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For more than 30 years, our sexuality has been dramatically impacted by the reality of HIV.

For many of us, we have grown up in a world where this virus has had an influence on the types of sex we have and whom we engage with. We struggle with how to discuss HIV, disclose our HIV status, or express how HIV affects our lives. Essentially, HIV has been somewhat responsible for the loss of connecting with each other in a variety of ways. This virus has impacted the way we form interpersonal relationships in sexual encounters, friendships, and romantic ties. With all of the options out there to protect ourselves from HIV, it seems like we should be working on developing more relationships without fear of infection.

I feel like there are still a lot of issues out there that are stopping people from connecting with each other.

By the nature of the way HIV can be transmitted, it does have the potential to bring up fear in people and impact their behaviors. In the past, it was a common practice for HIV-positive individuals to only focus on being intimate with each other due to concern for transmission or because they shared common experiences with discrimination, stigma, and health concerns.  Some HIV-negative people took comfort in not becoming involved with someone unless they had confidence that HIV could not be transmitted to them. Many HIV-positive people developed feelings of isolation, dismissal, and lower self-esteem, while HIV-negative people lived in fear that their lives could be irreversibly changed if they were to become HIV-positive and they would be challenged with the negativity that HIV-positive people faced. It drove people apart more than it brought them together.

Of course, we now live in a reality where scientific research has been paramount in keeping people alive and dramatically reducing the transmission rate of HIV around the world.  Effective HIV treatment medications have kept HIV-positive individuals healthy and reduced the negative impact on their bodies. Condoms, when used correctly, can stop the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that prevents an HIV-negative individual from becoming HIV-positive if exposed to the virus, has been extremely effective in keeping people HIV-negative. All of these methods to keep HIV from being transmitted should impact our ability to feel connected with each other without fear, but apparently there are still residual issues stopping us. A medical condition has caused so much separation and concern in our society, so it makes sense that the treatment for it should be a solution that brings us back together.

Many of us are forgetting the emotional impact of HIV throughout our lives. It has served to drive us apart, and most of us have lived in a sexual world that has always included HIV. It can be difficult to remove the knowledge and feelings associated with it. We have to work consciously to put fear and stigma in thier place, so we work to build connections with amazing people. It is hard enough to talk about enjoyment in intimate encounters generally, but when HIV is included, it can bring up additional barriers for many. As a society, we have the ability to not allow HIV to negatively affect our lives.

As humans, we crave building relationships and wonderful connections with others, focusing on feeling close to them. Within our community, we have faced tragedy and are now celebrating victories. Unfortunately, HIV prevention research and messaging focus on targeting medical facts and statistics. This information needs to include how it benefits all of us by allowing us to engage with others. We can screw without fear of HIV and forge relationships with individuals regardless of their HIV status. This should make our hearts and genitals jump with excitement. No longer do we have to be afraid of a virus or those living with it. We can come back together and begin connecting again.