1. Have an HIV test. This is particularly important if you are sexually active and have multiple sexual partners. In an ideal world everybody would use a condom each and every time they have sex, but the reality is there are times when a condom isn’t used. On these occasions get yourself down to your local STI clinic within 24 hours and ask for a treatment of PEP www.pep.chapsonline.org.uk. To know your HIV status is also extremely important, although you may find burying your head in the hand one way of dealing with the subject the truth is that if you are HIV positive then there are now a range of combination therapies that will stop the condition from doing any long term damage.
2. Learn the facts about HIV. Although there is a generation gap between those who lived through the HIV/AIDS crises and those who read about it in history books everyone could help by refreshing themselves with the basics of what HIV is and what it isn’t. Go to www.nat.org.uk/HIV-Facts/The-basics for more information.
3. Don’t make assumptions about your own or someone else’s HIV status. Too often people can be heard saying it is up to the HIV positive/negative person to disclose their status. The reality is it is up to the individual to take responsibility for their own safety and use a condom. If you haven’t got a condom to hand there are plenty of other things you can do other than penetrative sex. No matter how hot the other person is and no matter how much they say it will make them feel closer by having bareback sex, respect yourself and either slap a condom on or arrange to meet them on another night.
4. Take responsibility for your own sexual health. The bottom line is be safe, if you are going to go out on the pull and you know you are going to have penetrative sex either as a top or bottom take condoms with you. Besides HIV, there are a whole host of other STI’s out there some you can protect yourselve from using a condom, other can be picked up from body to body contact. Thankfully many of the STI’s out there can be treated successfully. If you have a rash or sore throat or something crawling around your pubes get it checked out either at your local STI clinic or by your GP. The most important thing is to take responsibility for yourself and others and abstain from sex until it has all cleared up.
5. Get involved and support HIV and sexual health organisations. Living in Brighton it is perhaps all too easy to become complaisant about the range of services like THT and The Sussex Beacon have to offer. However, an article in August 2011 Gscene pointed out that The Sussex Beacon is in financial difficulty and urgently needs monetary support, click on this link now and make a pledge. www.sussexbeacon.org.uk. There are many other ways you can give your support either by becoming a volunteer or get involved with a fundraising activity to raise much needed funds.
So, there you are, five simple asks. It is now up to all of us to put them in to practice to look after ourselves, each other and the organisations that need our support.