Stickman Readers' Submissions July 5th, 2012

HIV Beliefs And Psychology

There is a virus called HIV and it is transmitted between humans. It has evolved to be transmitted sexually and this is how the virus survives if it had to rely on injecting drug users or anal sex then it would never have evolved as these behaviour do
not exist among its original monkey and ape hosts. There is a lot of misinformation because too many people use statistics which suit their biased beliefs about risk. They choose to quote the statistics they find on the Internet which give the
lowest risk of contracting HIV because it makes them feel better about their own behaviour, but just because you read it on the Internet means it has to be correct, right? Beware of this type of selective choosing of facts to suit our own bias.
It is a very common thing for the human mind to do in order for us to feel good about things.

If I stopped you in the street and held up a selection of test tubes and told you one of them contained a live HIV culture and asked you to choose one and dip your finger into it, would you do it? Because that is what you are doing if you sleep with high
risk partners without a condom.

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In the west most HIV is non heterosexual because there is a low general infection rate due to more monogamy and less prostitution but in Africa and Asia there is a much higher level of prostitution and changing of partners, less condom use and such risky heterosexual activity therefore a higher infection rate, so if you have sex without protection in these countries you are playing in a much higher risk group, also people living with HIV in western countries are much more likely to know that they have the virus and are taking antivirals which keep their viral load at almost undetectable levels. This is not likely to be the case with bargirls or freelancers or massage parlor girls who if they are infected are not likely to be aware of it or be taking antivirals, so they will have a higher viral load and therefore be more infectious.

HIV is transmitted via heterosexual sex and it does not need you to have a break in your skin to infect you. The skin of your genitals is a lot softer and thinner than the skin on your fingers and HIV can penetrate the skin of your foreskin, in fact it
has evolved to do this as there is a type of skin cell on the foreskin which is very vulnerable to HIV and this is why circumcised males have about a 60 percent reduction in risk, but statistically this gives you longer before infection, not immunity
from it.

Please don't believe that sex with an infected partner only gives you a 1/1000 chance of infection because if it was this difficult to contract then rates of infection would be a lot lower, let's say 4 percent of your partners are infected that
is one in 25, it is a numbers game and you may win in the short term. It's like a casino – you may lose all your money on the first roll of the dice or be on a winning roll for a while but the casino always gets you in the end.

A very big problem is two particular beliefs people have. The first one is that people think attractive partners are less risky, so we have unprotected sex with them while telling ourselves that we wouldn't do this with any other girls, or using
protection initially but when we get to know the person more we go without. HIV does not discriminate based on looks.

The second major problem is older guys about 50 or more who think that they have maybe 20 or so good years left in life so it doesn't matter if they get infected because you can survive about 20 years with HIV if you take medications. It is an unfortunate
attitude to have but one that is very prevalent. You are probably not going to get that long if you are older because your immune system is weaker and you will have more problems tolerating the drug regime.

I was once talking to an older girl in a pool bar, about mid-30s, nice person but not good looking, and she told me the only guys who were interested in her were older guys and they usually refused to wear a condom which I found terribly sad as this girl
felt she had no choice and couldn't control her risk.

A lot of people, both the girls and customers, will not want to know if they are infected because they do not want to take the risk of finding out and the mental turmoil they would have to go through if positive. It's easier not to know for now,
isn't it? We have this false sense of security and perception of the prevalence of infection because it is invisible. We can not see who is infected because anyone who has visible signs will be very sick and suffering from AIDS and will not
be out and about in society, but in a hospice or at home. Nobody is going to tell you that they are infected therefore we feel that because we don't see it or hear about it then it must be very rare.

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We all know people who smoked 40 cigarettes per day all their lives and they lived to old age without any problems, but please don't use these as good examples and think smoking does no harm, because most smokers will suffer health problems and die
as a result, so it is with risky sexual activity. We all hear about guys who have been having risky sex for years and are disease free, but it would be foolish to use these guys as role models, as statistically there will always be a few who escape,
but even these guys will not be able to beat the odds forever.

Doctors in my country of Ireland have said that over the last 10 or so years they have seen a big rise in people infected abroad while on holidays. These people do not tell anyone, not even their best friends, so we all believe that it is extremely rare
and only happens to high risk groups like injecting drug users and homosexuals. But if you go to Asia and have sex unprotected then you are also one of the high risk groups. Please be aware of the psychology affecting your own behaviour about

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The psychology behind Western guys taking such high risks has always intrigued me, especially as it is so prevalent here in Thailand. It's not just unprotected sex, but many other aspects of life.

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