My Sex Life: Info for Young Poz People
"I want to be loved for all that I am, including HIV."
Knowing we're positive, or just having found out we've tested positive for HIV can change the way we feel about ourselves and how we relate to others socially, emotionally, physically, romantically and sexually. Despite this, many of us want to date or be in relationships. Hanging out with someone who is into us and who we're into can be awesome and build confidence. Sometimes, though, people with HIV settle for someone that they may not like, because they think they can't do any better. Fuck that! We're worth it and deserve great partners.
The more comfortable we become with living with HIV and believing we deserve great partners, the easier it'll be to meet people we actually like. So while dealing with HIV sometimes seems like a burden (especially when we are younger) it doesn't have to be a downer on our dates.
Enjoyable sex is part of a good relationship, and deciding when to have sex is our choice. Everyone has different levels of comfort and confidence when it comes to sex. Some of us are just starting to think about dating and sex and are learning through masturbation. Others may be more about sex. Still others may have lots of sexual experience.
Even if we know what we want, talking about sex may be awkward at first. But it builds intimacy and trust and hot sex usually happens when we are comfortable with ourselves and our partners. Talking helps us find out what we're both into so we can feel comfortable and do more of the stuff we like. Talking can be foreplay and it can be hot.
"Having hot consensual sex is a right!"
When we are ready to have sex, whatever kind of sex that is, both we and our partners must consent to whatever is happening. Consent means knowing everyone involved wants to do what they're doing -- not just because they're drunk or high or afraid to say no. We should always check in with ourselves and ask our partners how they are feeling. If they say no or say nothing or don't seem into it, stop and talk about it.
Sex without consent is serious; it's sexual assault.
Having Sex and Making Babies
Down the road, if we want and when we're ready, living with HIV shouldn't be a barrier to having a family. Things have changed! Vertical transmission (from parent to child) with effective prevention now occurs less than two percent of the time in Canada. HIV-negative children are born to HIV-positive parents every day. And for some people, adoption may be an option. While we might not be thinking about it now, know that even if we are living with HIV we can have a family with children who are not HIV-positive.
This section discusses some of the health risks related to sex. We provide some options and tips that others have found useful. It's up to us and our partners to discuss what level of risk we're comfortable with. So to get that fire started, or to keep it burning strong, read on about how to keep your sex life hot and healthy!
Sex happens in different contexts. We might be going all the way with our first partner, or with someone we just met online. To make things less complicated in bed, it helps to remember how HIV is transmitted.
HIV transmission happens during many kinds of sex. Certain kinds of sex are riskier than others. Anal sex is the riskiest kind of sex for HIV transmission. Vaginal, or frontal sex for some trans guys, also poses a risk for HIV transmission.
How does HIV get passed from one person to another?
Only five body fluids can contain enough HIV to infect someone: blood, semen (cum and pre-cum), rectal fluid (ass juice), vaginal or frontal fluids, and breast/chest milk. Saliva and tears do not contain enough HIV to infect someone.
HIV can only get passed on to someone when one of these fluids containing HIV gets into the bloodstream of another person. This can happen through the opening of the penis or foreskin or the wet linings inside the body, such as the vagina, front hole or anus.
HIV cannot pass through healthy, unbroken skin. But keep in mind that cuts or scrapes can be tiny and hard to detect.
The two main ways HIV can get passed between us and others are:
HIV cannot be passed by hand jobs and fingering, cybersex and sexting, or making out.
PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)
PEP is a way for a person who may have recently been exposed to HIV to prevent HIV infection. It involves taking anti-HIV medications right after a potential exposure to HIV. Anyone in this situation should consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible and within 72 hours of exposure. Often this means an emergency hospital visit.
The sooner our partner starts PEP, the more likely PEP will be able to prevent HIV transmission. PEP is highly effective, but it's not for everyone. PEP has to be taken for 30 days and may cause uncomfortable side effects. Note: PEP is not available at all hospital emergency rooms, and unfortunately the cost (about $800 to $1,000 for the month) of the medication is not covered by all provincial or private health plans.
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)
PrEP involves an HIV-negative person taking anti-HIV meds on an ongoing basis to prevent HIV infection. For many reasons, some serodiscordant couples (where one person is HIV-positive and the other is not) might not use a condom every time they have vaginal, frontal or anal sex. For these couples, PrEP helps reduce the chances of HIV transmission during sex. If you think that PrEP might be a good option for you and your partner, you should talk to your healthcare provider.
While the meds used in PrEP are approved in Canada for treatment of people living with HIV, at the time of this writing, they are not approved for use by HIV-negative people and it might be hard to find a healthcare provider willing to prescribe them. PrEP can cost between $800 and $1,000 a month and may not be covered by provincial or private insurance. You might think about getting the meds from another source, but know that you might not get the right ones or they might be knockoffs that are ineffective or contaminated.
This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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