AIDS: Why safer sex is so important

Even today, around 36 million people worldwide are infected with the HI virus. Although the number of new infections since the turn of the millennium has fallen from around three to two million people infected per year, responsible behavior and protection for themselves and others are still highly topical issues today. There is still no cure for HIV or AIDS.

Numerous new infections with HIV

Since 2005, only the number of new HIV infections in the group of men with same-sex sexual contacts (MSM) has fallen significantly in Germany. For all other groups an unchanged or even decreasing number of new infections has been observed in recent years.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), however, an increase in sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea has been observed for some time.

For many, the temporary decline in new infections with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases seems to give the wrong impression that one can dispense with adequate sexual intercourse protection.

However, the risk of HIV infection should be taken as seriously by both the gay men and all other sexually active people today as it was at the beginning of the 1980s epidemic.

HIV and AIDS - what is behind it?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) gradually destroys the body's immune system. Because the HI virus has the property to penetrate cells of the body's defense, there to change the genetic material and destroy the cells in the long term.

Affected by this is a variety of cells, but especially the CD4 cells, the so-called helper cells, which play an important role in the immune system, as they control, among other things, some cells of the immune system.

Gradually, this reduces the number of important CD4 cells, until finally the immune system collapses. The body is defenseless, and at this stage normally completely harmless infections become a lethal threat to the body.

These typical infections, such as tuberculosis and fungal infections, are called opportunistic infections. Certain tumors also occur frequently at this stage. Only now is it called AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

Safe sex: always up to date

Sales of condoms in Germany have been at record levels for several years. While only about 50 percent of the sexually active group under the age of 45 used condoms in the 1990s, today it is almost 80 percent.

However, given that more than 80 percent of all new HIV infections are caused by sexual contact in Germany, nobody should underestimate the risk of infection.

The perception in the population could contribute to the fact that thanks to improved treatment options, an HIV infection today is well treatable and, above all, no longer has to lead to death. However, this is a deceptive assessment.

Although the number of those who died of HIV infection in 2015 has fallen to about one fifth of the peak levels achieved in the mid-1990s. But on average, almost 500 people die each year in Germany from the consequences of their HIV infection.

It is not foreseeable when a cure for AIDS will be found.

Contagious with HIV

There are several ways in which infection with HIV can occur:

  • Blood and blood residues (for example via syringes)
  • sperm
  • vaginal secretions
  • breast milk

Infection with the HI virus can only occur if these fluids reach mucous membranes or open wounds. The main transmission route is sexual intercourse without condoms.

HIV in blood conserves

Blood reserves and other blood products are very extensively tested for HIV in Germany, so they are theoretically HIV-free. The minimum residual risk, which however always remains, can be avoided by a blood donation. This means that you donate your own blood in time for a planned surgical procedure, which is then returned to you during the operation.

Not every contact carries the risk of infection

Often, people are unsure how to deal with HIV-infected people. The fear of infection in many everyday situations is unfounded. HIV is not transferable through:

  • handshaking
  • Skin contact (hugs or kisses)
  • sweat
  • tears
  • saunas
  • Swimming in swimming pools
  • toilets
  • common food / cutlery (saliva)
  • insect bites

In case of doubt: HIV test

If there is a possibility of HIV infection, a test should be performed. The family doctor can perform an HIV test, as well as the health authorities, which are often very cheap, and some AIDS counseling centers.

The HIV test consists of a simple blood sampling and may always and without exception only with the explicit consent of the person being examined.

In all facilities that conduct an HIV test, the employees are subject to strict confidentiality. The result is at the latest after three days.

The test is looking for antibodies against the virus that the body is trying to fight against the virus. Until they become detectable, an infection usually lasts 10 to 12 weeks. About a contagion, which is only a few days ago, so no statement can be made.

To be on the safe side, if there is a suspicion of infection, it is imperative to take appropriate safety measures (condoms, avoiding blood contact, etc.) until a negative test result is obtained.

HIV test positive - how safe is the result?

If antibodies are found in the blood, so the test result is positive, always a second investigation to verify this result must be performed. Because the test is very sensitive, it can also falsely indicate in the blood other antibodies that have nothing to do with HIV.

Only if both investigations were positive, the result may be communicated to the person concerned. And even then blood should be taken and examined again, for example, to exclude breakdowns during labeling or during transport or in the laboratory.

Anyone who receives the diagnosis HIV-positive, in addition to the medical advice from the attending physician can rely on the help of numerous counseling centers to learn how a life with HIV designed.

Conclusion: Safer sex serves our own protection

Safe sex is as important as ever. Given the dangers of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, every effort must be made to address these challenges effectively. Nobody should close their eyes to this danger.

This is true not only for the group of homosexuals, but also for sexually active people. The consequent use of condoms is therefore the central message of AIDS prevention.

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