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3 things to know about sex, HIV and gay health

Avert staff writers

15 March 2018

PrEP, Undetectable, on treatment … what does it all mean? Here we give you a quick run through in our jargon-busting blog.

A young man smiles at the camera with text next to him that reads 'Let's talk about sex'
Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour.

Preventing and treating HIV has developed fast in the last few years – and we’re now a long way from the times when being ‘safe’ only referred to ‘wrapping it up’. There are now lots more options for having great, carefree sex while still having control over your sexual health. 

So in this new world of HIV prevention, has what it means to be ‘positive’, ‘negative’ or ‘practicing safer sex’ got lost in translation? 

We’re here to break down the jargon with this quick and easy, no-nonsense guide to gay health, sex and HIV. Let’s get started: 


The word ‘undetectable’ describes people who are living with HIV, but whose treatment is so effective that HIV doesn’t affect their health and can’t be passed on. The level of virus has been reduced so much that it can’t even be detected in HIV tests!

To know that you are undetectable you need to have your viral load tested regularly. But so long as you get the ‘A-OK’ from your doctor there’s no way to pass on HIV through sex, even if you don’t use a condom. You don’t necessarily stay undetectable indefinitely though, so getting checked regularly is a must. 

“On PrEP” 

PrEP (or pre-exposure prophylaxis, if you want to be fancy) is a pill that if taken as prescribed can eliminate the risk of getting HIV! So if you’re negative but on PrEP, you’ve got HIV covered!

Just remember though that it doesn’t protect you from other STIs, so it’s important to go for regular check-ups if you’re not using condoms. 

Sadly, PrEP isn’t available everywhere, so talk to your healthcare provider to see if it is an option for you, or go online to sites such as if you want to look into buying the drug yourself. But if you do buy it on your own, make sure you can still get support and monitoring from health professionals.

 “HIV negative”

Being HIV-negative means that someone doesn’t have the virus, but importantly you can only be sure that you are HIV-negative if you have tested since your last risky sex. 

Nowadays, there are even new ways to self-test for HIV, so that you don’t even have to leave the house. 

In short, what all this means is that, whether you are HIV-positive or HIV-negative, there are now more ways than ever to have fun, carefree sex with whoever you want, without worrying about HIV. 

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