Be your self, but know your risks; HIV is deadly!

As you are aware of what HIV and AIDS stands for, what it means and how it has affected the human lives, I am no longer going to talk about that. In this issue the main focus is given to the risks. A change of behavior is the most difficult change that you can ever make, so try to remain your self, but know your risks as HIV is deadly.


“having sex is much easier than talking about sex” says sexual health educators and activists. Well yes this is very true, especially in Sri Lanka. Yes I am going to talk about sex, that’s right.  There are different myths about the different modes of HIV transfusion.


Basically there are only three main modes of HIV transfusion. Exchange of “sexual fluid”, through “HIV infected blood” and from “parent to child”. Those are only the modes and not how you get infected. So now you might have a question to what are the risks behaviors and how you would actually get it. Therefore a risk behavior will have the following characteristics;

·         An interaction or exchange of sexual fluid through any type of sexual activity

·         An exchange of live infected blood

·         During the child being in the mother’s womb

·         During the delivery of the child

·         During breast feeding


But the fact is that more than 90% of the infections are caused due to an interaction or exchange of sexual fluid through any type of sexual activity. Now you might say in Pakistan it’s because of the needles and all sorts of examples, but those are only exceptional cases. Unprotected sex” has become the most common way of HIV transfusion across the entire world. You might also so say that most of the communities, due to their religious and other beliefs and guiding lines their people do not do this act. However we need to accept the fact that sex” is a want of the people living on this earth, and some how, some where this requirement will have to be satisfied, whether it is openly expressed or not. I am not saying having sex is not ethical and wrong, what I am trying to say is that have sex, but have it safe.


Now you might wonder what “protected or safe sex” means. Well it’s very simple, that is to use some sort of protection between the two who is having sex to avoid an interaction or exchange of sexual fluid or contact between live HIV infected blood and that’s it. How ever I must say to be infected with HIV you have to satisfy the following conditions;

·         Either one of the two needs to be HIV positive

·         There needs to be an interaction or exchange of sexual fluid or live HIV infected blood


If those conditions are not met there is no chance that you can be infected with the HIV virus. Now you might be happy that if you ask your partner, whom you had sex with, whether he or she was HIV free and he or she says no, but remember HIV is just another infection out of the millions of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). So even though you may not get infected with HIV there is a “chance” for you to be infected of any of these STDs. Now don’t be afraid, you can protect your self against these STDs just as I told above and most importantly I am not going to continue on the STDs. How ever there is one more important thing to note, that generally it is been clinically proven that anal sex is the most risky than any other type of sexual activity. Why they say it is because the muscles are designed not to accept anything through it, but to send things out, and when any thing is forced inwards the muscles get damaged and there might be wounds created and thus will lead to bleeding, but however that doesn’t mean that you will not be infected by any other sexual act. So If you put in the order of risks it will be anal sex > virginal sex > oral sex and so on.


Well speaking about HIV being transmitted through HIV infected blood; I must say there are lots of myths circulating related to this mode of transfusion. First lets take the whole issue of drug users; how do you get infected through needles. Now what most of the drug users do is, they inject the drugs using a syringe and pull back blood in to the syringe and the next person injects drugs with the blood in it with in the next couple of seconds. Yes, that’s how it happens and because of that the HIV virus from an infected drug user will get in to the body of the other (who might not be HIV positive) through the syringe. The important thing is when they do this over and over the viral load gets concentrated and the chances that you get infected is higher.


The other myths are; shaving from the same blade, mosquito bites, etc. now for the HIV virus to get to some one through the blade the following conditions need to be met;

·         Either one of the persons using the same blade needs to have HIV

·         both persons will have to have a cut while shaving and need to bleed

·         the time difference between the two persons shaving should be less than four or less seconds


Yes. That’s right! It is impossible! The virus out side of the human body can only survive for less than four or less seconds and thus once it’s exposed to the normal environment the virus dies off. Now do not confuse your self with the Injecting Drug Users. Remember they inject and share the same syringe within few seconds, and they take blood in to the syringe and it’s just not a drop or so, we are talking about few milliliters (ml).


Talking about mosquito bites; since you know very well, tell me what HIV stands for? It’s Human Immunodeficiency Virus right? It clearly says its “human” and which means it can’t survive any where else, so I assume that this myth is cleared. It is highly impossible to get HIV through mosquito bites and that’s it!


Talking about the last mode of transfusion, which is from “parent to child” is some thing not very complicated at all. Well you might have noticed I have mentioned as “parent to child”, now how would this happen? All right the true situation is that it is from the mother to child, but we (the organizations and individuals working in the HIV/ AIDS response) do not use that term because, some times it is not because the mother is responsible for the scene. Let me explain this; we have found cases such as a house wife being infected, with out she going out with any one else apart from her husband and being infected, in this case it’s the husband who brought the virus to the wife and there by infected the baby/ child, even though this doesn’t happen all the time, it has been reported that the majority has been that. So to avoid stigmatization we called this mode of transfusion as “parent to child”.


Now a day after all the medical developments, we have had HIV negative children born to parents who are both HIV positive. Yes, this is really possible, but there is still a fifty – fifty chances even then because it depends on the time when you identify that the mother is infected.


However you don’t need to fear at all, if you think that you might be HIV infected or have had a risky behavior, don’t panic, you can get your self tested at any of the STD clinics in any General Hospital available around the country and the most important fact is that they will protect you confidentiality and support you to live a normal life. Whether it is counseling, treatment, Anti retro viral treatment (ARV Treatment) free of charge (we should thank the Health Policy of Sri Lanka for all these).


Be your self, but know your risks; HIV is deadly!


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