HIV has nothing to do with me?!

If you’re not gay or from a poor, African village, you might think HIV has nothing to do with you. And you’d be wrong. HIV infections are rising in the West, spreading through unprotected sex between heterosexuals. In some European countries, more than one third of new infections are in women. More than 65,000 Americans and Western Europeans became HIV-positive last year, adding to the more than half a million people living with HIV in Western and Central Europe, and more than one million Americans who are HIV positive. Antiretroviral therapy has improved survival rates, but it’s not a cure – and it’s not available to everyone: deaths from AIDS have tripled in Eastern Europe since 2000 due to the lack of medication, while AIDS death rates have plummeted in Western Europe and North America thanks to access to the drugs.

But.. What is HIV/AIDS?

Prevention: better be safe than sorry!

While having sex, you and your partner will only be safe if you avoid contact with every bodily fluid (blood, semen, pre-cum and vaginal secretions). Because of this, it’s absolutely necessary to use a physical barrier such as a condom in every sexual encounter because the skin of the mouth, vagina, penis and anus is so delicate that it might have some tiny cuts or sores that can act as an open door for HIV or other STD infections.

Risky business

Of course it always pays to play safe, but there are situations that are extra risky:

  • When you are into multiple partners, the risk they might be HIV+ grows.
  • Using drugs and/or drinking lots of alcohol completely changes your perception and can make you act differently than you would when sober. Don’t kid yourself: it happens!
  • Injected drugs put you at a higher risk when you share the equipment. To be safe from HIV infections, new, clean and sterile needles and syringes are requested for every injection.
  • Having anal sex makes you more vulnerable to get an infection, as the anus has an extremely delicate skin.
  • When you live in country with a high HIV infection rate and the access to condoms is lacking, the best you can do is not have sex. Whether this is realistic is another story, but don’t say that you haven’t been warned!
  • Who gets HIV?

    Everyone can get infected by HIV, because the virus doesn’t discriminate. The infection hasn’t stopped growing in 25 years and it affects more and more young people (almost half of the people infected last year were between 15 and 24 years old). Unprotected sex and sharing drug needles and syringes make you more vulnerable to get infected. As HIV/AIDS isn’t written on your face, it’s almost impossible to know who has the disease, so protection is always needed.

    Use a new condom every time you have sex! Recycling is all good and well, but not when your health and that of your partner might be at stake. 

    Until there’s a cure, prevention and protection are the keys to stopping HIV.