploit this information to get something you want.
Make assumptions about them based on their HIV status
- Don’t assume anything about him, his partners, what kind of person he is, his trustworthiness, or how he acquired HIV. All kinds of people acquire HIV in a lot of different ways.
Rely on stereotypes
- HIV has been portrayed harmfully and inaccurately in the media over the years. Check out the video series we made about it. Most HIV positive guys take good care of themselves, are in great health, live long and healthy lives, and care deeply about the health of their partners.