HIV and AIDS is still a very real concern for the gay, bisexual and trans* individuals. In recent years there has been a lot of silence around the issue, perhaps because many of our medications today help those infected live long and thriving lives. Despite this, however, there are still an estimated 56,000 (2010) new HIV infections in the US alone. Gay and bi men make up a staggering 85 percent of this number.
Although these statistics are alarming (and can be quite scary), they are not meant to terrify you into a life of celibacy. There are ways to stay HIV-free, this includes being intimate with a casual and long term partner with a lower risk of contracting the virus.
But while speaking of intimacy, what about the most casual of moments, kissing, that we often share with others ranging from long loves to casual meets? Should we ask for a partner's status even for a peck on the lips or a long sensual kiss?
In a simple answer: No. Although you should always engage in safer sex. There is not a great risk of contracting HIV through kissing. According to the National Health Service (NHS), think the United Kingdom's version of America's Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "The HIV virus can be spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as blood, semen and vaginal fluids. However, infectious HIV particles are unable to survive in saliva."
The most common way to spread HIV is through intercourse, anal or oral. HIV is also known to transmit through sharing needles, and it can be passed from an infected pregnant woman to her unborn baby.
However, you cannot catch HIV from:
- being sneezed on by someone with HIV
- sharing baths, towels or cutlery with someone with HIV
- swimming in a pool that has been used by someone with HIV
- sitting on a toilet seat that someone with HIV has previously sat on
For more information on HIV/AIDS prevention and care, see About.com HIV/AIDS.