Author Topic: Men Can’t Get HIV From Women?  (Read 618 times)

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Men Can’t Get HIV From Women?
« on: Oct 05, 2012, 06:50 PM »
(BlackDoctor.org) — How does HIV spread? Who’s most susceptible to infection? These are just a couple of questions that, thanks to myths and misconceptions, may be just one of the reasons that new cases of HIV infection are highest in the Black community.

So what are the real facts that you need to know? BDO HIV Expert, Dr. Keith Crawford, weighs in…

Question: I think I actually witnessed the spread of HIV misconceptions! Basically, I overheard some guys at work talking about married male celebrities and their infidelities, and how the wives of these celebrities had nothing to worry about regarding the rumored lack of protection used during these indiscretions, because “it’s next to impossible for a man to pick up the HIV virus from a woman.” Is this true? Is there any data to support that one group of people can more easily spread the virus than another group?

Answer: Well, I can top that misconception with one even more ridiculous. There are some parts of Africa where it is widely believed that a man infected with HIV can rid himself of the infection by having intercourse with a virgin! This deplorably ignorant myth has led to widespread rape of young girls, and of course, new infections. Ignorance kills!

Your co-workers are obviously incorrect. It is true that it is easier for an HIV-infected man to infect a woman than it is for an HIV-infected woman to infect a man. This is a result of the basic anatomy of intercourse. However, this is a far cry from thinking it is virtually impossible for a man to pick up HIV from a woman.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the US, it became well recognized that gay men and intravenous drug users were the major groups affected by HIV. It appears that some heterointercourseual men assumed that if they weren’t having intercourse with men, or injecting drugs, they were not at risk for. This erroneous belief has contributed to the devastating epidemic among African-Americans. While we were painting a picture of HIV as a “white gay” disease, we should have been looking across the Atlantic. In Africa, where several million of people have already died, homointercourseual intercourse and intravenous drug use represent only a small percentage of the risk factors for those who are and were infected. Yet, there are, and have always been, almost equal numbers of men and women infected with the virus! This should have tipped us off of the risk from heterointercourseual intercourse decades ago. It did not.

In my city of Washington DC, the number of new infections from heterointercourseual intercourse surpassed those from homointercourseual intercourse and intravenous drug use a few years ago.

Research on heterointercourseual transmission has shed some light on the factors that can increase transmission:

• Years ago, studies from Africa demonstrated that the amount of virus in a person’s blood is a major determinant of whether a person’s partner gets infected, whether they are male or female. In general, women need more virus in the blood to infect a man than a man needs to infect a woman. However, if we reduce the amount of virus in the blood to undetectable levels (through treatment with medications), almost no transmission occurs!

• Uncircumcised men are at increased risk of being infected by women. This has resulted in massive campaigns in many African countries to get men circumcised in communities where it is not commonly practiced.

• In addition to this, the presence of an STD (e.g. gonorrhea, herpes, Chlamydia, syphilis) can increase infection by a couple of ways. First, the infection increases the production of HIV in semen or vaginal fluid, so the partner is exposed to more virus.  Second, the infection damages the mucous membranes making it easier for HIV cross. Women may often have no symptoms of an STD and may not seek care in a timely manner.

What’s one factor that can help decrease HIV transmission? Sharing knowledge and helping to dispel these dangerous myths. Tell your coworkers the facts – it may help save lives!

Research on heterointercourseual transmission has shed some light on the factors that can increase transmission:

• Years ago, studies from Africa demonstrated that the amount of virus in a person’s blood is a major determinant of whether a person’s partner gets infected, whether they are male or female. In general, women need more virus in the blood to infect a man than a man needs to infect a woman. However, if we reduce the amount of virus in the blood to undetectable levels (through treatment with medications), almost no transmission occurs!

• Uncircumcised men are at increased risk of being infected by women. This has resulted in massive campaigns in many African countries to get men circumcised in communities where it is not commonly practiced.

• In addition to this, the presence of an STD (e.g. gonorrhea, herpes, Chlamydia, syphilis) can increase infection by a couple of ways. First, the infection increases the production of HIV in semen or vaginal fluid, so the partner is exposed to more virus.  Second, the infection damages the mucous membranes making it easier for HIV cross. Women may often have no symptoms of an STD and may not seek care in a timely manner.

What’s one factor that can help decrease HIV transmission? Sharing knowledge and helping to dispel these dangerous myths. Tell your coworkers the facts – it may help save lives!

 
By Dr. Keith Crawford, BDO HIV/AIDS Expert

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