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OP-ED: STD/HIV Free? Wanna Hookup?

Before hooking up with a guy, one of the questions usually asked is: “STD/HIV free?” The acronyms here stand for Sexually Transmitted Infection/Disease- and HIV-free. The guy basically wants to know if he can have bareback sex with you, no matter if you’re the top or the bottom.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that this already rules out having sex with guys who know their HIV status - those guys who are HIV-positive - and creates a stigma. But since most guys I’ve come across through social and dating phone applications tend to communicate this way, I want to explore a little bit about what they’re really asking when they think they’re going to receive honest answers.

When answering, most guys through these social apps think that they are both free of STIs and HIV-negative. But the truth is that most guys really don’t know. The only way that guys can truly know for sure about their health is if they recently had labs done – blood work – and received their negative results. That, coupled with a period of abstinence - waiting to have sex - before receiving the results of those labs can ensure that no one is being put at risk for contracting anything.

If everything comes back negative, then his answer to your question can be: “Yes, I am STD/HIV-free.” The guy may be a bit naïve to proclaim such an odd statement, and he may be enabling stigma against guys who are HIV-positive, but at least you can give him credit for getting tested and that he knows his status. But again, you’re only as negative as your last STI/HIV test, so hopefully his results will still be accurate by the time you guys get it on.

Now, let’s just recap. If a guy got tested for STIs and HIV and waited to have sex until after his lab results, then his status would be accurate. But if he had one or more sexual partners after drawing blood but before he received his lab results, then he wouldn’t know his STI or his HIV status even after getting his results because having sex would have put him at a new risk for STIs and/or HIV.

So if he told you, “Yes, I’m STD/HIV free,” even though he had sex before getting his lab results, he really doesn’t know his status – and he might have an STI or even HIV. His lab results will only be accurate according to his sexual behaviors prior to getting tested, not after!

STIs, or STDs as they’re still commonly referred, can be contracted during anal, oral and/or vaginal sex, as well as by heavy kissing and skin-to-skin contact. Most people think that they are “safe” by wearing condoms while they are having sexual relations with their partners. But most people don’t wear condoms when they are engaging in oral sex! It is through oral sex and/or rimming when you can be exposed to multiple STIs/STDs, parasites and more. From the data collected throughout the years, and from my own personal experiences with guys, it is very rare for a person receiving this pleasure to be wearing a condom at any time that this is happening.

Ultimately, take care of yourself! And do so by getting tested as part of your health awareness routine. Go every three to six months for STI and HIV testing and talk to your doctor or local health clinician about condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), dental dams and even addiction or recovery services in your area. Be sure to also always talk with all of your sex partners about their sexual health histories and their general health. It’s okay to ask because this is as much about you as it is about the other person or persons in your bed. Whether you choose to believe them or not is up to you. But always be sure to ask, and use the methods of protection available these days to maintain your sexual health.