Dear Barb: I feel a little awkward writing to you. I am a 25-year-old man and I’ve just met a wonderful woman. I think she may be the one for me. My problem is that I have led a fairly promiscuous life up to this point. I have experimented sexually, and I’m concerned about AIDS. I haven’t been tested, but I’m afraid to become sexually intimate with this new girl just in case. I’m not sure what, if any symptoms I should be looking for, or should I just get tested anyway?
Zack – Orillia
I don’t receive many questions from males, so I really appreciate it when I do. If you have led a promiscuous lifestyle I would definitely suggest you get tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other STD (sexually transmitted diseases). Also, I think you should tell your new friend about your previous lifestyle and your plans to be tested. These are things she should know. Likewise, it’s a good idea for her to be tested if she has any reason to believe she may have been exposed to HIV or STDs.
Unfortunately, because there are no obvious symptoms to indicate you have become infected with HIV, the average span of time between being infected until receiving an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) diagnosis is ten years. That’s ten years when individuals could be having unprotected sex and passing the virus on to others.
HIV infection is on the increase. The first reported case of AIDS in Canada was in 1982. In 2003, estimates indicate there were at least 20,000 people diagnosed with AIDS in Canada. However, the number of people who are HIV positive was reported to be 56,000 in 2002. Therefore indicating an increase in the number of AIDS diagnoses is inevitable. I’m sure most people know how HIV is transmitted, but I will recap for the benefit of some who may have had their head in the sand for the last 20 or so years.
HIV is passed from one person to another through unprotected sex, needle sharing, and pregnancy (from an HIV positive mother to her unborn child).
As stated above, a person can be HIV positive and not have any symptoms for years. This explains the escalation of infected individuals. During the period between infection and full-blown AIDS, a person may experience an unusually high number of infections because the virus is compromising their immune system. A combination of frequent colds, fever, tiredness, nausea, sore throats and swollen glands over an extended period of time, in addition to high-risk behaviour, may suggest HIV testing is warranted.
I think it is important that you discuss your situation with your physician. He/she is in a better position to advise you on what to do if you test positive for HIV. There have been great strides in the treatment for HIV positive individuals. In fact many new drugs have allowed individuals to be reasonably healthy for many years before their condition develops into AIDS. I hope this information has been helpful Zack.
E-mail your questions to email@example.com. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.