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If you have questions about HIV or any other topic about your sexual health visit HealthLinkBC, or talk to a registered nurse at the BC Centre for Disease Control who can provide you with the information or the referrals you need.

Men and HIV/AIDS

Murray KrauseIn the early 1980s, gay men were becoming ill and dying from a mysterious illness. That illness later became known as AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The myth that this disease appeared to have originated in the gay community has contributed significantly to the stigmatization of the disease. Prince George responded to this new challenge with the creation of AIDS Prince George to support primarily gay men who had become infected. That work included prevention messages as we became aware of how to prevent infection. I lost my first acquaintance to HIV around this time; this proved that this was not just a large urban issue and that people in smaller communities were also vulnerable. Several years later, I lost a close friend. This was much different from my first experience and I still miss this incredible man to this day. I will never forget his intelligence, sense of humour and the sheer fun he had at being alive and how that shone on the people around him.

Although the disease is still more prevalent in the gay community in larger metropolitan centres, the face of the disease has changed and it is now acknowledged that no one is immune and anyone can become infected. The most prevalent paths of infection continue to be unprotected sex and the sharing of needles with IV drug use. AIDS Prince George later became Positive Living North as the face of HIV/AIDS changed and more women and Aboriginal people became infected with HIV. We must continue to work tirelessly within our communities to help prevent the spread of HIV, without judgment, because every human being matters.
- Murry Krause, Executive Director, Central Interior Native Health Society

HIV has been around for more than 25 years and, in spite of heroic efforts to prevent its spread, it is still a major health concern — especially for men. In the North, we know that men’s health is generally poorer than the health of men living in other areas of the province and HIV is a real concern within our northern communities.

Today’s generation needs to step up and continue the work of past HIV/AIDS prevention activists. It requires real courage from all men to become active champions of HIV prevention and education. Men need to become responsible partners by getting checked. Men need to become responsible citizens by advocating for the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

If you are a northern ‘man’s man’ - learn to reduce the chances you take. Men take greater risks within the masculine cultural identity of northern BC: Societal attitudes reinforce notions of masculinity that encourage and support risk behaviours among men. Men are more sexually active, have more sexual partners and married men have more affairs than married women. Yet, statistics show that only 22 per cent of heterosexual men engaged in sexual activities use a condom. Well-paying jobs in situations with few healthy recreational opportunities can result in substance abuse and poor choices around HIV prevention.

If you are a man who has sex - practice safer sex. Whether you are a heterosexual man or a man who has sex with men, you need to practice safer sex consistently. The commitment to take care of yourself and your partner is an important and honest practice.There are no guarantees in life and one of the areas where there is no guarantee is in the knowledge or honesty a partner may have about their HIV status.

If you are a man who uses intravenous drugs - avoid sharing drug equipment. Well-paying jobs in situations with few healthy recreational opportunities can result in substance abuse and poor choices around HIV prevention. For some Aboriginal men, the legacies of colonization create conditions in which intravenous drug use (IDU) becomes a way to manage life and the world. Men who engage in IDU also tend to use condoms inconsistently. Sharing needles as part of an IDU culture is also a major source of HIV transmission. Practice safer sex and avoid sharing drug equipment.

If you are a man living with HIV/AIDs - seek treatment. Research shows that an undetectable viral load reduces your capacity to transmit the infection. Staying healthy, and taking your HIV medications regularly, increases your capacity NOT to pass on the infection.

If you are a man who does not know his HIV status - get tested. If you don’t know what your HIV status is you need to find out for sure. Getting tested sooner rather than later means you can start taking care of yourself and reduce the possibility of unconsciously spreading the infection.

If you are a young man - don’t take your health for granted. Two generations of men have grown up without seeing the consequences of HIV/AIDS and the impact it can have on an individual, a family, a community. That’s why younger men tend to underestimate the risks they take, underestimate the consequences of the risks they take, and tend to dismiss well-meaning advice. Get tested and commit to taking care of yourself. If you test positive for HIV, become a champion for change - an important step for your own health and well-being and for those who love you.

HIV101.ca is sponsored by the STOP HIV/AIDS pilot project which is funded by the Government of British Columbia supporting Northern Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, the Provincial Health Services Authority, Providence Health Care, and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. The STOP HIV/AIDS project aims to expand HIV testing, treatment, and support in British Columbia.
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