World AIDS Day is today, December 1. It is a day to remember the 35 million people who have died from AIDS related illnesses, and show solidarity with the 78 million people around the world who are currently infected. It is also a day to recognize that many people who are infected are unaware that they are HIV positive, as they have never been tested.
Many partners of HIV positive people are unaware that they need to be tested, or that they are at risk for HIV and AIDS.
According to the World Health Organization, testing remains low among groups who are considered to be “key populations” and their partners.
“Testing also remains low among “key populations” and their partners – particularly men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, people who inject drugs, and people in prisons – who comprise approximately 44% of the 1.9 million new adult HIV infections that occur each year.” – World Health Organization
Yes. That includes straight spouses. We are partners of men who have sex with men. We are partners of transgender people.
And many of us don’t know that our husbands are having sex with other men. Many of us are unaware as of yet that our spouses are transgender, or struggling with gender identity.
Whether you are sure or not, whether you have proof or not, whether you have a spouse who you trust or not, you owe it to yourself to take care of yourself. And if you know your spouse or partner is engaging in high risk behaviors, even if you believe they are taking precautions – you still have to take care of yourself.
Get tested. HIV is not a death sentence anymore. AIDS is not curable. However, it is treatable, and people who have it lead long, productive lives when they have treatment. But first, you need to be tested.
Getting tested is not as difficult or as scary as it used to be. If you are comfortable with getting tested through your family doctor or gynecologist, do so. There are testing services offered by hospitals and clinics in many communities. In some parts of the world, self-testing is possible, meaning that you can perform the initial test in privacy, and then follow up with a medical professional for further testing if the results indicate that you need a second test. You can read the WHO guidelines on self testing here.
Find a way to get tested. And do it. Now. Early detection is key to treatment having a good outcome. Community health clinics and local health departments offer testing, and many times it is free. Many clinics are opting for self testing, or rapid testing, with just an oral swab or a small needle prick. Results are often available in as little as 20 minutes, and follow up is available for those whose rapid tests indicate a person has HIV.
There are also HIV test kits that are sold through pharmacies.
Getting tested doesn’t mean you are unsupportive of your spouse. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust them. It means that you know or suspect that they are engaging or could possibly engage in high risk sexual behavior. It means that you don’t trust the people they may be having sex with. But most of all, it means that you are taking care of yourself.
Living in someone else’s closet can be dangerous to your health, even fatal.
Don’t wait until you’re sure about your suspicions about your spouse. Don’t wait until you have “proof.” That day may never come. But you have many more days ahead of you, and you deserve to live them in good health.
And if you’re wondering about all the powerful emotions you have about even HAVING to get tested – you are not alone. You’ll find that many straight spouses understand the feeling all too well.
Stay alive. Be well.