Thursday, June 23, 2011

HIV Transmission Takes Many Forms, So Let's Not Concentrate on Just One

In the US and many other Western countries the number one way of becoming infected with HIV is through anal sex, usually men having sex with men (MSM). The number two way is intravenous drug use. Other modes of transmission are in need of elucidation but we are told they include penile-vaginal heterosexual sex.

Many people, when asked to guess, think that penile-vaginal heterosexual transmission is very common. They are not aware that it is an inefficient mode of transmission, especially compared to anal sex (between men or between men and women) and intravenous drug use.

In some African countries, HIV transmission is said to be predominantly through penile-vaginal heterosexual sex. Intravenous drug use may well be low in a lot of high prevalence African countries. Exactly why male/male or male/female anal sex should be relatively rare or should rarely transmit HIV in African countries has never been made clear by the HIV industry.

But because of the insistance on harping on about penile-vaginal (usually just by implication) heterosexual sex, very little attention is given to any other modes of transmission. And non-sexual modes of transmission, such as unsafe healthcare, unsafe cosmetic practices or anything else, are barely mentioned and are claimed to be almost non-existent if mentioned at all.

So it's not surprising that there is a lot of misunderstanding about anal sex (as well as HIV and sexual transmission in general). People in African countries in particular are usually unaware that anal sex carries a risk of transmitting HIV, or even sexually transmitted infections, let alone the fact that it carries a far higher risk than other forms of sexual intercourse.

The risk may be as much as 18 times higher. That makes it very risky indeed. But, for some reason, the HIV industry has pinned their hopes on targeting penile-vaginal heterosexual sex, almost exclusively. And it's not working. Whether the industry lies or simply doesn't bother to tell the true story, many people are taking risks, getting infected, suffering and dying, completely unnecessarily.

What is so difficult, or even wrong, with telling people the full story? HIV is transmitted in many different ways. Some of those modes of transmission are efficient, such as anal sex, intravenous drug use, unsafe medical and cosmetic practices; and some are not efficient, such as penile-vaginal heterosexual sex. Even sex work is not particularly risky in Western countries, only in African countries, it seems.

To tell people only the bit you want them to hear, for example, about penile-vaginal heterosexual sex alone, is to fail to educate them. They do not get an understanding about how HIV is transmitted. Therefore they remain in the dark about how to protect themselves. The behavioral paradigm, the view that HIV is almost always transmitted through penile-vaginal sex in African countries is a fallacy. And it's killing people.


1 comment:

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