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HIV risk and cancer diseases (smoking)
Dec 19, 2006

Dear Dr. Conway!

My question is very simple but also very interesting on how humans feel the potential risk for something. Both unsafe sex and smoking are very dangerous activities but it seems to me and others that many people fears more to get HIV than a lung cancer from smoking cigarettes. This is strange because there are more death from smoking than from HIV staying to the statistics. You can extend this statistic also to other very risky activities such driving fast and without seat belts. Here in Europe car incidents are the most common cause of death amongst young people. It's very important to enforce safe sex but it is also useful to put the risk in a correct perspective comparing it to other dangers in our life. What do you think?

Response from Dr. Conway

Life is a series of risks that are taken or not by people as a function of the pleasure or benefit of the activity balanced against the risk. With sex, there is clear short term gratification balnced against a low risk of a long-term negative outcome. This is a combiantion of risk and reward that makes it the most difficult to implement a prevention message. Perhaps what we need to do is to make sure people understand that the risk is real while seeing that safe sex can be as pleasurable as other forms of sex...perhaps more so. Not an easy task...



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