Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Misleading Sexual Partners About HIV Status Among Persons Living with HIV/AIDS.

From an abstract...formatted for easier reading:

Most people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) disclose their serostatus to their sexual partners and take steps to protect their partners from HIV.

Prior research indicates that some PLWHA portray themselves to their sexual partners as HIV-negative or otherwise misrepresent their HIV status.

The aim of this study was to document the prevalence of misleading sexual partners about HIV status and to identify factors associated with misleading.

A sample of 310 PLWHA completed a self-administered questionnaire assessing demographic information, disclosure, HIV knowledge, HIV altruism, psychopathy, and sexual risk behavior. Participants were also asked "Since you were diagnosed as having HIV, have you ever misled a sexual partner about your HIV status?" Overall, 18.6% of participants indicated that they had misled a sexual partner. Those who had misled a partner at some point since their diagnosis reported more current HIV transmission risk behaviors, including unprotected anal or vaginal sex with a partner who was HIV-negative or whose HIV status was unknown.

Participants who had misled a partner did not differ from those who had not in terms of demographic characteristics.

Individuals who had misled a partner scored significantly lower on a measure of HIV knowledge than those who had not misled a partner. HIV altruism and psychopathy were associated with sexual risk behavior, but did not differ between those who had misled and those who had not.

Disclosure of HIV status can reduce HIV transmission, but only if people are candid. Interventions aimed at increasing knowledge and accurate disclosure may reduce the spread of HIV.

Given that there is more HIV among gays and drug users, it only makes sense that such disclosures are less frequent.

As it is, only 2% of men self-identify as gay. That means your pool of partners is small to begin with. If you have HIV, you will diminish your pool of partners even more.

Now, if a person who is HIV positive has trouble finding partners because of their status, the logical answer is "well too bad, don't start infecting everyone else just because you have it."

It's called exercising personal responsibility and self-control.

Alas, no. That would make too much sense.

The response from one body of researchers:

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, December 19, 2011 ( – A team of HIV/AIDS researchers from B.C. have called upon the Canadian legal system to stop prosecuting people infected with the HIV virus for failing to disclose their sickness to their sexual partners.

The team, directed by Dr. Julio Montaner, claims that current HIV treatment can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus by as much as 96%.

I can just see it now, thousands of men will say to their partners: "You can't get HIV, I'm being treated for it!"

Just like many women think they can't get pregnant because they're on birth control, and their birth control method only has a 1% failure rate.

“Prosecutions put the life of people living with HIV/AIDS at risk, increase the risk of HIV transmission and health care costs, and ultimately place the public at higher risk,” the authors argue.

It increases the risk because people don't take responsibility.

If their lack of responsibility causes someone serious harm, like contracting a life-altering disease, they should pay for it. That should be a deterrent. I don't expect drug users to care about the law, but most people would pay heed.

And I have another ethical question:

Shouldn't having sex with someone who does not disclose HIV status amount to some form of sexual assault? It's grossly unfair for the innocent victim to have to suffer a lifetime of sexual disease because of one partner's dishonesty.