“HIV and AIDS: Prevention for Positives”
Hi, my name is [PRESENTER NAME]. I’m [PRESENTER ROLE]. Welcome to the “HIV and AIDS: Prevention for Positives.” This video is intended for individuals who are HIV positive and their partners and will explain how to reduce your risk of transmitting or contracting HIV.
HIV is a 100% preventable illness. It is important to remember that we can all help stop the spread of this deadly virus. If you are HIV negative, it is important to remember how HIV is transmitted. You can minimize your risk of contracting it through abstinence, by being mutually faithful to one partner, by using a condom for every sexual activity including oral, vaginal, and anal sex, and for those who inject drugs, by not sharing needles. Obviously, if you are in a culture where you do not have equal rights, you may not be able to follow these guidelines.
Knowing your HIV status is the first step in making sure that you will never spread it. The U.S. government has even suggested that HIV testing be a part of a regular medical check-up. If you do not know your HIV status, please get tested. You can be tested confidentially or anonymously. Testing confidentially means that only you and your health care provider will know your name and test result. In the United States and many other countries, there are strong laws that protect the confidentiality of information between the health care provider and their patients. If you are concerned about confidentiality, in many places you can test anonymously. In anonymous testing, you do not disclose your name. You can contact your local health department for testing and if they do not offer it onsite, they will direct you to the nearest location.
If you are HIV positive, you can help make sure that HIV stops with you. Many of my patients have told me they do not feel safe telling their partners their HIV status because they are afraid of being rejected. I can only imagine what it would be like to experience that fear. When you know your HIV status but don’t disclose it, you may be carrying a burden. You have the chance to set that burden down. By taking a stand to disclose your status to every potential partner, you create a freedom of choice that did not previously exist. You may be saying to yourself, “I was not given that freedom of choice when I contracted HIV, why should I give that freedom to someone else?” You may not have had the knowledge at the time you contracted HIV. However, you now have the power to make sure that HIV stops with you. That may be the only power you feel like you have over your life at this time, and it is a good place to start. Make the decision today to make HIV stop with you.
In some places, newly diagnosed HIV positive people can voluntarily provide the names and contact details of their previous sexual partners to local public health services. The list of partners includes both those who may have infected you and those you may have exposed to HIV. This notification enables the partners to receive counseling and testing for HIV. Participation in such programs is voluntary, and you can make the decision after you get your test results. You will never be required to provide the names of past sexual partners if you don’t want to.
People often ask whether there are any increased risks for two HIV infected people having unprotected sex or sharing needles. This has been called serosorting: HIV positive individuals having HIV positive sexual partners instead of HIV negative partners in order to prevent further spread of HIV. The answer is not very popular and sometimes not very well received. Serosorting is intended to prevent HIV negative individuals from contracting HIV. While the intention of serosorting may be good, this practice is not completely safe. There are many strains of the HIV virus. One person may be carrying a different strain of HIV than their partner. In addition, over time the HIV virus has been exposed to a number of different medications and has developed resistance. It has mutated or changed its shape so that those medications and possibly others in the same class or group are no longer effective.
When two HIV positive individuals exchange body fluids through unprotected sex or needle sharing, they may acquire each other’s virus. Being infected with more than one strain of HIV is called superinfection. Since this is not a common occurrence, some people feel there is not enough evidence to warrant using condoms, even if both partners are HIV positive. Nonetheless, if you acquire another strain of HIV through a risky behavior, the harmful effects can be serious. Physicians have seen the effects of superinfection on a patient’s CD4 count. For example, one patient’s CD4 count had been stable for many many years. After an unprotected sexual encounter with another man in a foreign country, he developed a significant drop in his CD4 count and it never recovered.
If you are on antiretroviral medications, take them at the dosages and on the schedule prescribed by your physician. When you take your medications as prescribed, you accomplish two things. First, you reduce the risk that HIV will develop resistance to the medications. Second, you reduce the amount of virus in your body, called your viral load, hopefully to a nondetectable level. A lower viral load decreases your chance of transmitting HIV. Taking your medications as prescribed, however, is no substitute for safer sexual practices such as using condoms correctly every time.
Make sure that you and your partner are healthy and do not have other sexually transmitted diseases. Having other sexually transmitted diseases when you are having unprotected sex increases the risk of both transmitting and of contracting HIV. Being free of other sexually transmitted diseases, however, is no substitute for safer sexual practices. Barriers such as condoms and dental dams are always a necessary part of safer sex.
No matter who you are, you are a valuable individual, and your life matters as do the lives of those in your community. Take care of yourself and those around you. Make healthy choices that eliminate or reduce your risk of contracting HIV.
For AIDSvideos.org, this is [PRESENTER NAME].
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Script by Becky Kuhn, M.D. of Global Lifeworks and Eric Krock of AIDSvideos.org.
This script was reviewed for accuracy and approved by Becky Kuhn, M.D. on July 30, 2011.