The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants gay and bisexual men to start talking to stop AIDS with a new HIV/AIDS awareness campaign.
The talk that’s being encouraged includes conversations about HIV testing, HIV status, condom use and new options like medicines that prevent and treat HIV.
In a statement to SFGN, the CDC said, “Stopping HIV among gay and bisexual men has been a top CDC priority since the epidemic began more than three decades ago. Through Act Against AIDS, we have launched targeted campaigns about HIV testing for African American and Latino gay and bisexual men, who are at the greatest risk for HIV infection. Additionally, there are now more prevention options available than ever before. Recognizing this and following the success of the targeted campaigns, Start Talking. Stop HIV.is a natural next step. We believe this campaign will inspire life-saving conversations that address the realities of today’s epidemic.”
The campaign is designed to reach gay and bisexual men of all races in their everyday lives. Men who have sex with men, including those who inject drugs, account for more than half of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. and approximately two-thirds of all new HIV infections each year.
The campaignencourages gay and bisexual men to talk to their partners about HIV risk and prevention strategies. Additionally, the campaign speaks to men in all types of relationships – from long-term partners to casual relationships.
It offers advice that other guys have found useful in having talks that can be awkward.
- Don’t wait until the heat of the moment to start talking about HIV. It’s better to talk about it earlier rather than later—certainly before you have sex.
- Some men who are living with HIV have suggested that it helps to talk about their status earlier in the relationship rather than later. Disclosing you are HIV-positive after you’ve become close to someone can cause your partner to feel as though you have kept something important from him.
- If you’re looking for a way to start talking, show him this web page. Watch the videos together, talk about the campaign and use it as a way to start the conversation. Approaching the conversation this way doesn’t make it sound like you don’t trust him, but rather you’ve been reading about it, heard about it, were talking to a friend who brought it up, etc., and because you care, you want to make sure you’re both protected.
- Don’t force it. Find the right time and place to have a conversation. You can schedule a time to talk or have spontaneous conversations in a setting where you are comfortable.
- Try scheduling regular check-ins, or ‘talkiversaries.’ The key to a healthy relationship is having an open dialogue throughout the relationship. It can be hard to find the right time to bring these things up. If you agree to schedule them in advance, no one has to wonder about the timing of the conversations.
A conversation does not have to be face-to-face. Whether you talk, type, or text what is important is that you start the conversation about HIV.
All of this makes sense on paper, right? But would it work in the real world? Twenty-two year old Ross doesn’t think so.
“I think as a campaign it has its heart in the right place, and I agree that open communication is vital to a healthy relationship (physically and otherwise). However, the idea that all gay men would be open to this type of relationship (sexual or romantic) seems misguided and naive. If it were all just as easy as the men in the videos make it seem, this wouldn't be a problem in the first place. In my opinion, the campaign comes across as optimistic, earnest and naive, especially because the subject matter is so heavy,” he said.
But 25-year-old Ramon disagrees. “A lot of the time you go off of assumptions. Whether it’s just a hook up, or a real relationship. You’re afraid to ask, so you just assume your partner is OK. I love the working in these videos. Whether he’s the one or a one-night stand. The messages really spoke to me.”
But he admits, talking is just the first step. “You have to be honest with your partner,” he said.