Magazine Advice Gay men do it annually 8 reasons why you should get off your arse and test for HIV. Figures show that although more and more of us have an HIV test each year, the vast majority of us don’t. The Health Protection Agency estimates that 59,000 men who have sex with men got tested in 2010, but this is thought to be just 15 -25% of us – meaning that at least 75% did not test at all. Why should we test annually? In GMFA’s sex survey, nearly everyone agreed that gay men should test annually – but didn’t think it applied to them personally because they believed they weren’t taking any risks. If your sex life puts you at risk, you should of course be testing more regularly. But HIV testing is not only for those of us who knowingly take risks. To be safe, it’s important to practise safer sex AND test at least once a year. 1- BECAUSE IMPROVED HIV TREATMENT SAVES LIVES It’s crucial that all gay men test regularly. HIV treatment has improved considerably over the last decade, and someone who is diagnosed with HIV at an early stage, and who gets treated, can have a near normal life expectancy. If you don’t test, then you may not find out that you have HIV until you get ill, which means that it will be much harder to treat, and may still result in death. A late diagnosis increases the risk of death ten times. If you test regularly you can be sure that if you do have HIV it will be picked up before you get ill. Knowing your HIV status can quite literally save your life. It can also protect the lives of your sexual partners. You are ten to thirteen times more likely to die within a year of starting treatment if you tested late; you can have a near normal life span if you test early and access care. 2 - BECAUSE CONDOMS AREN’T FAIL-SAFE Men who always use condoms may believe they’re not taking any risks, so it’s a waste of time for them to test. Unfortunately this isn’t true. Condoms are great at preventing the transmission of HIV, but they can fail. In fact, 6% of condoms fail. So even if you use them every time you fuck, there’s a small chance that a condom could be faulty, break or accidentally come off during sex. 3 - BECAUSE SEX IS NOT 100% SAFE Similarly, the fact that you don’t fuck doesn’t mean there is no likelihood of HIV infection. Transmission of HIV through oral sex is rare, but it can happen. Indeed, it’s estimated that 2-3% of HIV infections are from oral sex. 4 - BECAUSE HE MAY NOT KNOW HIS STATUS EITHER With the Health Protection Agency estimating that at least 75% of men who have sex with men don’t take an annual HIV test, this means that the majority of us don’t truly know our status. So when a sexual partner says that he tested recently, you have to wonder what exactly does ‘recently’ mean? Was it this month, two months ago, or is he one of the 75% who hasn’t tested in over a year? And even if he hasn’t fucked or has always used condoms since he last tested negative, there’s a risk of infection whenever he had sex. That guy who swore that he was HIV-negative may not have known that he’d just recently been infected. 5 - BECAUSE FUCKING BB IS A RISK EVEN WITH GUYS YOU KNOW Some men do choose to have unprotected sex with their partner, with a like-minded group of fuck-buddies, or with guys they know and trust. But you can’t guess or make assumptions or base your knowledge on what someone else has told you. You can only know for sure if you test together and keep on regularly testing together. 6 - BECAUSE KNOWING BRINGS PEACE OF MIND Early diagnosis means you can begin treatment and continue to enjoy a near-normal day-to-day life – and of course if you’re diagnosed negative, you’ll have even less to worry about. Whether or not you’ve always played safe in the past, being told that you’re negative can give you a new determination to stay negative. 7 - BECAUSE MONOGAMY DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN MONOGAMOUS We’re all different, and so are our relationships. Some couples have open relationships, while others don’t see the point of this and prefer monogamy. Some men are faithful, while others cheat. Sometimes men in supposedly monogamous relationships cheat on each other. Indeed, you might argue that only men in monogamous relationships can cheat – because if you’re in an open relationship, how can you? Although lots of relationships are truly monogamous, one study found that 13% of gay men who had been in a supposedly monogamous relationship for five years or more had picked up an STI in that time. 8 - BECAUSE IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU Getting tested doesn’t just help you to be healthy, it can also prevent you transmitting HIV. It’s estimated that up to 82% of new infections are from people who haven’t been tested and who don’t know that they are living with HIV. If you know you have HIV you may take extra care not to pass your infection on to partners. Also, HIV treatment reduces the amount of HIV in your blood and cum, which will make you a lot less likely to pass your infection on. If every gay man tested for HIV at least once a year it’s likely that we would soon see a dramatic drop in the number of men who become infected. You can find out where to test by visiting: www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics.