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But for the most part, guys are thankful that I ask these questions. Also, I always stay away from language like “clean and negative,” or “clean and healthy,” or “disease free.” All those labels are really biased, and they can be hurtful to people who are positive.
Zachary: Well, I feel like the situation is a little bit different if you’re the positive person.
In this Q&A, Derek and Zachary offer their takes on what “undetectable” means, and their advice for how to talk about it with hook-ups, dates, and other important people in your life, whatever your HIV status. The first meaning is very clinical: Doctors aren’t able to find a detectable amount of virus when they screen you at regular check-ups. ” Asking the viral load question triggers a series of follow-up questions that help gauge where he’s at and how he takes care of himself.
I think that’s a new thing, and it’s fantastic, because community knowledge will be the turning point in this epidemic, on the behavioral side. My sense is that sex with an undetectable guy is completely, 100% safe when you use a condom.
And people have kind of yelled at me about that, but I go back to clinical studies.
And what does it mean to different people in different contexts?
BETA put these questions to Zachary Barnett and Derek Brocklehurst, two gay men with different experiences of “undetectable.” Zachary is the founder and executive director of the Abzyme Research Foundation, an organization working toward an HIV vaccine, and has written candidly in the Advocate about his experiences disclosing his own HIV status and undetectable viral load.
Not that you’re on the defensive, per se, but I feel there is an obligation to disclose—an ethical one, and in some situations a legal one.