The LGBT Health & Development Program

Youth blog – Protect Each Other by Getting Tested Together!

Posted on December 14th, 2016 by IMPACT in Featured, Life & HIV, Youth Blog. No Comments

A photo of a photo of two white men with beards kissing each other.

Manuel Gonzales Noriega, “No title,” December 8, 2015

Written by Ricky Hill, Ph.D., research project coordinator, 2GETHER

December 1st marked the 28th annual celebration of World AIDS Day. This day is about raising awareness of HIV, honoring those lost to the disease, and celebrating the lives of those living with HIV. In the decades since the start of the AIDS crisis, HIV infection rates remain higher in some communities. Higher HIV rates appear among gay, bisexual, and queer men (GBQM) and other men who have sex with men (MSM). In fact, MSM are the only group in the country seeing increases in HIV infection. Additionally, young, black MSM have an almost 1 in 2 chance of becoming HIV positive in their lifetime [1]. Knowing your HIV status is one of the most powerful tools for HIV prevention. Getting tested offers a chance to learn how to reduce risk behaviors.

HIV prevention has focused mostly on individual testing. However, many gay men in relationships do not know the status of their main partners. This may put them at risk for HIV. In fact, between one and two-thirds of new HIV infections among MSM happen between main sex partners [2]. Sure, there are risks related to random hook-ups, but there are risks with regular partners too. MSM have more anal sex with main partners, and are less likely to use condoms while doing so [3]. Because anal sex is a risk factor for HIV transmission, condomless anal sex increases the chances for HIV to spread.

It is easy to enter a relationship believing both partners are HIV negative. Without testing to confirm your status, doubts may linger. There is a way to avoid the doubt: Get tested for HIV together!

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend HIV testing and counseling together for people involved in a sexual relationship. Testing together gives people the chance to learn their HIV test results at the same time. It lets them talk about what their results mean to them and to their relationship.

This can get rid of some of the worries that can come with partners sharing their status with each other. Because sharing HIV status is done in the testing session, testing together takes away ignorance of HIV status. This allows the couple to build an HIV prevention plan specific to the needs of their relationship. Testing together helps people in relationships to be more hands-on about their health.

So, whether you’re a guy in a long term, monogamous relationship, a guy with a boo (or two!), or a guy who has a few friends with benefits, keep your relationship healthy and happy by talking about your HIV status and getting tested together.

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[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diagnoses of HIV Infection in the United States and Dependent Areas, 2013. Atlanta, GA: 2015.

[2] Sullivan PS, Salazar L, Buchbinder S, Sanchez TH. Estimating the proportion of HIV transmissions from main sex partners among men who have sex with men in five US cities. AIDS. 2009;23(9):1153-1162.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Infection Risk, Prevention, and Testing Behaviors among Men Who Have Sex with Men National HIV Behavioral Surveillance, 20 U.S. Cities, HIV Surveillance Special Report 15.

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