Some HIV-positive people --perhaps 13% -- don't disclose their status to partners before risky sex, says a new University of California study. Researchers interviewed about 1,400 infected individuals -- gay men, heterosexual men, and heterosexual women -- about sex and HIV disclosure. Among those who were sexually active, 13% said that they had had unprotected sex with a partner whose status was unknown or HIV-negative. Interestingly, most often neither partner had revealed his or her HIV status: "mutual nondisclosure."
Do Ask, Do Tell!
The gay men were the most likely to have had sex, protected or not, without revealing their HIV status but more likely to disclose to a relationship partner than to a casual hookup. Heterosexual men and women were just as likely to not reveal their HIV status in a casual relationship as in a monogamous relationship. Hence, our slogan, "Love is no protection!"
Obviously, our longstanding admonition about HIV-poz people acknowledging their infection isn't getting universal compliance, as further confirmed by calls to ASA's information phone line. Frequently, calls begin, "I suspect my boyfriend/girlfriend/date may have HIV, and he/she didn't tell me. No, I didn't ask."
The vast majority of HIVers either abstain from sex, disclose their status, or try to minimize risk through safer sex. However, even the small percentage of HIV-infected people, both gay and straight, who "don't tell" and who "aren't asked" perpetuate the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It's still important to promote the idea of mutual (even if unequal) responsibility: Do Ask, Do Tell!
(For details, see the June issue of The American Journal of Public Health.) -- Sandy Bartlett
Community Education Coordinator, AIDS Services of Austin