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You don’t catch HIV

22 July 2004

You don’t catch HIV . . . you allow someone to give it to you

Instead of relying on others to protect their sexual health, and blaming them when things go wrong, New Zealanders need to take personal responsibility for their own protection, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation says.

The Foundation has noted news coverage of the case of an HIV positive man who has been charged with offences relating to allegations that he had unprotected sex with women without disclosing his HIV status.

“What is being missed from these news reports is that, as this was apparently consensual sex, all of the participants had equal responsibility for their protection,” says NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier. “In the context of consensual sexual activity, you don’t catch HIV, you allow someone to give it to you, by agreeing to unsafe activity. Further, we estimate that approximately one third of people living with HIV in New Zealand don’t know they have the virus, so how can they tell you?”

Ms Le Mesurier says that to rely on others to tell you if they have a sexual disease, including HIV, is naive and a shirking of one’s own responsibility to protect oneself.

“It also ignores the impact of discrimination and stigma that people living with HIV face. Unless we provide a safe and supportive society for people who are living with HIV to ‘come out’ we cannot expect everyone to disclose their status. Fundamentally, if a condom is correctly used, HIV transmission will not occur and that’s what matters’.

Ms Les Mesurier said that, with more people living with HIV in New Zealand than ever before, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at high levels, anyone who chose to have unsafe sex, was choosing to run a serious risk not only of HIV, but of other STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, which can damage future fertility and make a person more vulnerable to HIV infection.

“Unfortunately, too many people think only in terms of pregnancy avoidance and rely on the contraception pill, but the pill won’t protect you from HIV or STIs; condoms however, when properly and consistently used, are extremely effective.”

“While we can understand the anger and anguish when someone finds out they had unprotected sex with someone who has HIV or another STI, blaming others and pushing all of the responsibility for safe sex on to those who know they have an infection, does not make our community safe. The spread of sexual diseases will be most successfully reduced when everyone takes responsibility for their own safety.”

ENDS

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