It’s said that people have more sex during economic downturns as they have less money to spend on other activities. That’s based, of course, on the assumption that sex is an inexpensive activity – but don’t be fooled: It could be more expensive than you think if it’s the unprotected kind.
Based on my experience, let’s look at how much money you would need to start saving if you become infected with HIV – just like I was.
It begins by finding out: The cost of an HIV test is around R500. Not too expensive yet – and you might even get this for free at some clinics and services. (This is for those of us who are actually proactive enough to go and get tested.)
Then you move into the ‘coming out’ phase in which you are faced with stigma; your own stigma and society’s stigma. Here the cost is not financial but on your mind and soul. We live in a society filled with fear and judgment where no amount of money can assist perception based emotions.
Only time and more communication over long sustained periods of time can make a difference. For those who are positive, it has to start with us. I am still not ready to come out to all of you, I am working on it.
Thankfully, there is medication to assist with the physical effects of being infected. You can expect to pay around R 1,200 a month – and that could be for the rest of your life. Your medical aid might cover this – that’s if you have medical aid of course. If not, you could try a government clinic, which sometimes run out of stock.
In addition to the monetary costs, some regimes have side effects that take their toll on your body and could in their own right reduce your life expectancy. Imagine what it would cost to treat a heart attack caused by damage from medication (that’s if you survive it of course).
Think that’s as bad as it gets? Not so quick: Every day, there are an ever-increasing number of people who are infected by a resistant strain of HIV. That’s what happened to me: I went onto a regime and realised that I wasn’t getting any better. The medication was not working.
If that happens to you, you can expect to be sent for a resistance test, costing around R5, 000, which basically tells you which medications your strain of HIV is resistant to.
Your test could confirm that you, just like me, are resistant to your current regimen and most other regimens. That means that none of the medicines available in South Africa will make you better.
There are a lot of young guys running around thinking that they can have unprotected sex because there are tablets for HIV and that if they get infected it will then mean they can go wild. The reality is that even if you are HIV positive you could make things worse by having unprotected sex with another HIV positive person.
“My strain of virus is resistant to most of the medication on the market…”
In my case, I discovered that I was infected by a re-infected guy (he was HIV-positive and was infected a second time by a person with a different strain of the virus) and this helped make my strain particularly resistant.
Partying normally assists a 27 year old like me with emotional turmoil and bad news. The drinking and three weeks of partying, after finding this out, cost me at the very least R3, 000. (It probably didn’t do anything for my health either.)
Jokes aside it’s really very serious; my strain of virus is resistant to most of the medication on the market. Without a good doctor who knows what he or she is doing (and who costs around R400 per session) you could threaten your life through the chance that you could be exposed to the wrong regimens. And without medication you will slowly but surely become sicker and less capable of living your life.
You could then find out from your doctor that there is a new regimen that you are not resistant to. But there is a catch: It’s not available here and it’s not covered by your medical aid because the pharmaceutical company that makes the medicines is not a registered company in South Africa.
If you pay for it yourself, the medication is going to set you back around R8, 000 a month (expensive enough for you yet?). And that’s provided you have a credible doctor who can access and motivate for the medication through the MCC (Medicines Control Council).
I am still on my quest to find a regimen that will work for me. One that I can afford. One that the government will allow my doctor to bring into the country. One that will keep me alive.
Having unprotected sex puts everyone at risk – even those who are already infected. If you are going to play unsafely make sure you know the costs – on your wallet and your life. HIV can in many cases – not all – be controlled by medication, but in this economic downturn make sure you can afford the costs.
Fucking in a financial economic downturn does not have to be taxing on your pocket and your life – if you play by the rules and respect yourself and your partners.
How much will it cost you for one night of fucking safely?
Condoms (probably need about two) +/- R20 (Free at most places)
Water based Lube +/- R40 (Free at most places)
Right attitude (Free)
Young HIV positive guy living in South Africa