HIV and the Festival Season
Thousands of revellers are tentatively waiting for the announcement of fun getting back firmly back on the agenda as COVID restrictions relax.
This long-awaited moment, after a harsh winter of lockdowns, means that people in their droves can soon head off to events up and down the country. We are so ready for a party, that a resurgence of the 1920’s party decade is being predicted, with this summer being branded as ‘The Summer of Love’, reminiscent of the hedonistic summer of 1967.
Glastonbury festival (which has been honoured as the most promiscuous music festival) may have been cancelled this year with a replacement Glastonbury experience celebration across the BBC media channels, but there are still numerous smaller festival still taking place across the UK, including Wireless Festival, Latitude Festival, All Points East, Cross the Tracks, Campo Sancho, Alfresco Festival, Camp Bestival and Gala Festival amongst many others.
Even better, the temperatures are forecast to soar in July, which means the festival season is deemed to be hot, hot, hot………. and that’s not only the weather!
Whilst you can’t predict the weather, you can prepare for it – and the same is true about looking after your sexual health.
After what feels like an age of lonely lockdowns which for some (not Matt Hancock obviously) meant not being able to see their significant other, it was also impossible for people to meet and engage in any sexual activity with new partners. After this period of restraint, it’s only natural we feel an urge to indulge in a little hedonism, sun, fun, music and sex! But seeking a bit of frivolous ‘free love’ might have a longer lasting impact on your sexual health and hoping for the best simply isn’t enough to prevent sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhoea or HIV.
As always, festivals will be brimming with the under 30’s, but those in their 40’s and 50’s will be seen on the dancefloor too! Me being one of them 😊 It is also the case that quite a few of us young, free and single love the opportunity of being able to mingle.
LoveHoney ran a survey of a thousand festival goers a few years ago, which showed that despite the pretty unhygienic atmosphere, 43% of fans have had sex at festivals, 22% had taken a sex toy to a festival, 20% have slept with someone they never previously knew and one in six people (16%) have had sex with more than one person while at a festival.
Great! I hear you say – there’s a good chance I’ll hook up at Latitude this year, everyone will surely be gagging for it! But before you engage with your newfound lover - or even someone you kind of know – there’s no way you can be sure of their HIV status from how they look or how they talk. HIV can affect anyone, no matter whether they are straight, gay, young or old.
One piece of incredible information that is worth knowing though, is that if someone has HIV and is on effective antiretroviral treatment, despite having a positive status, the level of virus is suppressed to undetectable levels. This means the virus cannot be passed on even through unprotected sex – but obviously you have to know your status first.
You don’t need to put yourself at the risk of transmission after having one too many drinks at a festival this summer. Remember to take (plenty) of condoms with you and if you do meet someone you like for a spot of frolicking, remember to use them! Even the morning after when you have a bit of a hangover....
Using a condom is the only form of contraception that can prevent the transmission of HIV and to be honest, if it’s possible, its usually easier to have the conversation about this before you actually get down to it. It might seem a bit boring, especially after a year of not being able to do what you want, when you want, but it is so much easier in the long run.
For total piece of mind, you and your partner can test yourselves for HIV to be sure. You can order online at www.hivselftest.co.uk or on Amazon and have your test delivered discreetly next day to an address of your choice. You can also pop into Boots or Superdrug and a wide range of smaller pharmacies.
The BioSURE HIV Self Test is really easy to use, wherever and whenever you feel most comfortable. You get your own very accurate result while you wait.
Something to remember when self-testing, it that although you can test from 4 weeks after your potential exposure, you have to wait for 12 weeks until you can rely on your negative test result. This is because our BioSURE test detects antibodies to HIV, not the actual virus itself and everyone makes these antibodies at different times, depending upon their own immune system. By 4 weeks after transmission about half of people have made detectable antibodies and by 6 weeks about 95% of people have, but some people make them (seroconvert) a bit later. A positive result is always a positive result, regardless of the amount of time after exposure, and if you get a positive result you always have to get that confirmed by a healthcare provider.
Wherever you are heading this summer, go wild, be crazy and have the time of your life but be smart and play safe when it comes to your sexual health. It always is your body, your life, your choice. Have fun!