Â Q: Iâm in college and recently started having sex with men. Thereâs a new guy in my dorm that Iâve been going out with, but we havenât had sex yet. In fact, he says he wonât have sex with me until I get an HIV test. Iâve only been with a couple of people and have always been safe. What do you think I should do?
Â A: No matter your age or sexual experience, itâs important to be tested regularly for HIV/AIDS and other STDs if youâre at all sexually active (yes, even if youâve always been âsafeâ).
Your new guy is right to ask you to take the test and share the results with himâand heâs actually doing you a favor by pushing you a little.
Sure, most of us intend to have safe sex all of the time, but condoms break, people tell untruths and drugs and alcohol can override rational thinking, leading one down the slippery slope of unsafe sex.
Â And hereâs a cautionary finding from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: College-age guys are among the most likely to be infected with HIV.
As you may know, the rules for staying safe have become a little more nuanced in recent years. There was a time when the recommendations of public health experts were very black and white when it came to preventing the transmission of HIV: Practice safe sexâall the time, no matter the circumstances. The message is now more realistic, as evidenced by the guidelines excerpted below from the New Yorkâbased HIV/AIDS social service agency Gay Menâs Health Crisis (www.GMHC.org).
- Know your HIV status: If you test negative, you can remain negative by educating yourself about safer sex practices. If you test positive, there are specific steps you can take to prevent the spread of the virus to your partner(s). In such a case, itâs also wise to seek out support to deal with the feelings that inevitably arise. And remember: Infection with HIV can take up to three months to show up in blood tests.
- Know your partner’s HIV status: Knowing your partner’s HIV status, whenever possible, helps you make decisions about the level of risk youâre comfortable with. If you and your partner are upfront with each other about this, you can more easily choose an appropriate method for reducing your chances of HIV transmission. For instance, if both members of a couple are HIV negative and intend to be monogamous, they may decide to practice safer sex in some but not all their sexual activities. If one member of a couple is HIV positive, on the other hand, extra caution is required.
- Educate yourself: Learn about available barrier methods (male and female condoms, dental dams, gloves, etc.). The consistent and proper use of condoms has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV and other STDs.Â
- Get tested for STDS: Regular testing for STDs and is important for anyone whoâs sexually active. If you have a herpes, Chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis, it is easier to get HIV. Women also need regular gynecological exams.
- Reduce other high-risk activities: People are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors when drunk or high because that tends to lower your inhibitions and impair judgment. If you canât or wonât stop using drugs or alcohol, donât share needles, clean your works and keep condoms or other barriers handy.
Please excuse the lecture, but these guidelines do a particular good job of answering your question. And getting off to a smart start with this new guy is the best way to make sure you stay safe.