February 21, 2013
We Must Use Condoms To Protect Against HIV And Other Diseases
Recently, The Huffington Post reported on the HIV increases amongst gay men in the United Kingdom (UK). The increases are primarily contributed to the decreases in condom use. Accordingly, the number of gay and bisexual men contracting HIV has risen over the past 20 years. In fact, the all-time high came in 2011 when more than half (3,010 to be exact) of the diagnosed cases were gay or bisexual men.
Between 1999 and 2010, the number of UK men having unprotected (aka without a condom) sex with another man rose 26 percent as a study by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the University College London showed. In their article about the HIV increase and condom use situation, the BBC showcased a case study where one man, Darren, explained, “I suspect the rise is more among young MSMs [men who have sex with men]. They see HIV positive men like myself and think it is just a matter of popping a few pills if they catch it, so they are not that phased about becoming HIV positive or not using condoms.”
The pills he refers to there are the anti-retroviral drugs that treat HIV. These have been critical to controlling the spread of HIV and helping those already infected with the virus. This study found that without the anti-retroviral drugs to treat those infected with HIV, infections would be 68 percent higher particularly in MSM.
Darren further proposes that the decrease in condom use amongst MSM comes from bisexual or curious men. He says, “There also seem to be more bisexual men or curious men around now who are used to not bothering with condoms with heterosexual encounters so prefer not to use them elsewhere too.”
The co-author of this study, Dr. Valerie Delpech, who is head of HIV surveillance at the HPA, said: “Everyone should use a condom when having sex with new or casual partners, until all partners have had a sexual health screen.” This means everyone, not just gay or bisexual individuals but also heterosexual as well.
Condoms are critical to sexual health. They are not simply a form of birth control; more importantly, they are a prophylactic. They protect us from myriad diseases including HIV, Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Even those STDs that can be cured relatively easily — I’m thinking syphilis — are dangerous. Until the invention of penicillin, syphilis was a death sentence, which means without proper diagnosis and treatment; it still poses a very serious and very real threat.
This UK study shows that with decreased condom use comes more infection. It specifically focused on HIV, but that is not the only disease that condoms protect against. Furthermore, condoms are not the only step to take in controlling the spread of HIV. The study researchers encourage MSMs to get an HIV and STI screen at least annually, and definitely every three months if having condomless sex with new or casual partners. They further propose that clinicians should take every opportunity to recommend HIV testing and condom use.
To be healthy, we must also make sure we are sexually healthy, which includes being sexually responsible. If we are going to have casual sex, then we must protect ourselves. We must use condoms. We must have regular testing, and we must seek professional help and diagnosis if we notice something is not right with our health. We all should promote condom use for those who are having sex in order to decrease these diseases. We must protect ourselves.
Image Credit: Photos.com