An Important Conversation Before Sex
Meeting someone new or starting a relationship can bring happiness and exciting emotions. Texting can lead to dates, then steamy moments. Before long, a whirlwind romance begins. When the topic of sex comes up, some people want to head right to the good stuff. Having sex or exploring sexuality are natural parts of life. However, the urge for sex should not come before speaking about one’s human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status. Statistics show that over 95,000 Texans live with HIV, with over 4,000 new cases yearly. Testing before penetration can make a big difference, especially for those with higher risk.
Should MSM be worried about HIV?
Of the over 95,000 HIV cases, over 75% are men. Gay men and cisgender men who have sex with men (MSM) are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Furthermore, over 70% of these men fall in the Black and Latino communities. What puts men and MSM at risk? Anal penetration has the highest virus risk, and many men have sex without protection. Furthermore, there are ongoing stigmas and discrimination in these communities. Homophobia and transphobia can discourage men from getting tested or using medication to prevent the spread of HIV. Since HIV disproportionately affects MSM, some men are likely to encounter sexual partners with HIV. Therefore, having a conversation about HIV status becomes vital.
Don’t skip this test
Getting tested should be essential to sexual health, especially among MSM. Doctors recommend that at-risk people, especially men, get tested once yearly. Men with multiple partners and people who inject drugs can benefit from testing every 3-6 months. Now, testing is simple and accessible. For instance, antigen or antibody tests can provide preliminary results in 30 minutes. However, couples or men who have sex with multiple partners should consider standard HIV blood tests at least once yearly.
Raising the topic
The topic of HIV awareness is uncomfortable, especially among men. However, when partners are on the same page before penetration, sex can be more enjoyable. Don’t hesitate to bring up the topic of HIV before the first time. Some sexual relationships start without knowing the person’s HIV or sexually transmitted infection (STI) status. If a couple has already had sex, protected or not, get tested before having sex again. Be open about any concerns and, if possible, get tested together. This simple step builds trust and reduces the spread of the virus. Sharing HIV+ and HIV- results helps partners to take steps to remain healthy.
Prevention over cure
Sex is an enjoyable, exciting experience, especially with a new partner. However, getting tested should take priority if there is a high risk of HIV. Testing protects both parties, especially high-risk groups, like men who have sex with men. Besides testing, take other steps to reduce the chances of contracting HIV. Avoid behaviors like sharing needles and unprotected sex with multiple partners. These both increase the risk of HIV. Learn proper condom use and consider options like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). In the end, open communication is the best way to have a healthy sex life.