Despite significant advances in HIV treatment and prevention, some men still lack knowledge about HIV, perpetuate HIV stigma, and shame those who take care of their sexual health. This may be due to their lack of exposure to relevant and current information, having incorrect information, or fear.
There are a few key points to consider about PrEP, ARVs, and HIV risk.
- PrEP is a daily pill that has been proven to be up to 99.9% effective in preventing HIV transmission when taken as prescribed. This is important because research has shown that men do not always use condoms consistently, even when not using any other HIV protection method.
- Although slut-shaming men on PrEP was more common when it first became available, it still occurs today. When a man mentions that he is on PrEP, other men may assume that he is promiscuous or engaging in risky sexual behaviour. This stigma is similar to the shame that women may face for using birth control.
- Most HIV infections occur when men do not know their own HIV status, assume that their sexual partner is negative, or take someone’s word for it when they say they are negative. Statements such as “I’m clean, you be too,” “Neg4Neg,” “Disease-free,” or “Sorry, no poz guys” are common and reflect the stigma surrounding those living with HIV. They also indicate ignorance about the reality of dating HIV-positive men.
- The U=U campaign is an international effort to raise awareness about the benefits of ARVs. U=U stands for “Undetectable = Untransmittable,” meaning that an HIV-positive person on ARVs who has an undetectable HIV viral load cannot transmit HIV, even without using condoms.
- A person living with HIV is considered to have an “undetectable” viral load when ARV treatment has brought the level of the virus in their body to such low levels that blood tests cannot detect it. Scientists have proved that someone who is HIV-positive with an undetectable viral load because of treatment cannot transmit the virus during sex to their partners.
It is important to avoid judgment and prejudice rooted in ignorance, which are always unattractive qualities in a man. Men who take ARVs and PrEP are more likely to be informed and in control of their sexual health, which means that their HIV risk is lower than those who are uninformed or unaware of their HIV status. Let’s recognise and celebrate men who take care of their sexual health and that of their partners. What a man!