The perils of SEX

Isyu 18 Sept 95

I came across the special AIDS issue of Benetton’s Colors magazine. Great graphics, plain language. We could use one like it in English and Tagalog to get the reality of AIDS across.

Many Pinoys actually think AIDS can’t touch them. Mga macho kasi na walang kinatatakutan. Actually, only celibates (people who completely abstain from sex with a partner) have nothing to fear. Everyone else, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, gay and straight, who is sexually active is a candidate for AIDS. And every sexual encounter is a potential AIDS encounter just because in real life, rare is the male (less rare the female), married and not, who does not indulge now and then in unprotected fornication with a stranger or with a number-two for the pure pleasure of it, thus laying himself open to the virus. Sa madaling salita, bihira ang lalaking hindi nangangaliwa at one time or another; ibig sabihin, bihira ang hindi na-e-expose to the possibility of infection.

It’s easy to catch the AIDS virus. Just one orgasmic session with a person who’s infected and that’s it, chances are, you’re infected too. The problem is, there are no warning signs. You can’t tell by looking if a lover, long-time or prospective, has the AIDS virus or not; one can have the virus and not (yet) be sick; one can have the virus and neither know it nor show it.

Colors explains:

“AIDS starts with a virus, it’s called HIV. Human Immuno-deficiency Virus. . . . HIV exists in order to propagate itself. It competes for space. It forages for food. Nothing personal – it’s just doing its job (which is) to expand and take over its host (that could be you) and then infect somebody else, and so on. When it gets into your body, it invades while blood cells, especially T-cells. Eventually (sometime between two years and more than a decade later) your T-cells become overwhelmed. Your immune system stops working. You become an easy target for pneumonia, cancers, parasites, or other infections. When you are infected with HIV and contract one of these you have AIDS. As far as we know, everyone who gets infected with HIV eventually gets AIDS. And so far, everyone who develops AIDS eventually dies. It’s that simple.”

Bright red splotch of blood on glossy white. “HIV lives in the body fluids of infected people. It lives in blood, semen, vaginal fluid, menstrual flow and breast milk. When body fluids pass from one person to another, the virus can get passed on too. Blood in people who are infected has a high concentration of HIV. Even a very small amount can transmit HIV.”

Smear of semen on white. “Semen not only has a very high concentration of HIV, it is usually transmitted in relatively large quantities. It is the most common carrier of HIV.”

Menstrual red on white. “Menstrual blood is a fluid consisting of blood, mucus, and vaginal secretions. Like ordinary blood, it can contain a high concentration of HIV.”

Smear of white on gray. “Vaginal fluid can contain high concentration of HIV. But the relatively small amount of vaginal fluid exchanged during sex makes it a less likely transmitter than semen.”

Foamy saliva on white. “A small amount of HIV can be found in saliva of infected people. But not always. Saliva contains substances that may prevent the virus from reproducing.”

Drop of breast milk. “Although it contains a small amount of HIV, there have been few reports of infection. HIV-positive mothers in developed countries usually do not breast feed. In developing countries the benefits are believed to outweigh the possibility of infection.”

A man’s lower butt, crotch blacked out. “HIV needs a warm wet welcome. It cannot get in through unbroken skin. It cannot get past a latex barrier. And it cannot live for very long outside a human body. Anal mucous membranes are delicate and almost always tear during intercourse. Risk of infection is greatly reduced by using a latex condom and a water-based lubricant (oil-based lubricants damage latex).”

A woman’s crotch, pubis blacked out. “The vagina is an ideal place for the HIV virus to enter the body. Unprotected sexual intercourse is the perfect way of transmitting live HIV.”

Close-up profile of wet lips. “The inside of the mouth is lined with mucous membranes which tear frequently, like when you brush your teeth. Unprotected oral sex is dangerous.”

You can also get HIV by sharing needles (if you’re into drugs). Or you can get it from your mother (if you’re a baby). Or from infected blood (in case you get a transfusion). And in an operating room (if you go under the knife, scalpel, etc.).

[NEXT: How you don’t get AIDS, AIDS test, safe sex.]