The writer of this blog post is Hivpoint´s Health Buddy 2022. The Health Buddies are Hivpoint´s advocates who spread knowledge about sexual health, including HIV and sexually transmitted infections, in migrant and refugee communities.
I remember hearing “Frankly, Mr. Shankly” by The Smiths one day when I was a teenager. “I want to live and I want to love; I want to catch something that I might be ashamed of,” the lyrics said. It felt like I’d been struck by lightning. I lived in a small Chinese town where sex education was frowned upon and romantic relationships between even high school students were prohibited. I had such a strange feeling when I heard that song: “Ooh, is he singing about tha…t thing?” I wondered.
With that experience in mind, I know how difficult it is for my generation of Chinese to deal with STI-related topics. Casual dating suddenly arosed in China, causing a massive shift in society. Nonetheless, the mindset is still choosing to ignore the elephant in the room. That is why I chose to have my Health Buddy workshops among my closest friends. And the feedback was nothing but positive. Some of my friends shared their painful experiences, while others asked for my advice on where and when to get HIV and STI tests.
That’s how I came to the conclusion that the best way to get yourself equipped with safe sex knowledge and action is through talking with friends.
Talk to your friends about STIs and testing!
There is no hiding from STIs these days. Almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by some kind of sexual infection. And that’s a good thing! More people are openly talking about testing for STIs, and the more we discuss it, the less taboo it becomes. Women and men in the 21st century are staying single longer and having fewer long-term partners or serious partners than ever before. Tinder and other dating apps can help meet sex partners in a shorter period of time. Young people are constantly exposed to STIs, but they don’t always have a trustworthy partner with whom to discuss them. Friends’ roles are more important than ever.
Talk to your friend about how to get tested for STIs and encourage them to do so regularly. As a matter of fact, tests should be a regular topic of discussion among friends in order to keep each other checked. It is important for friends to have serious conversations about things like getting HIV tests.
Support, that´s what friends are for!
A healthy friendship is a mutually beneficial relationship in which friends support one another and build one another up. When friends are in need, you should be there to help them through it. Whether it’s supporting them through a breakup, an illness, or any other difficult time, you need to be able to be there for your friends. If you are prepared to become the type of friend who people can rely on in their darkest hour, then you are prepared for this conversation. Healthy friendships also entail being open and honest with your friends about your own circumstances.You never know when your friends are in desperate need to talk with someone about important issues in their lives, but they find it hard to let it out. Your honesty and straightforwardness are exactly what they want to see when they seek help.
Another benefit of talking about HIV tests with friends is that you would receive the necessary support if your test results are positive. You would go through treatment without fear of being judged, despised, or abandoned. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
I genuinely hope that as we sing along with the song, we will be singing, “I want to live and I want to love; I’m not going to catch anything my friends remind me of.” Oh well, sometimes it’s unavoidable to catch something. But there’s nothing to be ashamed of because we’re always talking about it with our friends!
Hivpoint´s Health Buddy 2022