Don’t spread it—get tested
By Andrea Arscott, Contributor
If you know that 1+1+1=3, you probably know that everyone’s susceptible to HIV. HIV is transmitted when an infected body fluid (blood, sexual fluids, and breast milk) passes through a body opening. If you’re a virgin, if you’ve never had unprotected oral sex, and if you never share drug paraphernalia, then you’re quite safe, but there are other ways to get HIV that I will talk about in future articles too. However, if you’ve ever had sex with or without a condom, you should consider getting tested. Condoms can break, and you can’t be sure your partner’s partners went for testing.
Let’s say Sally starts chatting to Billy on an online dating site. They message one another for a month before meeting. By this time, they think they’ve developed a connection, so after a flirtatious evening at the burger shack, he invites her over for a movie. Sally’s had a month to build up an image of Billy, so in her eyes, he’s Juan Pablo (at the first rose ceremony). Like a bird to a worm, she flies over to Billy’s place (à la Clare-style).
Sally expects cuddles and candles, while Billy thinks he’s going to score with popcorn and pornos—bow-chicka-bow-wow. Little does Sally know, Billy has been averaging four dates weekly, and getting it on with at least one woman per week. Billy’s more like a snake than a worm. Do you think he asked them about testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
Sally and Billy start cuddling on the couch and end up on a well-worn futon he calls his bed. Since he’s got a drawer full of condoms, she has sex with him. The condom breaks, but she’s not worried; she’s practically fallen for him. Thirty minutes later, Billy sees her to the door. Sally leaves thinking she’s met Vancouver’s most eligible bachelor, but like a bubble in the wind, Billy disappears.
A week later, Sally decides to get tested, but her doctor tells her there’s a window period for HIV. Although Sally can test now to eliminate risks from partners she had three to six months ago and before, the blood test won’t reveal if she contracted HIV from Billy. She’ll have to test again six weeks after the possible exposure and then at the three- or six-month mark to get an accurate reading, as it could take up to six months for HIV antibodies to appear.
Sally doesn’t know it, but Billy’s infected her with HIV, and it’s slowly damaging her immune system, making it easy to get sick and hard to recover. However, Sally’s in the asymptomatic period of HIV, so she’s showing no signs of illness. She returns for a second HIV test and finds out she’s positive.
Billy doesn’t know he’s HIV-positive yet and has unsafe sex with five more people. The public health nurse tracks Billy down and tells him he’s been exposed to HIV and that he needs to get checked. Billy tests positive. Who knows how long he’s had HIV and how many girls he’s infected, and how many men they’ve infected. If they’re having unprotected sex, they may be quietly spreading the virus.
Eventually, Sally and Billy will experience symptoms of HIV and may become ill, but because of advances in treatment, HIV isn’t a death sentence anymore. Although it’s not something you want, it’s treatable, and you can live a long life with it. Take responsibility—don’t spread it, get tested.
Come down to the Purpose Society clinic at 40 Begbie Street in New West on Friday, March 28 for HIV/STI testing and vaccines from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as free condoms! Do you have a sexual health question? Get it answered anonymously (and maybe published in this column) by emailing sexyquestions@purposesociety.