"If the responsibility for prevention is put entirely upon women and HIV-positive people, we are not recognising the combined responsibility of two people."
These words were spoken at the end of the trail of German pop star Nadja Benaissa, who was not given up to ten years in jail for having unprotected sex while HIV positive. She had sex with three men after she became affected at the age of 17 eleven years ago.
The words of Ms Rademacher of Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe remind us as well as the Germans that the responsibility for safer sex lies with both partners. It should not be the sole responsibility of one partner and the fact that a possible jail term hangs over you makes it less likely that you will be open about it rather than more so.
For example if I a HIV negative person fall for someone and fall in love/lust with them and want to have sex with them, it is my responsibility to find out there status. The easiest way to do so is to ask the individual concerned, it is an element of putting trust in each other. If they tell me they are HIV positive I have the option, it is my decision what I wish to do with that information. I can proceed to have safer sex with that individual taking the precautions that I am able to do, or be totally safe and not proceed any further, but at that point the option is mine.
The responsibility has been both of ours to be open and honest about where we are. Ms Benaissa had been poorly informed, someone had told her there was next to zero chance of her passing on the virus. In fact of the three men she had unprotected sex with once has since been diagnosed HIV+. The chance of passing on the virus is not zero therefore there is a responsibility if you are positive to tell. Of course like Ms Benaissa that leads to the other issues of being open enough to discuss it and face the rejection option I mentioned before. These very poignant words from a HIV positive guy tell the issue that they can face when love is all around them, the constant fear of loneliness, disclosing and rejection:
"it has ... to do with the not being able to get on with a relationship either without telling the guy about my status – or after telling him."
This feeling from those that are positive isn't helped by a great deal of ignorance still out there about how HIV can (or cannot) be contracted. Something I would have hoped had lifted since I first faced it directly with a Uni friend who have contracted HIV through the bad Factor 8 that was given to Haemophiliacs. Sadly instead of greater understanding there appears to be a new generation growing up ignorant or forgetting about the risks.
However, I think that criminalising people for knowingly passing it on leads to people not having the desire to find out, not go for STI checks. Not being aware of what other infections they may have and could pass on to others.
So yes the responsibility does lie with both partners to be responsible. But it also does rest with everyone who is sexually active with more than one partner to know their own condition. As I mentioned in my speech in favour of lifting the Blood Ban. There are gay men who are more aware of the sexual health status than the vast majority of the heterosexual world. Maybe it is one thing that the LGBT community is more open about than the straight world. We are more aware of the risks, but as a result are more aware of the responsibilities that go with that risk.
Of course there is still more openness that is needed in all sections of our world when it comes to sexual health. The surprising number of over 50s who are getting infected, the large numbers of under 25s having unprotected sex, not just leading to unwanted pregnancy but to the spread of infections.
So next time you are about to embark on sex with a new partner heed the word of Ms Rademacher above. So be responsible play it safe.