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the myth of modular sexThe Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions
Dec 29, 1996

Before and during sexual activity one doesn't know what could possibly happen when the heart beats faster and the mind goes numb. The difficulty with explaining the risk of any particular sexual activity is the myth that people do only one thing and then stop usually. If a potential partner is infected the risk is greater no matter what kind of sexual activity is expected or believed to be planned. If the potential partners aren't infected they aren't going to spontaneously generate an infection. Another difficulty is the myth that people can accurately observe whatever happened or is happening during any passionate moment. Is it true that for most people sexual behavior is a relatively consistent behavior? Worrying about what happened last night in the heat of passion can deceive oneself to avoid thinking about even earlier what can seem more easily dismissed risky activities. Is is true that most people who test positive for HIV were infected way long before any window or latency period?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

My role here is not to discuss the psychology of sexual activity. However, what I can say is that people have control at all times over what they will, and will not do. They have the power to say "NO" at any time during sex, if they don't want to engage in a particular sexual activity. Although people can get caught up in the "heat of the moment," they still have enough mental capabilities to not engage in an activity if they don't want to.

The only exception comes when individuals are under the influence of alcohol and other mild-altering drugs. While under the influence of alcohol, pot, cocaine etc., people tend to engage in activities that normally they would not. They tend to take chances more often, and are less likely to use condoms or use condoms correctly. This is why we stress that it's not just IV drugs that poses a risk for HIV; it's all mind-altering drugs (including alcohol) that can increase ones risk.

My role here is to inform people about HIV and other STD's. People can reduce their risk at ALL times. They have the power to not engage in a risky activity at any time (as long as they are not drunk or high/stoned). High risk sex doesn't just happen. People allow it to happen. I know many, many people who don't engage in high risk activities, even when offered the opportunity. They have control over their own activities and lives. We all do!

In regard to the question about testing positive. Let me emphasize again:

The AVERAGE period of time that an infected person will show positive on the test is 25 days. This is an average, so not all people will test positive by this point in time.

The USUAL period of time that an infected person will show positive on the test is 3 months. This means that most (but not all) infected people will show positive on the test by this time.

The MAXIMUM period of time that an infected person will show positive on the test is 6 months. By this point in time, more than 99% of infected persons will show positive on the test. This is as accurate as any test in medicine could ever be.

For the most accurate test result, you must wait 6 months after your last possible exposure to the virus (or anytime afterward). At 6 months, the tests are more than 99% accurate. If you get tested before the 6 month waiting period, you could have the infection but the test won't pick it up.

Now, if a person was infected years ago, but didn't get tested until years later, they could have the infection, not know it, then transit the infection to their sex/needle sharing partners. This is why we encourage people to get tested as soon as the test is accurate (6 months), rather than waiting until years later. Some people get tested as early as they can, to find out if they have HIV or not. Others wait until years later to get tested, either because they don't realize they were at risk, or because they are in denial about their risk. But we do encourage people to get tested as soon as the test is accurate (6 months) if they put themselves at risk, rather than waiting years later to get tested. Many people were infected years before they were ever tested. However, by educating the public, people are getting tested sooner than ever before, therefore slowing down further spread of the disease.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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