A new video from New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) reminds gay men that HIV undetectable means untransmissable.
In the film, two men arrive home in the back of a taxi. Pretty quickly, we realise they’re heading back for their first sexual encounter.
Before they get out of the car, one of the guys tells his date that he wants to have ‘one of those chats.’
‘Let me guess: You like to give handjobs with oven mitts?’ asks his fearful date (played by comedian Tom Sainsbury).
It eventually turns out that his new friend wants to explain he’s HIV positive and undetectable. Fortunately, his new date knows exactly what that means.
We never get to find out what the taxi driver makes of the conversation!
‘We feel proud to tell New Zealanders that dropping their load has never been so risk-free’
‘We’re unequivocally telling New Zealanders that if someone living with HIV has had an undetectable viral load for more than six months, HIV does not transmit through sex – even if condoms aren’t being used,’ says Michael Shaw, spokesperson for Ending HIV.
Evidence has been mounting for a long time now and with every new study saying the same thing, we made the decision to make this statement,’ says Shaw.
An undetectable viral load is when standard tests are unable to find any viral particles in the blood of someone who has HIV.
Modern HIV treatment is very good at leading to an undetectable viral load. It doesn’t mean someone is cured of HIV, but it does mean that they can expect to lead a normal lifespan if they stick to their medication regime. Extensive studies have been unable to find an instance of a HIV undetectable person passing on the virus via sex.
‘People are still using “unsafe” as a synonym for “condomless”,’ says Shaw. ‘That needs to change. We feel proud to tell New Zealanders that dropping their load has never been so risk-free.’
The campaign will be widely spread across NZ media, including radio, Grindr and street posters.
Tackling stigma and reducing infections
According to NZAF, a 2014 survey found that only 7% of New Zealanders would be prepared to have a sexual relationship with someone living with HIV. This campaign is part of its efforts to tackle that stigma and prejudice.
Last year, it was revealed that the country hit a new HIV diagnosis high in 2016 (224 diagnoses that year). Experts believe that many people still put off getting tested because of stigma around HIV.
Getting regularly tested means those who have the virus can quickly have their health monitored and access suitable treatment.
Earlier this year, it was announced that New Zealand would be one of the few countries in the world to publicly-fund PrEP. Truvada, which minimizes the chances HIV negative people acquiring HIV, was made available from March to those at high risk. Subsidized, it costs around US$1.20 a month.