LIFESTYLE

Two In Five People 'Would Feel Uncomfortable Dating Someone With HIV On Effective Treatment'

'These fears are unfounded.'

29/06/2017 00:02

HIV treatment has come a long way since the 80s, to the point where there’s no risk of contracting the disease from someone if they’ve been undergoing effective treatment for six months. 

But unfortunately, societal views are still stuck in the past.

A new survey from Terrence Higgins Trust found that two in five people would be uncomfortable dating someone living with HIV on effective treatment.

Meanwhile one third of people would feel uncomfortable giving them first aid and nearly one in four (22%) felt the same way about playing contact sport.

But there is absolutely no risk of getting HIV from any of these situations, the charity warned. 

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Lizzie Jordan, founder of Think2Speak which works with young people teaching personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education, said the lack of awareness indicated in the results reflects her experience as a heterosexual woman living with HIV.

“I was diagnosed over 11 years ago and people’s perceptions and views have not changed over that time nor have they reflected the updates and advances in the science that now proves people living with HIV on effective treatment can’t pass the virus on,” she told HuffPost UK.

“It is so frustrating that the views represented echo what I hear on a daily basis. I train and talk to young people and their teachers about HIV and sexual health and it never fails to amaze me the stereotypes and the outdated knowledge that’s totally commonplace among the public.”

She said it’s been a “revelation” for her to know she can enter into relationships safe in the knowledge that she won’t pass on HIV because she’s on effective treatment.

“Prior to knowing this, I chose to only date people who were also living with HIV. Knowing that I can’t pass on the virus has lifted a huge metaphorical weight off my shoulders in the world of dating, which is complex enough before you add HIV into the equation,” she added.

The Terrence Higgins Trust, who partnered with YouGov to survey 2,022 adults, warned that out-of-date beliefs about HIV transmission are fuelling stigma and discrimination, which prevents people coming forward for testing. 

Dr Michael Brady, medical director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “It is saddening to see that, in 2017, people are still being treated differently because of their HIV status. 

“These fears are unfounded, because we can say, with confidence, that people who are on effective treatment can’t transmit HIV, they are not infectious.

“There is no reason people on effective HIV treatment can’t date, fall in love, have sex, work or have families just like anyone else.

“We urgently need to bring people up to date with medical evidence and listen to science, not stigma.” 

For the past 20 years, evidence has been building to show that the likelihood of passing on HIV is linked to the amount of the virus in the blood (known as ‘viral load’).

Treatment is deemed effective when it reduces this to undetectable levels, which can take up to six months.

Last summer, the landmark Partnestudy provided medical evidence that people with an ‘undetectable’ viral load cannot pass on HIV.

Unfortunately, one in seven people living with HIV don’t know they have it, which means they’re not receiving treatment and can still pass on the virus.

Terrence Higgins Trust has now launched a myth-busting campaign called ‘Can’t Pass It On’, which aims to bust stigma and encourage people to get tested.

Alex Causton-Ronaldson, 26, from London, was diagnosed with HIV in 2014. He said: “Now I know my HIV status, it’s a weight off my shoulders because I am on treatment, so I can’t pass it on.

“I’m healthy and well, and I can have relationships.”

He continued: “The number one problem with living with HIV is the stigma. People aren’t aware of the latest medical knowledge and they treat you as though you’re a risk to them. They don’t realise the effect this has on your self-esteem.

“You hear about people who are too scared to get tested, because of the stigma that’s attached to HIV. People are then diagnosed far too late. Stigma can be a killer.”

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