Straight and living with HIV? It's becoming more common than you'd think
The typical straight guy (or girl) next door who is just living with a chronic health condition called HIV, is increasing
HIV is not a top-of-mind conversation starter for most straight guys and girls so many straight people believe HIV is not a health issue for the straight community, but they would be very mistaken.
- In Western Australia during 2020, more straight men were diagnosed with HIV than gay men.
- Despite new HIV numbers declining nationally for more than a decade, the number of straight men contracting the sexually transmitted HIV virus is on the rise.
One of the main reasons for this increase is that people are having unprotected sex while traveling overseas and return home unaware they’ve been exposed to the HIV virus and now at risk of passing on the virus to their sexual partners.
- Heterosexual men can often forget that many women in other countries can have HIV, and
- Heterosexual women can often forget that many men in others countries can have HIV.
For the returning traveler resuming their life in the community, unaware of the risks they’ve been unknowingly exposed to HIV, this means the virus can exist undetected for many years causing straight men and women significantly greater damage to their health before a treating medical professional suggests, ‘test for HIV’.
- A typical, now middle-aged straight male or female who previously traveled overseas can suddenly find themselves HIV positive years after their initial risk - shocked, surprised and feeling socially isolated.
In 2019 pre COVID19 travel bans, Australian residents took about 11 million outbound international trips a year.
“HIV is an entirely manageable condition if it is diagnosed early. Accessing treatment allows an individual to quickly suppress their viral load, eliminating the chance of onward transmission of HIV, significantly improving their health and reducing the risk of them passing on the virus to their sexual partners.” AFAO CEO Darryl O’Donnell.
Rates of late diagnosis are highest in heterosexual men
While being straight and diagnosed HIV positive can come as a complete surprise to many straight people, it also brings with it a number of additional challenges for Australia’s straight hetrosexual population.
- HIV can present itself like a bad flu or cold, or sometimes there aren’t any symptoms at all so in many HIV cases people often don’t know they’re at risk or even that they are infected and are now potentially passing on the virus to their partners.
- A delayed diagnosis can mean the virus is active for longer running unchecked and damaging a person's immune system and can leave then with permanent health implications with a quick recovery not easy.
- As most straight men don't routinely see a Dr (even when they should), don't talk about STI’s and HIV as part of their general conversation with their friends and usually don't see the need to get tested for HIV as part of being a straight male.
- Most straight women are told they don't fit the ‘at-risk-stereotype’ so women who request HIV tests are being told it’s unnecessary by their GP.
- There are fewer visible resources and supports specifically designed for HIV positive heterosexuals.
- Stigma and selective discrimination – always having to prove your masculinity and sexuality – is a reported common barrier to talking about being straight and HIV positive.
‘When you live with HIV as a straight man or woman, you get people making lots of assumptions about you all the time. It's the unstated assumption; you have to continually prove your sexuality all the time - it's exhausting, and isolating and finding supportive mates who understand can be hard.”Matty, straight & living with HIV
Straight Women can get HIV too
HIV is a virus and it doesn’t care about your sexual orientation. The majority of HIV transmission worldwide is through straight couples having sex.
- In large parts of sub-saharan Africa, an area home to 25.5 million people, HIV prevalence in the adult population ranges from 10% to more than 25%.
Almost all of those infections are attributable to what's commonly referred to straight-sex transmission.
Some Good News
- Did you know there are medications that can prevent you from contracting HIV in the first place?
- Did you know that breakthroughs in modern medicines mean most Australians who contract HIV will never develop AIDS and will go on to live a normal, active and healthy lives?
- Did you know that having an undetectable viral load means your HIV medications are effectively controlling your HIV and you don't have to worry about passing HIV onto your sexual partners?
Managing confidentiality and respect
Living the life of a typical straight guy or girl, who happens to be managing a chronic health condition means that you have to make more choices about your health, choices about who your supportive friends are and how to find resources and services that are right and relevant for you.
How we can help
Unusual Risks Insured is the online specialist pre-assessment service designed to help you learn about all your options for professional Life Insurance while you keep full control over your personal information.
- If you're straight and HIV positive, Unusual Risks Insured is there for you providing confidential specialist financial advice for people with well managed and complex health conditions, who want to get their Life InsurancesLife Insurance and Income Protections cover sorted.
- If you're straight and taking PrEP medication to stay HIV negative, we’d love to help you and your partner get their personal insurances sorted too.
So if you've travelled overseas - get tested and know your HIV status, before you travel and when you return.
- You can learn more about your testing options here including home testing kits.
There are thousands of people in Australia are living with HIV, including many heterosexual women and men. Don't let a positive diagnosis stop you from living your best life.
And when you’re ready Unusual Risks Insured would love to help you out with the practical parts of your financial life.