Monday, June 22, 2015

A Survivor's Guide to HIV - THE BASICS

Many times I find myself receiving questions from people who are newly diagnosed and people who have had HIV for an extended period of time. For me it had been an easy transition when I found out that I was HIV positive and I attribute that to my being educated earlier than others. I came out when I was fifteen years old and in that time I had the pleasure of finding the Gay & Lesbian Community Center and the No AIDS Task Force. It was there where I got formally educated about HIV and my first HIV test, which was an OraQuick mouth swab (keep in mind that this was 1999). A lot of things have changed since then and even in the time I was diagnosed in 2008, we now have PREP and PEP which is more widely available. The odd thing about PREP is that people had been unofficially taking it for a while before the mainstream prevention and treatment community caught on to it.

Honestly, I have ONE BIG RESERVATION ABOUT PREP, there is no HIV 101 in many places and that means there is a weakness to challenging stigmas surrounding HIV. Lets be honest about who we are, a lot of us like to fuck raw and then bash those who are open about it. We do not live in a sex positive society and act like sexual puritans. The TRUTH is that we all know someone with an HIV diagnosis and will ignorantly act as if we don't. Let me make a correction in course, HIV 101:

HIV - stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.

AIDS - HIV disease becomes AIDS when your immune system is seriously damaged. If you have less than 200 CD4+ cells or if your CD4 percentage is less than 14%, you have AIDS.

TRANSMISSION - Only certain fluids—blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV. These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur. Mucous membranes can be found inside the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, and the mouth.

In the United States, HIV is spread mainly by

Having sex with someone who has HIV. In general:
- Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual behavior. Receptive anal sex (bottoming) is riskier than insertive anal sex (topping).
- Vaginal sex is the second highest-risk sexual behavior.
- Having multiple sex partners or having other sexually transmitted infections can increase the risk of infection through sex.
Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (works) used to prepare injection drugs with someone who has HIV.

SEROCONVERSION:

- Seroconversion is the period of time during which HIV antibodies develop and become detectable.
- Seroconversion generally takes place within a few weeks of initial infection.
- It is often, but not always, accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, rash, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms are not a reliable way to identify seroconversion or to diagnose HIV infection.

Sources:

The Body
Centers for Disease Control
World Health Organization