Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ending HIV

ACON has put out a very progressive new campaign to stamp out the transmission of HIV. It's targeted toward gay men, and its mission is to get everyone tested regularly. These kinds of campaigns have to walk that razor's edge between not stigmatizing the HIV-positive, while not scaring off the HIV-negative. But there's more to this one, watch and listen.

Knowledge is power - so if you know your status, you can go on treatment - and get your viral load down to undetectable. The voice of the campaign is familiar, with its message much like we hear on the street. At the film festival opening night, it received an ovation.

I'm all for its proactive message, but read between the lines:

:55 "Undetectable status makes it much less likely to pass on the virus." 

2:00 "Once 9 out of 10 people are undetectable, transmissions can stop."

What does that suggest, less "likely leading" to "can stop"? Is it saying that if you're undetectable, you can't transmit HIV? That's the way a lot of people I know behave, sometimes not even disclosing they are positive because at undetectable levels, they don't believe they carry a transmittable virus. But I've never heard that officially. And here's where walking the razor's edge suddenly gets blurry.

On my radio show, we spoke to an expert about it and when I mentioned what the campaign seems to suggest, he went on about safe sex and debunking all the myths and getting the facts right. So then I asked him point blank, "If you're undetectable, can you transmit HIV?" And you know what he said?
"I'm not comfortable answering that question."

If we are debunking myths, why aren't we debunking this myth - or is it not a myth at all?

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