Hi everyone! My name is Sonia, and I’m one of the Communications and Knowledge Translation Interns working with the CTN this summer. I didn’t know very much about HIV or AIDS when I first joined the CTN — I applied for this position because of its relation to healthcare and my prior experience with social media. But I’m glad to say that after seven months of being exposed to material on HIV, I’ve definitely learned more about HIV and many of its social and medical aspects. I’ve gone from having a baseless fear of HIV to understanding the science behind it, and now I know that people who live with HIV are just like everyone else — they live happy and healthy lives as well.
I think the one thing that caught my attention the most was the U=U campaign or the Undetectable = Untransmittable campaign. Learning more about this campaign taught me what a viral load is, and that if a person has an undetectable or a virally suppressed load, they will not pass on HIV to their sexual partners. This information is groundbreaking, but because it is so new, not very many people know about it yet. There are even many people who live with HIV that do not have this information. On top of that, many people do not have access to the appropriate treatment and care to ensure that their viral load is suppressed. It’s so important that this information begins to spread, not only to people with HIV but to the general population as well. That way, people can have an epiphany just like mine — they’ll come to realize that HIV isn’t something that should be feared, but rather treated, and through treatment, prevented. The medical and scientific basis behind this is clear.
Another reason why this campaign poses a particular interest to me is because of its relationship to social issues. I try to keep updated with the news, and I know that under Canadian criminal law, people have a legal obligation to disclose their HIV-positive status to sexual partners. Should one’s HIV status not be disclosed and a condom not used, criminal charges can be made, even sexual assault charges. Knowing that U=U, I question this law: when, if ever, should failure to disclose HIV status constitute as a criminal charge and sexual assault? Is it even necessary when research has shown that if someone with HIV has a low or virally suppressed load, they are at no risk of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners? This question is really thought-provoking due to the social and moral arguments that different parties bring up. And since there is still such stigma and fear surrounding HIV, is this law causing more harm than good?
Although my time here at the CTN is coming to an end, I’m going to continue to keep myself updated with regards to social issues related to HIV, especially the U=U Campaign. These past seven months have been a wonderful learning experience filled with opportunities and I’m so grateful that I was able to learn so much from such a wide variety of people!