GMFAs gay mens health blog


We've just launched a new advertising campaign asking guys "How Do You Know His HIV Status?”

The campaign is designed to encourage men to think about the ways they establish someone's HIV status and to use condoms to avoid sexual risks. The ads, featuring a makeshift HIV detector, highlight the uncertainty of knowing a guy's status for sure.

"Some men feel certain of a guy's HIV status based on his looks or the way he behaves," said Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes for GMFA. "I know men who thought they were being safe just because the guy they were having sex with didn't seem the type to be HIV positive. The truth is we don't have built in HIV detectors and guesswork is no guarantee of avoiding risks. Some men don't know their own status, so even if you ask them, there is still uncertainty."

Gay men are more likely to have unprotected anal intercourse with partners they know have the same HIV status as themselves. However, studies have shown that around 40% of HIV negative men who say they 'know' their partner's HIV status are in fact guessing. And with around a third of gay men with HIV not knowing that they are infected, trusting that someone will be able to tell you their HIV status can be risky.

In addition, many health promoters fear that recent criminal cases, where HIV positive people have been prosecuted for transmitting HIV, increases expectation that an HIV positive man will disclose their status before sex. In reality, while two-thirds (65.3%) of HIV-negative gay men expect an HIV-positive man to disclose his status before having sex, only 20% of diagnosed positive gay men always disclosed.

When making decisions about condom use, gay men have been shown to use unreliable methods to establish someone's HIV status, such as behaviour or looks. This fallible mix of guessing and rationalisation can put men at risk of HIV infection or risk infecting others.

"Making assumptions about status doesn't provide protection from HIV, but using condoms can," added Hodson.

by Rob Dawson

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