Most barebackers try to be as honest as possible when it comes to disclosing their HIV status, but this is not always the case. Some men may not know that they are HIV positive and some who do might not openly disclose their HIV positive status. Others may not admit their HIV status if they fear it might reduce the likelihood of them having bareback sex or they may be uncomfortable raising the subject. There are some HIV positive men who are considered gift givers who enjoy the thrill of barebacking with HIV negative men who are unaware of their HIV positive status. This article is not about bug chasing or gift giving, it’s about men who are trying to be as honest as possible about disclosing their HIV status.
The discussion of HIV status before having unprotected sex can sometimes have a negative effect on an erection, but men who are HIV negative and about to have bareback sex need to have this discussion before they have unprotected sex. A percentage of barebackers honestly believe that they are HIV negative, but they may not be and they could then be unintentionally transmitting HIV to unsuspecting guys. This article is not designed to lecture barebackers, the purpose is to highlight some important issues that not all of us may be aware of when discussing HIV status.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) data collected in 2006, statistics show that 21% of HIV positive people in the United States do not know that they are HIV positive. One reason could be because the virus can enter the body and after some initial symptoms (which one could conclude is only the flu), there are no obvious symptoms. Another statistic is that over half of new cases (53%) of the new infections occurred in gay and bisexual men. Statistics from 2009 show 23,846 new male to male transmission cases involving sexual contact and 1,131 cases involving male to male sexual contact and injection drug use. The largest age group for new infections in 2009 involved individuals aged between 20 and 24 with 6,237 new infections in 2009, followed by 5,951 new infections for those aged between 25 and 29.
It can take up to 3 to 6 months from the time when first infected with HIV for the virus to show up in the system and this is known as the “window period”. On average you may need to wait 2 to 8 weeks from the time of possible exposure to get an accurate test result. This means that for a period of time, a person can believe that he is HIV negative, when he could be HIV positive and not even know it and could also be transmitting HIV to other people during this time. Regular HIV testing will reduce the time between possible infection to diagnosis for those infected, which then lowers the number of sexual partners who may have potentially been exposed to HIV.
The following example shows how easily HIV can be spread between barebackers who are not aware of their HIV status. If a barebacker is infected with HIV today and is tested for HIV next week, his HIV test results may show as negative, so he might then disclose to potential barebackers that he is HIV negative, because he believes that he is. HIV negative men who then have bareback sex with this person will think that it is fairly safe because they both believe they are HIV negative. This unprotected sexual encounter could result in HIV transmission between partners, but both men may continue to tell future barebacking partners that they are HIV negative based on their beliefs and advice given to them by their previous sex partners. This pattern of sexual partners and disclosure could continue to expand rapidly with future sex partners.
If the same barebacker referred to in the previous example was tested every three months, his first result may show as being HIV negative, but his next test result in three months time may show that he is HIV positive. This then gives the diagnosis sooner and this information can then be given to future sex partners and to previous recent partners. Regular HIV testing reduces the number of sexual encounters in between tests, which could slow the spread of HIV transmission and provide more accurate HIV status disclosure. Of course, those who have had unprotected sex with the person in this example may have been exposed to HIV, but if they also get tested regularly, then the number of potential exposures to others can be reduced.
Many men may not be aware of the window period or realize that when they test HIV negative they may not actually be HIV negative because of the window period. Some barebackers feel comfortable taking the word of another when he says that he is HIV negative, particularly if he says that he has tested HIV negative recently. Going through a series of questions about a guys health status may seem like a turn off, but it doesn’t have to be this way and is an important part of information gathering. If more barebackers underwent HIV testing every three months, this would be one way to help provide more accurate HIV status disclosures.
It is a good policy to be as honest as possible, but to be as honest as you can, you need to get tested for HIV on a regular basis and even then there are no guarantees. You also need be as honest as you can with yourself and with others. If you want to continue having unprotected sex, then you need to understand the window period and also be aware that the person you are about to have unprotected sex with might honestly believe that he is HIV negative and tell you this, but this may not be the case. Everyone being honest, combined with regular testing and having an awareness are all important factors to consider when it comes to being honest about HIV status. Please note that the webmaster is not a health professional and that you need to consult a professional before acting upon any of the information contained in this article.
- U.S. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC)