I recently went to a knowledge translation networking event where there was a talk from a featured campaign that is vancouver based and generated a lot of jobs in science and communication over the past couple of years:
This is a beautiful and streamlined campaign that has had a measurable effect on the testing and treatment rate in BC to date. I love that their platform focuses partially on de-stigmatizing HIV and generating a positive environment detailing how BC as an entire community (not just the DTES) can obliterate HIV.
But I have a little qualm. Their first point listed on ‘prevention’ is as follows:
Reduce your number of sexual partners. The fewer partners you have, the less chance you’ll be exposed to STIs, including HIV.
Really. So I contracted an STI after my third partner. I have had much more than 3 partners since, and never any other incidence of transmission (that I know of at this moment). That partner was a 2 year relationship and my STI was not a product of what is considered typical ‘at risk’ sexual behavior (ie: my having many sexual partners). I feel strongly, that if you are trying to de-stigmatize STI transmission, you need to stop making people feel unreasonably safe because they expose themselves to relatively few partners. I felt I was being safe, and that at 3 partners I did not ‘deserve’ to battle an infection with lasting consequences; as such, my self esteem took a horrible dive that was really pointless and overblown.
The reality is that each partner exposes you to the sum of their previous sexual risks, and each individual sexual encounter is a risk. Many of our friends have had exponentially more partners, but proceeded with them safely and avoided the situation I ended up in because I loved and trusted my partner who infected me.
There is still a stigma that sluts spread infections. Sometimes its true, sometimes its not. And carrying that stigma because you’ve had an infection does not increase the likelihood of the average person to be vocal and open with their partner. Removing the stigma involves an acceptance that STIs, like pregnancy, are just a risk everybody runs with sexual encounters. You can minimize these risks with careful communication and shared responsibility with your sexual partners. In this way, the person with 15 sexual partners can be just as safe as the one with 3, provided you take the time to vet and communicate with your partner effectively (it is hard work being the sexually adventurous of the world, and my kudos to those who do it well). And sometimes, as happens with pregnancy, someone will lie, or be lazy, or fuck up and shit happens. Thus is life and not the burden of the ‘slut’.
Also of note: BC now provides rapid Point of Care HIV testing. I’ve been under a rock. Prick your finger and its minutes for a preliminary HIV test? Incredible.
I really don’t know much about it but wow. You can communicate positive results to an entire population that is never going to come back in time to receive their diagnosis and therefore risk spreading the disease in willful ignorance. BUT considering that the disease can take up to 3-6 months for seroconversion to take place, you could also make those people feel unreasonably safe and certain about their negative status. I’m also curious about how accurate the POC testing must be? Hm.