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HIV I and HIV IIThe Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions
Jan 3, 1997

Isn't it true that HIV II is easier to get sexually than HIV I and it usually takes a few exposures to contract HIV I? That's why the claim is made that most HIV cases are spread through heterosexual contact? Because in other parts of the world, HIV II is contracted easier. All I keep hearing is that it is unusual to catch HIV through one act of heterosexual sex unless you are a female or have lessions on your penis. Can you elaborate? What are the chances of one encounter and one uses a condom?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

Actually, the reverse is true. HIV-1 is considered more infectious than HIV-2. HIV-2 is found almost exclusively in Western Africa, and is only rarely found outside of this part of the world. HIV-1 is found worldwide. In Asia (especially Thailand and India), and in other parts of Africa, most cases are among heterosexuals, and in this part of the world, HIV-1 predominates. It is believed that HIV-2 is less infectious than HIV-1, since the levels of the HIV-2 virus found in the body is lower than that of HIV-1. The lower the levels of these viruses in the body, the less infectious the person is to others. The fact that HIV-1 is more infectious than HIV-2 also helps explain why HIV-1 is much more prevalent in the world than HIV-2.

Transmission of both HIV-1 and HIV-2 is NOT unusual among heterosexuals of either gender. Worldwide, most cases of HIV/AIDS are found among heterosexuals. In Western nations (including the USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia etc.), we are seeing a steady increase among heterosexuals, both men and women. In this part of the world, most HIV/AIDS cases continue to be among Gay/Bisexual men and IV drug users, however the number of heterosexual cases is on the rise.

When we're talking about either HIV virus, you can become infected after just one time, or it can take a hundred times before you get infected. But the more times one is exposed to either virus, the greater the chances of infection. But generally speaking HIV-1 is considered more infectious than HIV-2. Also, condoms used consistently and correctly will significantly reduce the chances of becoming infected with both HIV-1, HIV-2, and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's). When one does not use condoms all of the time, or one does not use condoms correctly, the risk of infection rises significantly.

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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