HIV+Me with Ruaidhri O’Baoill | @RuaidhriOB

Last year I sat down and wrote an article on how coming out of the ‘viral closet’ was one of the best things I have ever done.

The idea that nearly two years after my diagnosis I would be very publically open about my HIV status is incredible. By incredible I mean I know how low and depressed I was feeling right at the beginning. I don’t say it enough but I am pretty proud of myself. Being HIV-positive is such a personal experience as you have to sit down with yourself on a daily basis and ask yourself some hard questions.  You also have to consistently pull yourself out of your own bad thoughts in order to allow yourself to have a life.

One of the great incentives I had to keep writing about my experiences was that I knew that there would be people out there, across the world, who could follow my journey and let it help them too. Just as education has helped and is helping the stigma around being gay, the same is as important and necessary around HIV. 

Recently I got myself back into the dating game and went online searching for true love and my happy ever after. After we both swiped right, I started chatting to this handsome guy and it all seemed to be going quite well. Phone numbers were exchanged and I was looking forward to potentially meeting up for a drink to see how we got on. The guy had been stalking (his words) my photos on Instagram to when he came across a photo from one of my previous articles. 

The discussion of my status hadn’t come up yet and I wasn’t planning on to doing so until I felt comfortable enough to tell him, however it was now out of my control.  He asked me if I was ‘poz’ (which got me pissed off straight away – I hate that abbreviation), I replied saying that I was, to which I got a reply which pretty much said “No offence but no thanks. I am not looking to date poz guys but we can meet up as mates.” 

Now I have had to accept that I will come across this from time to time, but it never gets any easier. Usually I would either have accepted it or tried to pass on some sort of education about it, with the latter being the ideal for me, but on this occasion I completely lost it. I mean I laid into this guy and very brutally told him off for thinking he could dismiss me like that just because I was HIV-positive. He very quickly realised that he didn’t handle it the right way and apologised numerous times even to the point where he admitted he was basically scared of it. I didn’t stop though. I kept aggressively punishing him for his ignorance.

Looking back I somehow felt I was morally superior to him for his naivety and lack of education. We left it on bad terms until the next morning when I woke up and felt pretty damn awful. When I woke up and re-read our texts I started to feel pretty ashamed of myself. I realised that it wasn’t particularly him I was angry with but rather all the guys who have dismissed me before in the past because of my status. You can appreciate that I do get the same response often so inevitably after a while it was going to take its toll, hence the way I reacted. It bloody hurts as it makes you feel less worthy. 

Before my diagnosis, I knew a bit about HIV but not a lot. Honestly I can remember being as scared as this guy was but it wasn’t until someone sat me down and talked me through it that I was able to knock down the wall of my own stigma.   

Here was a guy who was, at the end of the day, genuinely unaware of the ins and outs of HIV, which ultimately left him feeling scared of it. I know that I was angry at his lack of education, but that is surely the point of education - learn something you didn’t know beforehand, something which he was more than happy to do. I realised that I was being ignorant to his ignorance. 

He wasn’t being disrespectful or mean, but that was how I took it and that wasn’t fair on him. I can’t expect everyone to be clued up on HIV and I shouldn’t use it against them. When they decide that they are unwilling to learn or give me a chance then that is when I should take offence. When they have no experience or understanding of it but admit this and offer themselves up to learn more, that should be welcomed and encouraged. This is something which I didn’t do on this occasion but something that I will make sure won’t happen again.

Of course, I am only human after all and I am allowed to get angry and frustrated, but what I realise now more than ever is that to ensure the chances of being dismissed again just for my status are few and far between, I need to make it my mission to educate, not discriminate.


Ruaidhri is originally from Ireland. He’s been living in London for over five years. Ruaidhri was diagnosed HIV-positive in August 2014. In his spare time he likes to stalk Victoria Beckham and run after plastic bags on a windy day.


HIV+SEX

How HIV is transmitted

HIV is usually transmitted sexually, although it can also be spread by sharing needles or from mother to child. For HIV transmission to occur as a result of sex between men, the following needs to be the case:

  • One of the men must have HIV and have a viral load high enough to transmit the virus.
  • The sex must involve body fluids (blood, cum or anal mucus) that contain sufficient quantities of HIV.
  • These body fluids must get into the bloodstream of the negative man.

HIV transmission occurs when an HIV-negative man is exposed to HIV and the virus infects the cells in his blood. He then becomes HIV-positive. The HIV tests that are most frequently used in GUM clinics can detect HIV infection one month after HIV has been transmitted.

What body fluids cause HIV to spread?

For HIV transmission to occur, HIV-infected body fluids have to pass into the bloodstream of an uninfected person. While HIV can be found in many different body fluids of a person with HIV, only some body fluids contain a sufficient quantity of the virus to enable HIV infection to occur. These body fluids are:

  • Blood
  • Cum
  • Pre-cum
  • Discharge from STIs (such as gonorrhoea)
  • Anal mucus, which is a naturally occurring fluid that lines the arse. Its main function in the body is to lubricate your shit as it passes. Research indicates that anal mucus is the body fluid with the highest concentration of HIV.

You cannot become infected with HIV through exposure to piss or saliva.

How does HIV enter the bloodstream?

There are two ways for HIV to get into the blood of an uninfected person:

  • Directly into the bloodstream through damaged skin, injecting equipment or invasive surgical procedures
  • Through mucous membranes

What makes HIV transmission more likely?

The situation that is most likely to result in HIV transmission is when a man with HIV who is not on treatment (whether or not he has been diagnosed) fucks an HIV-negative man without using a condom and cums inside him.

This situation is the most likely to mean HIV infection because a positive man fucking a negative man without a condom means that the negative man is exposed to HIV.

The cum of an HIV-positive man, who is not on effective HIV treatment, is more likely to have a sufficient quantity of HIV in it to infect the negative man.   

The mucous membrane in the negative man’s arse provides one of the most effective and efficient routes for HIV to enter the bloodstream.


Support

More details about the risks of different sexual acts, both for HIV and for other STIs, can be found in the section How risky is...? on GMFA’s website.