By Andrea Arscott, Columnist
There’s good news for gay men living in New Westminster and its surrounding areas: the HIM clinic is now open at the Purpose Society at 40 Begbie Street (a couple blocks from Douglas) on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 4 to 9 p.m. Stop in to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and Hep C, or to talk to someone about your physical, emotional, sexual, or social health matters. The Health Initiative for Men (HIM) is dedicated to promoting the well-being of gay men of all ages. Take a peek at HIM’s website at checkhimout.ca or come by to say, “Howdy,” and fill your boots with condoms—and don’t forget the lube!
It’s extremely important to use condoms and water-based lube during anal sex. According to Microbicide Trial Network, ”the risk of becoming infected with HIV during anal sex is 20 times greater than vaginal sex because the rectal lining is thinner and more fragile than the vaginal lining.” Lube can prevent friction, which prevents condom breakage. So load up on Aqua Lube, and please, save your oily substitutes for their intended uses. Oil-based lubricants can cause condoms to break down, plus they can lead to infections. And who wants an itch you can’t scratch?
Men having sex with men may want to cozy up to condoms if they haven’t already done so. An article in 24 Hours states that Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall explained in his latest report on HIV, stigma, and society that HIV rates are not decreasing amongst gay and bisexual men. According to 24 Hours, almost 60 per cent of new HIV infections in BC were attributed to this group in 2011. There could be many explanations as to why the gay community is not experiencing a decrease in HIV cases.
If you are, however, a man having anal sex with other men in an open or a non-monogamous relationship, or you simply like to engage in casual encounters of the bump-and-grind kind, it’s especially important to wear a condom. If you’re a Scruff or Grindr user, although you’re likely to ask potential dates “are you DDF (drug and disease free)?” frequently, you can’t always be certain users know their status. Or maybe the guy you want to hook up with had a mishap he doesn’t yet know about. Back at the ranch, your brainy self knows that sending this hot dude up to your private room is risky, so be sure to stock up your drawers with lots of condoms.
Condoms come in all shapes, types, and sizes, and you can have a blast (literally) experimenting with them. Then, when you meet someone you want to have a relationship with, think of how good sex will feel once you decide it’s time to give up the rubber wetsuit. According to HIM, you should only consider condom-less sex with a regular partner after three months of using them consistently with that partner, before and after testing. It can take up to three months for HIV antibodies to develop in the body and to show up in a rapid HIV test. During this window period HIV is most infectious and can be easily passed on through condom-less sex of any kind.
As long as you and your boyfriend aren’t having sex with other people, and provided there weren’t other partners in the couple months before you met, three months should be long enough to wait. But, in case your new partner slept with someone else when you started dating, you may want to play it safe and wait an extra month before burning rubber. Or better yet, talk to a nurse about it first.
It can also take three months to get to know someone, so why not take it slow? In the meantime, get tested before having sex with new partners to eliminate HIV and STIs from previous partners, and then test again after three months just to be sure you’re clear. Am I clear?
Stop HIV now. Get tested. Wear a condom. Get tested.
Come down to the HIM clinic in New West on the first and third Friday of the month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for anonymous and rapid HIV testing, and STI and HCV testing. We also provide vaccines, free harm-reduction supplies, and condoms! You can also get your questions answered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org