Taking HIV treatment keeps a person living with HIV healthy, and the person with undetectable viral load can’t pass HIV on through sex.
At the beginning of the campaign Prevent – Test – Treat – Enjoy! (in June 2021) we had a survey directed to men who have sex with men, asking a few questions related to HIV treatment. The questions of the survey were so called factual statements.
The fact that “There is an effective medication for HIV that keeps people with HIV healthy” was well known: about 92% of all respondents already knew this as well as about 84% of those under 25 years. Hopefully, this good knowledge will also mean that those who are at risk of infection have the courage to get tested for HIV: if HIV infection is found and diagnosed, it can be treated very well and effectively and the person can go on with their life.
So, HIV treatment keeps a person living with HIV healthy. In addition, HIV medication also works so well that it prevents the HIV virus from infecting a sex partner even during unprotected sex. In a survey last summer, about 72% of all respondents already knew the fact:
“HIV cannot be transmitted from someone who is on effective HIV treatment”
and about 66% of respondents under the age of 25 were familiar with the matter. Of the factual statements of the survey, this was the one to which respondents most often gave the answer “I don’t believe this”. More than 4% of all respondents and almost 7% of those under 25 did not believe that HIV medication would eliminate the risk of infection.
One reason for this is certainly the stigma associated with HIV, which also prevents from absorbing correct information.
Prejudices in choosing a sex partner
HIV stigma is also the reason why many have reservations about having sex with an HIV-positive person. In 2015-2017, Hivpoint and Positiiviset ry had a SeksiPertti campaign aimed at gay and bisexual men, with the main goal to reduce HIV-related stigma and to improve the position of HIV-positive people in the gay community. In addition, the campaign aimed to increase awareness of HIV, lower the threshold to get tested for HIV, and generally promote the sexual health of gay and bisexual men. During the SeksiPertti campaign, a survey was conducted twice (in 2015 and 2017) for the target group. The survey asked among other things about respondents’ attitudes towards having sex with a person with HIV.
In the 2015 survey, the question “Could you have sex with someone with HIV?” about 54% chose the option “I don’t want to have sex with an HIV-positive person”. Two years later (in 2017), attitudes had improved slightly and only about 45% opted for this option then.
Newly infected or untreated HIV can be transmitted – effective HIV medication eliminates the risk
Prevent – Test – Treat – Enjoy! campaign query contained this factual statement:
“HIV can be transmitted more easily through sex without a condom: when your partner is newly infected with HIV or has had HIV for a long time and is not treated.”
About 52% of all respondents and only just over 38% of respondents under the age of 25 knew this. Based on HIV-related research, as well as in HIV clinics and organizations working with HIV, it is known that HIV infections are most often transmitted from such sex partners who have not yet been tested and are therefore unaware of their HIV infection.
There is a potential risk of getting HIV if you have unprotected sex with a partner who has not been tested and doesn´t know their HIV status. Instead, if you want to avoid HIV infection during sex, get yourself an HIV-positive sex partner who is on HIV treatment.