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As a nation, and as a community, it is our duty to make the world around us a better place. I believe that our purpose in life is to take what we have been given and improve upon it. That means that we must be willing to not only accept change, but to make change happen. After all, change is the only way to take something and improve upon it. In my experience, most people agree that change needs to occur. The issue with making changes is that while people say they want change, they will oppose it. This might make you wonder if we, as a people, truly want change, or if what we really want is control.
Resistance to Change
There are two reasons that people would want to resist change, and they both center around control. The first reason is that they aren’t the ones pushing the change, so they don’t want to support it. The second reason is that if the change doesn’t benefit them, then they don’t want it. People have an innate desire to want to stand out above everyone else. Therefore they oppose any change that benefits others and not themselves.
One place where change is trying to occur is in the world of HIV, yet it is being constantly resisted by society at large. This resistance is forcing those living with HIV to continue to live in a stigmatizing world. Society thinks of people living with HIV as being dirty and tainted. They are the people to stay away from, to avoid. They are the people that don’t deserve to find love or to have sex. Society views people living with HIV as though this virus puts them in a social class that is lower than everyone else’s. It is all about control. Control the change that is allowed in order to keep those of lesser social status down beneath you.
This way of thinking is what led to the holocaust, caste systems, slavery, and many other dark periods in world history. We need to be able to recognize what this type of thinking is and the repercussions that it has on individuals around us. Learn to be more empathetic and less callous towards others.
Let’s Talk Breakthroughs
In the last few years, there have been two major breakthroughs in reducing the transmission of HIV. The first breakthrough was the development of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as an additional prevention method for people not diagnosed with HIV. The second breakthrough was the discovery of Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U equals U). As you can imagine, one breakthrough was received much easier than the other.
When PrEP was developed there was some resistance to this new change. This resistance was small and came mostly from the straight community and the part of the gay community that claims only to have sex within completely monogamous relationships. There was a slight outcry towards the use of PrEP saying that it is unsafe, and that it will encourage more condom-less sex. This outcry was fairly small though, because PrEP was a tool to help prevent a persons social status from being lowered by an HIV infection.
Fun fact: Condom-less sex is happening with or without the use of PrEP, so it might as well be with it.
U equals U wasn’t as widely accepted as PrEP when it was announced. It is a simple matter to deduce why U equals U would have more resistance in the path to acceptance. U equals U serves to raise the social status of people living with HIV. U equals U has no effect on the vast majority of society. Therefore since it raises a groups social status closer or equal to the majority’s then it must be resisted. People flat out say U equals U is a lie and incorrect. They publicly denounce the idea, and become aggressive towards those that advocate for U equals U.
What is U equals U?
U equals U simply states that a person with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to a negative partner. This means that as long as that person remains compliant to their treatment, they can have the same sex life as someone who is not living with HIV. An undetectable viral load is a viral load less than 200 copies/ml.
Five studies that have been conducted in the last several years have led to the discovery of U equals U. Those studies include HPTN 052, PARTNER, PARTNER 2, Opposites Attract, and the Swiss Statement. Over 150,000 condom-less sexual encounters occurred throughout these studies. During each encounter, one partner was living with HIV and the other was not. Over the course of the five studies, there was not a single HIV transmission.
U equals U has been accepted and endorsed by 843 organizations from 97 different countries.These include the National Institutes of Health, the CDC, and various other government, research, and non profit organizations.
Arguments Against U equals U
The first argument that is given against U equals U is the misconception that a person’s viral load fluctuates. The truth is that while occasional “blips” may occur in viral loads, it is not enough to make a person infectious. As long as a person remains compliant to their treatment, their viral load does not fluctuate enough for this to be a valid argument.
The second argument used against U equals U is that a person can lie about being undetectable. A person can already lie about their STI/STD status. In fact I would even find it easier to believe someone that tells me they are positive undetectable than believe someone who tells me they do not have any STIs.
The last argument that is made is the claim that U equals U is false. People don’t usually go to their doctor and then say know better than their physician. When people say that U equals U is does not work then they are saying that they know more than every organization that supports it and the thousands of doctors that make up those organizations.
So How Do We Fix This?
The hardest thing for us as individuals to do is to know our self and to seek self improvement. Change needs to happen in the individual person in order for them to be able to accept the changes presented by U equals U. You need to look within yourself and determine what the real reason is that you are against U equals U. Once you know why you can’t accept this breakthrough then allow yourself to be like Elsa and just let it go. Be a part of the solution instead of the problem and help us to end HIV stigma. Until we manage to end HIV stigma, we will never be able to end HIV. We all want change, let’s not let our pride get in the way.