HIV Testing and AIDS
In the UK, National HIV Testing Week promotes HIV testing to the most affected groups. Across the country, this means men who have sex with men (MSM) as well as black African men and women. Perhaps it will focus the mind as to why the degree to which HIV testing is promoted when one considers the fact that these groups make up seventy percent of those living with HIV and AIDS in the UK today.
Clearly, the medical authorities remain centred on these particular groups because it is by targeting them that lives can be saved and the spread of AIDS through sexual interactions can be minimised.
Although it is widely known that HIV and AIDS are more common among active homosexual and bisexual men, it remains a perfectly reasonable question to ask: why are MSM more vulnerable to HIV than other groups?
In this article, we will discuss the relationship between homosexuality and the increased risk of HIV. We’ll then look into how HIV infection – and its spread – can be prevented.
Homosexuality and the Risk of HIV
There are two main reasons why HIV affects so many homosexual men:
– HIV is transmitted more easily via unprotected anal sex than via unprotected vaginal sex.
– Some gay men have multiple sexual partners.
The HIV virus is in the blood, semen, pre-cum and vaginal fluid of an infected person. If these bodily fluids come into contact with someone’s bloodstream or mucous membranes, then the virus can enter the body.
The chance of getting infected with HIV is greater during anal sex than during vaginal sex because the mucous membranes of the anus are more permeable than the mucous membranes of the vagina. Intestinal mucosa absorb the HIV virus more easily because of their absorbent function, a natural bodily function. In addition, the mucous membranes of the anus are less robust. In other words, it is easier to cause small wounds in this mucous membrane during anal sex. Such wounds then become a gateway for the HIV virus.
To compare the two, the risk of HIV infection during anal sex is about 18 times greater than during vaginal intercourse. That’s one reason why gay men make up a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses in their age group than heterosexual men. During anal sex, the ‘receiving’ partner is more at risk of becoming infected with HIV than the partner who is penetrating. The spread of HIV among homosexual men is, therefore, higher, especially among those who choose to play a varying role in the ‘receiving’ and ‘giving’ of anal sex.
Many gay men choose to have multiple sexual partners. Indeed, some gay men are quite happy to have a long-term partner but to operate in a so-called ‘open relationship’. Statistically speaking, gay men are more likely to be sexually active outside of their relationship than some other groups. A recent study showed that 41.3 percent of all gay couples have ‘open sexual arrangements’. Because of single gay men and those in such an ‘open relationship’ are more likely to have multiple sexual partners, sexually active gay men are, sadly, at an increased risk of being infected with HIV.
The Risk of Other STDs
An additional factor to bear in mind during National HIV Testing Week is that unprotected anal sex with multiple partners also increases the risk of other STDs. In recent years, more and more STDs have been diagnosed among homosexual men by clinicians. Because someone with another STD is statistically more likely to contract HIV, it may well be that HIV infections on the gay scene are on the rise, too.
Preventing the Spread of HIV
HIV is a serious condition that you should try to prevent spreading at all times. Although this virus infection can be treated well with HIV inhibitors, the symptoms of HIV can often be dealt with. Nevertheless, curing the condition is not yet possible. Once someone has contracted HIV, they will never get rid of it. The answer is safe sex. But how do you do that exactly?
Always use a high-quality condom as well as a lubricant during anal sex. Condoms with a CE mark are suitable for anal sex. Never use a condom which has an expiration date that has expired. These are more liable to break. By using sufficient lubricant, you will also reduce the risk of the condom tearing. In order to stay safe, it is imperative that you always carry a condom with you.
In addition to anal sex, it should be noted that oral sex is only safe if no sperm enters the mouth.
Use a band or cut condom during rimming. If you do not, then there is a risk of HIV transmission, especially when there are haemorrhoids or blood present due to anal contact. Furthermore, you should not share sex toys. If sperm, pre-cum or blood is present on any of them, then the HIV virus can be transmitted. Finally, it is worth opting for less risky sexual techniques, such as masturbating each other. Note that fingering is risky when there is sperm, pre-cum or blood on the fingers.
Testing for HIV
It is worrying to note that many HIV carriers only discover that they are infected with the virus when their immune system becomes so weakened that they get sick frequently. If so, then they might already have developed AIDS. In the meantime, of course, they might have inadvertently infected their sexual partner or partner. Late testing along contributes greatly to the spread of HIV virus among homosexual and bisexual men.
For men who have unprotected sex with multiple male partners, it is therefore very important to have an HIV test on a regular basis – at least once every six months.  Tests can be done at the GP’s surgery, at a hospital’s GUM clinic or with an HIV self-test. Those who turn out to be positive can be treated immediately to alleviate the worst of the symptoms. With knowledge, it becomes possible to prevent the development of AIDS and to stop spreading the HIV virus further.
Sources: AidsMap, Gov.UK, CDC.Gov, Josephnicicolosi.com