Me and U=U
Early on in my diagnosis, I did what I ask so many of the patients I work with not to do. I searched the internet for answers to all of the millions of questions I had. Somewhere in the deep space of the internet, I found a video of a man who was passionately talking about a fact that few inside the HIV community were even aware of.
That video changed my life. That man was Bruce Richman and that fact was U=U.
The feeling that sex was off-limits
So often I hear from patients how they feel like sex is off-limits which isn’t surprising. With a lack of comprehensive sex education across the United States, all of the stigma associated with sex - all of that combined with the fact that sex is one of the most common modes of transmission makes for a likelihood that sex for people living with HIV to feel like it’s off-limits.
And for those of us who genuinely would never wish to cause another sentient being harm, abstinence could feel like some holy mission to protect others.
How did you hear about U=U?
PrEP messaging felt alienating
Then in came PrEP in 2012, offering additional protection to those who were HIV negative.
Now don’t get me wrong: it’s a wonderful tool in our prevention toolbox. But its marketing, as seen so often with prevention messaging, created another level of hierarchy in an already Grand Canyon-sized sero divide. Those who didn’t have access or the privilege to afford it were often those who needed it most, creating further otherness for already marginalized people.
For those of us who didn’t have access or the privilege and who acquired HIV, that is a lot of heaviness to walk around with.
How often do you see commercials for prescription medications or treatments for HIV?
Bruce Richman and the message of U=U
Then along came Bruce on a mission after learning he couldn’t transmit HIV to his sexual partners. That mission became a movement that brought hope and a reclaiming of our sexuality to millions of people living with HIV, including a 28-year-old me.
I’ll never forget watching that video of Bruce talking about how once I was undetectable and maintained it for more than 6 months, there was ZERO chance I could pass HIV on to anyone else. It was like the door to connecting with the outside world I had closed was opened in a whole new way.
No longer did I live in fear that I would harm someone. I was free to love and have sex without fear.
U=U changed my life
It became my personal mission to spread the word. When I went to work at an AIDS Service Organization in 2017, I wanted every patient I came in contact with to know.
Sharing the U=U message with others
I worked with our wonderful HIV services team to make sure that every patient who came into our health center knew the truth about U=U. I was also able to work with our local AIDS service foundation to bring Bruce here to share the incredible news on a much larger scale.
I got lucky to hear this message so early on in my journey. I’m so grateful to Bruce and the team at Prevention Access Campaign for their unwavering commitment to the truth.
In this case, the truth truly sets you free.
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