You might have already heard about how important it is to know your status to help end HIV transmissions, and you might have also heard about how easy it is to know your status with rapid HIV testing; however many guys still don’t get tested often enough, and this might be the case for a number of reasons. Let’s take a look at what might be keeping you from getting a test.
I’m scared of testing positive
Learning that you are HIV positive might be difficult to accept at first, but you’re not alone: there are people and organisations that will help you face the road ahead. Most HIV positive guys now live long, healthy and fulfilling lives thanks to advances in HIV treatments. In fact, recent research findings show that if you’re diagnosed with HIV, you should start treatment immediately, to ensure long-term health. So don’t freak out! Knowing your status is really the first step to getting support and staying healthy.
You might want to consider telling a close friend, family member or partner that you’re going to have an HIV test and talk with them about it beforehand. Taking a buddy to support you when you get tested is also a good idea, and make sure to talk to the doctor or nurse about your concerns before the test. If you don’t have someone to turn to you can contact ACON or the Gay/Lesbian Counselling Service.
I’m not at risk of HIV
Even if you think there is no chance you have been exposed to HIV, medical experts still recommend that you should test at least twice a year if you’re sexually active..
More frequent testing (3-6 monthly) is recommended for guys who have:
- any unprotected anal sex
- more than 10 partners in the past six months
- participated in group sex
- used recreational drugs during sex
I trust my boyfriend
Theoretically it’s true that two HIV negative guys in a monogamous relationship aren’t at risk of HIV, but we’re all human and no one’s perfect.
It is important to trust your boyfriend especially if you aren’t using condoms in your relationship. However if one of you slips up outside of your relationship, you could both be at risk of HIV.
Did you know that 1 in 4 new HIV infections occur when men are in a regular relationship?
So always be open with each other, talk about sex outside the relationship, test if you are unsure of your HIV status and each time you think you might have been exposed to HIV.
If you or your partner has any sex with casual partners, it is a good idea to get tested regularlyTesting twice a year is recommended. However the more sexual partners you have the more frequently you should get tested. That may mean every 3-6 months.
To know how often you and your partner should get tested use the ‘How Often To Test’ tool. It can also be easy to forget so use the ‘Remind Me’ tool to sign up for regular SMS or email reminders for sexual health checks.
If you want to have sex without condoms with your partner then testing is very important and there are four steps you and your partner can take together: Talk, Test, Test, Trust.
Talk, Test, Test, Trust is a guide for safely stopping using condoms within a relationship. It’s simple to follow if you do it together.
Not again, I’ve tested before
It is great that you have been tested before. But it’s important to test regularly because that is a good way to take charge of your health and your sexual wellbeing. And it is the only way to know your status for sure.
Many guys overestimate how regularly they get tested. Recent Australian research found that amongst men newly diagnosed with HIV, only a third of sexually active men got tested annually.
You should test if you have recently had unprotected anal sex with a guy who you know is HIV positive or with a guy who doesn’t know his status. Also remember that PEP may prevent from you becoming infected – but you must take the medication within 72 hours of a risk incident.
You should also test if you experience any symptoms 2-6 weeks after an unsafe sex event including: flu-like symptoms, fever or rashes, aching limbs, sore throat, ulcerations in the mouth or genitals, diarrhoea and severe headaches. However, often you may not notice symptoms.
Medical experts also recommend testing regularly for STIs including gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
I can’t afford it
Did you know that sexual health clinics offer free appointments without a Medicare card? There are also quite a few GPs that still bulk bill.
Also, ACON’s a[TEST] service is a free and confidential rapid HIV and STI testing site for gay men. a[TEST] is currently available in four locations across Sydney: Surry Hills, Oxford St (Darlinghurst), Newtown and Kings Cross, and you get your HIV test results in 30 minutes. Find out more and book a test in less than 2 min here.
I can’t pillow talk with my gp
Finding a doctor or a sexual health clinic that you feel comfortable with is an important step and can take some time. With a little bit of research you can find one to meet your needs, and ACON’s list of gay-friendly GP’s might be a good starting point. Here are a few tips and some advice:
- Ask someone you trust if there is a doctor they would recommend. Ask your friends about their GPs to identify a good one.
- If you are travelling to another area, use the opportunity to see if there is a doctor available and book in for a test.
- If you don’t want your GP to know you are gay, there are plenty of non-judgmental and and sexual health centres where you can go. Consider visiting an a[TEST] site which is both confidential and gay friendly.
 The Australasian chapter of sexual health medicine/RACP & Royal Australian College of General Practitioners + Australasian Society of HIV Medicine