From this month’s POZ magazine: In October 2008, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the number of people living with HIV in the United Sates but who haven’t been tested and diagnosed fell from 25% in 2003 to 21% in 2006.
Why is this interesting? Well, it’s often been said in these here blogs, and elsewhere of course, that the primary source of transmission is not from guys who know they are positive, but from guys who don’t. I buy that. But is that pool of poz guys who don’t know they are poz getting smaller?
Not necessarily, I’d say. Statistics like this have a habit of reinventing themselves periodically, sometimes in quite spectacular ways. Remember when we had forty million people infected globally, and that number shrunk to 33 million overnight, because the WHO said we all got it wrong? You’ll need to convince me that statistical errors aren’t happening here before we debate this.
Be that as it may, the related number most quoted in our campaign - the number of poz guys who don’t know it - is 30%. Is that going up or down? I haven’t heard. Do we know, I wonder?
I wonder too how much we know about this pool of “negative” guys who are actually poz. It’s a no-brainer that prevention efforts need to be directed there, but to do that effectively, we need to know who are these guys.
Here are a few clues, entirely unscientific, based on surmise rather than hard data, (I admit I’m not too familiar with what the Polaris study, which looks at the newly infected, is saying on this.) My take though? Chances are these guys may have a bit of a lax approach to testing. Chances are they may be no strangers to fucking without condoms. Chances are they have more partners than most. Chances are they live in big urban centres. Chances are they are scared. That’s a start. Ethnicity, age, etc. can be extrapolated from the epedemiololgy of new infections. So perhaps we know more than we think we know.
I’ve heard characterizations of this group, though, which aren’t very flattering, and that worries me. I’m concerned that we not demonize those folks. Because in our rush to judgement - to point out that people living with HIV are not the demons they are sometimes painted to be - pointing the finger elsewhere can easily demonize others. Now that’s just too weird for me. In this case the “others” are poz guys who don’t know it. We “known” poz guys may be targets of stigma, but it’s unbecoming, unfair and unwarranted to stigmatize others, who in reality are pretty much exactly like us.
So let’s not, eh?.