WHY WE IN THE GAY COMMUNITY NEED TO RETHINK HIV PREVENTION

07_prep-squad.jpgWe’ve come so far in the terms of where we are in HIV prevention. Gone are the days of the tombstone adverts. Now we live in an age where the majority of gay and bisexual men living with HIV have the condition under control. So if this is the case, why are we still seeing high numbers of HIV infections?

If you look at any HIV prevention campaign, have you noticed that the ‘why’ is never really connects with an audience? “Why? Can you explain?” My theory is that we just assume gay men know why they have to wear a condom or why they should go and get tested. However, there’s no explanation as to why they should want to remain HIV-negative.

Ask yourself, why would you want to remain HIV-negative?  We’re told all the time to try and avoid HIV but when men do become HIV-positive they are told not to worry, that it’ll be fine, that they will lead a near to normal life. So I go back to my original question, why? If we are living in a world where HIV can have little impact on your overall health once managed, why do we put so much effort into keeping gay men HIV-negative? Personally, I feel that we have got stuck in a bubble of telling men to ‘just wear a condom’, or ‘get tested’, and even ‘take PrEP’. There are a lot of statements and not a lot of reason. Assuming that gay men know why they should remain HIV-negative is part of the problem.

HIV prevention is about so much more than telling someone to wear a condom, to test, to take PrEP. It’s also about self-esteem, self worth, mental health and empowerment. If you don’t care about yourself, why would you care about remaining HIV-negative? And this is where HIV prevention has to change. We need to step back and think about how do we approach this. We can shout at you about PrEP as much as we like and we may even convince gay men to go on it. But will they take it as prescribed if they don’t care about themselves? Will they care about condom use after they’ve had six glasses of wine, two vodkas and a shitty day at work? Life as a gay man is so much more than HIV. Sometimes we forget that.

How many men wake up in the morning and think about HIV or STIs? How many, when horny, are thinking about the consequences of not using a condom? How many are thinking ‘it could happen to me?’ The majority of us are thinking about work, paying bills, going on dates, getting hammered at the weekend, dealing with a needy partner or a break-up. Life is full of different challenges and we need to address that there’s more to gay men’s health than HIV.

The game has changed and we need to change tactics. If we are to finally win the fight against HIV it’s not going to be down to just PrEP or condoms or testing. It’s going to be when we, as a community, start to value our own lives and see our self worth. It will be when we work on our self-esteem and make sure we look after the issues we face in our day-to-day lives. Remaining HIV-negative is just one part of the battle to be healthy.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. renudepride says:

    Excellent. Why gay men are ambivalent towards HIV are for all the reasons you mentioned above, self-esteem, mental health, substance addictions and the always current “I’m going to live forever” philosophy. It’s like none of us are ever going to grow up! Naked hugs!

    Like

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