Uplifting Black Voices: How Do You Embrace Sex-Positivity?
The science is clear: Undetectable = untransmittable (U=U) means people living with HIV who can achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load by sticking to antiretroviral therapy (ART) cannot sexually transmit the virus to others.1
Despite the progress that has made, there is still misinformation about being sexually active while living with HIV. Sometimes, that fear is internalized – people who are HIV positive may feel that sex is off-limits. In other cases, that fear comes from people who are HIV negative. As Zora, an advocate on H-I-V.net, states in her article on her personal experience with sex-positivity:
"Being HIV positive, people see me as a threat and endangerment toward others. Therefore, people believe that I should opt-out of engaging in sexual activity to give them a piece of mind."
For the second article of our Uplifting Black Voices series in honor of Black History Month, we wanted to explore the topic of sex-positivity within the HIV community. We asked H-I-V.net community advocates: People living with HIV can and do have intimate, fulfilling sex lives. How do you embrace sex-positivity in a society that hardly recognizes this? Read their responses below!
Sex positivity isn’t all about the physical act of sex
"In this seemingly conservative and very judgemental society, remembering that I only get one life and not waiting for permission from anyone to live it is one way to embrace sex-positivity. Embracing sex positivity isn’t all about the physical act of sex but includes the holistic maintenance that leads to it. Being still in prayer, meditation, and gratefulness; paying attention to how I feel when I eat and drink; how much sleep I get; my overall health. I make myself stand naked in the mirror and repeat affirmations like 'I am enough, I am love, I am safe, I am open to love and I give love.' I embrace sex-positivity by having open and honest conversations, respecting other’s boundaries within those spaces, and teaching my daughter the same." - Kamaria
Intimacy is an important part of living
"I have always been a very sexual person. I enjoy intimacy on many levels, and not all of it has to be physical. I embrace sex-positivity within myself first. It took some time after my diagnosis to get to a place where I understood and even had the desire to have a fulfilling sex life. That understanding is knowing that – as a human being – intimacy is an important part of living. That intimacy has a positive effect on my physical, mental, and emotional health. It has helped that my therapist is sex-positive. We have explored what that means to me and how I can move forward while remaining healthy and protecting the health of my partner. Some of my internalized thoughts I have held since being born and raised in the United States, where we do not often have open discussions about sex. I do my part in pushing back on the narrative that people living with HIV/AIDS should not be having sex." - Khafre
I embrace sex-positivity by loving who I am
"Yes, people with HIV have intimate relationships, but there are people who think we should just stop being in relationships altogether. It is sad that people think that when you find out you are HIV positive that everything about love, sex, and relationships is supposed to just stop. Every single human being was created to love and to be loved. I embrace sex-positivity by loving who I am: I am a Black woman who lives with HIV, but I am not HIV. Embracing myself and not letting the virus define me has helped me to not worry about society's views on sex and love with HIV. It’s how you see yourself. People with HIV are in loving relationships, conceiving children, and not transmitting the virus. We call this being virally suppressed. This means that as long as we stay adherent to our medicine, we become undetectable. This means that because there is minimal virus in our blood, we can not transmit HIV." - Dee
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