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Here’s something all gay men need to know about HIV and undetectable viral loads

By Will Stroude

Sexual health charity GMFA are smashing stereotypes and stigma with their video series, ‘Living With HIV’.

The first video, released on Monday (September 5), shed light on common misconceptions about living with HIV, and now the boys are back with a second video, which discusses what it means to have an undetectable viral load.

“My viral load is undetectable,” explains one participant. “Which means I can’t sexually pass it on.”

Earlier this year, the PARTNER study examined 1,666 couples across 14 European countries in serodiscordant relationships (where one is HIV positive and the other negative), and found that there were absolutely no transmissions of HIV from one member of the couple to the other during that time.

Despite this, there are still lots of misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted, and how being undetectable affects the risk of transmission.

“In 2016, people living with HIV should not be feared or made to feel ashamed for having the virus. Although recent work by GMFA and others has helped shift some of the stigma associated with the virus there is still a huge mountain to climb,” said GMFA’s interim CEO Ian Howley. 

He continued: “In our recent survey, 90% of the HIV-positive men said they believe that stigma about HIV is likely to discourage gay men who’ve tested positive from disclosing their status to others (friends, family, sex partners, etc.) – and 75% are themselves reluctant to tell others for fear of stigma. 

For HIV stigma to be truly banished, attitudes within the gay community and beyond must continue to be challenged in order for them to change. HIV stigma doesn’t just affect those living with HIV but also those who are afraid to test for HIV because they’d ‘rather not know’.

“This type of attitude can be dangerous and lead to late diagnosis (meaning less effective treatment and more chance of passing on HIV to others).”

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