Victor Claros knows the ugly realities of war. The El Salvador-born immigrant fled his country after being captured and nearly killed by guerrillas when he was 15. But the young man’s spirit never died.
Despite having grown up in a religious and homophobic family, Claros found the strength to come out twice: first as gay to his then-wife, and later telling the world he’s living with HIV. What happened next prompted him to take the first step towards becoming a staunch activist.
Activist Victor Claros
“I felt guilty, I was really afraid and ashamed,” remembers Claros, who was working as an HIV educator at a nonprofit at the time of his diagnosis. “I think, sadly, it took me being diagnosed to realize how much stigma and discrimination people living with HIV face on a daily basis. What made it even harder is the fact that way too often the stigma came from individuals, providers, and workers who were helping people with HIV.”
One of Claros’s a-ha moments came when he overheard providers making negative comments about their own HIV-positive clients, an experience that made him realize he needed to fight harder for the people they were serving. So, he joined ranks with Bruce Richman and the Prevention Access Campaign to further promote undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U), a consensus that states when you are HIV-positive, undetectable, and on meds, it is impossible to transmit the virus.
Claros says, “The only way I was going to help others was by becoming vocal and openly start talking about these people I was testing on a daily basis. That’s kind of the thing that pushed me to come out [positive].”
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Both relationship-specific and structural factors influence whether coupled gay men living in New York City choose to use pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP/PEP) for HIV prevention. Some men – particularly those in monogamous relationships – felt that discussing PrEP and PEP in the context of a relationship could threaten the relationship by raising issues of trust, while others felt that it had the potential to enhance sexual health and satisfaction.
Stigma from the gay community and healthcare providers around promiscuity also presented barriers to PrEP uptake. This qualitative research was conducted by Stephen Bosco, Dr Tyrel Starks and colleagues at City University New York and published in the Journal of Homosexuality.
Gay and bisexual men accounted for 66% of all new HIV diagnoses in the US in 2017. It is estimated that 35-68% of these infections happen within the context of a long-term relationship. This indicates that coupled gay men have the potential to benefit significantly from biomedical prevention strategies, such as PrEP (taken on an ongoing basis) and PEP (taken shortly after a suspected infection). However, only 7% of the potential 1.1 million gay and bisexual men who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed it in 2016. Black and minority men in the US remain most at-risk for HIV infection, while also having the lowest rates of PrEP uptake.
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By David Hudson
Imagine a couple. Let’s call them Todd and Carl. They love one another like crazy and continue to be amazed at how much they have in common.
They work out together at the same gym, enjoy watching the same nerdy, sci-fi and fantasy series on Netflix, and share a love for Japanese and Korean food. They seemed to effortlessly merge their groups of friends when they got together and share the same values when it comes to working hard and building their careers.
Although neither has popped the question yet, they’re likely heading toward marriage somewhere down the line. They love, trust and support each other. Oh, and the sex? The sex is mind-blowing. It helps that Todd’s around 20% top and 80% bottom and Carl’s the opposite. They just click. They make that ridiculously cute couple that others envy.
Sounds good, right?
Except it never happened. Despite both catching each other’s attention on an app, Todd and Carl never went for that first date. They never made it to the bedroom stage, let alone realize that they both shared a dream of adopting a kid and trekking across South America one day. See, Todd stated on his profile that he’s HIV positive. And when he messaged Carl, he wasn’t rude, but he simply responded, “Sorry, not quite what I’m looking for.”
And with that, a relationship that would have changed both their lives disappeared into the ether. Mr Right was pushed right back out of the door.
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From plus online…
The campaign captures 24 hours in the lives of people affected by HIV stigma, which impacts everyone regardless of age, race, or status. The social media-driven campaign, now in its tenth year, is an opportunity for people to share a moment of their day and tell their story, while breaking down the barriers that stigma creates and raising awareness about HIV, as stated in a press release.
“Stigma can isolate and scare people,” said Positively Aware art director Rick Guasco, who created the campaign. “It can also prevent people from accessing care and treatment. A Day with HIV brings people together; it shows that we’re all affected by stigma, and that people living with HIV are just like everyone else.”
We encourage you to take a picture and post it to your social media with the hashtag #ADayWithHIV and include a caption that gives the time, location, and what inspired you to take the photo.
Images can also be uploaded to ADayWithHIV.com, where they will be considered for publication in a special section of the November/December issue of Positively Aware.
Check out some of last year’s photos…
From The Conversation…
As trauma psychologists, we’re leading a team to help alleviate psychiatric distress in gay, bi and trans males who have been sexually abused or assaulted. In collaboration with two nonprofit organizations, MaleSurvivor and Men Healing, we recruited and trained 20 men who have experienced sexual abuse to deliver evidence-based online mental health interventions for sexual and gender minority males – an umbrella term for individuals whose sexual identity, orientation or practices differ from the majority of society.
This study should help men in this group who have been sexually assaulted know that they are not alone, that they are not to blame for their abuse, and that healing is possible.
But, there are some things that trauma psychologists already know about these men, such as how prevalent sexual abuse of men is and ways to help men recover.
In 2012, Bruce Richman received news about his health that would set him on an unexpected path.
His doctor explained to him that he was “undetectable,” meaning that by adhering to his HIV antiretroviral therapy, the viral load in his blood was so low that it could no longer be detected.
Bruce Richman, founder of Prevention Access Campaign, is working to change the way the world views people living with HIV
This was a game changer for him. The news meant that Richman, who first found out he had HIV in 2003, would be unable to pass the virus on to any sexual partner.
“I found out nine years after my diagnosis that I can’t transmit the disease. My doctor told me and, here I am, a privileged white guy with a support system. I’m privileged with this information, and I started looking around and saw that nothing confirmed it was true,” Richman told Healthline. “I started doing research. There was no information out there to the general public that was clear and inclusive and accepted that this was true.”
Richman’s realization that this information, which could benefit thousands upon thousands of people living with HIV, rested mainly within medical circles — accessible to those with connections and privilege — awakened something within him.
Continue reading on Healthline.com.