There are a lot of ways to avoid becoming HIV-positive, but which way is the most effective? And how much money do you really need to spend to protect yourself?
Everywhere you look—posters, billboards, magazines, and online—there are sexy and fun men in advertisements telling you to get tested for HIV. And while HIV testing is a highly accurate way to determine if you’ve become infected with HIV, it unfortunately does absolutely nothing to actually stop the transmission of the disease from one person to another.
Here are four real-world options that can and do actually stop the spread of HIV:
Effectiveness: 100% effective
If you want to guarantee that you will never get HIV, don’t have sex.
Low Risk Sex
Effectiveness: 99.9% effective
I’m defining “low risk sex” as touching, fingering, mutual masturbation, kissing, and yes, even oral sex. Unless you have a gaping wound in your mouth, hand, or genitals that comes in direct contact with another gaping wound in an HIV-positive person’s mouth, hand, or genitals, you will be fine. (Side note: If you have a gaping wound, you should probably go to the doctor and not be having sex.)
Effectiveness: “Highly effective”
Cost: $200 per year
If you’re having anal sex and you don’t want to catch HIV, you (or your partner) should wear a condom. The CDC doesn’t assign a percentage, but it does call them “highly” effective. If you look online, you’ll find various studies saying condoms are anywhere from 95%-98% effective. Assuming you have sex once a day (yeah right) and a condom is used each time, it will cost you around $200 per year. Or, you can go to any public health clinic, gay and lesbian center, or any gay event anywhere and get as many condoms as you want for free.
Truvada (a.k.a. PrEP)
Effectiveness: 42% effective
Cost: $14,000 per year
Truvada is an extremely expensive pill that, when taken every day, supposedly blocks an enzyme that HIV needs in order to replicate in your body. Unfortunately, it was only effective in about 4 out of 10 people in a recent clinical trial, and it can cause severe kidney damage after long term use. How something this dangerous was FDA-approved and is now being marketed as a “miracle” drug to gay men who are already desperate for any excuse to go bareback is beyond all moral and medical comprehension. You might as well just have bareback sex and save yourself the $14,000. Better yet, fly to Las Vegas, go to a roulette table, bet $14,000 on red (your odds are at least 50/50 there), and then go have bareback sex up in your hotel room with an intravenous drug-using hooker.
If and when you do contract HIV, the annual cost of medications is between $15,000 and $30,000. And as they say, HIV is “no longer a death sentence”—the life expectancy for many HIV-positive men is up into the 70s and 80s now as newer and more advanced drugs become available. So, you (or your insurance company or government assistance program) can keep spending more money on more medications for as long as you’re alive. That’s great.