What are you scared of? How many times have you been asked this question? Some of the most common answers are heights, spiders, sharks, flying, and darkness. But no one really answers with one of the most common fears, which today is silently spread among our generation: fear of HIV.
It is extremely important to be aware of what HIV is and to know how to protect yourself from it. But what happens when awareness becomes paranoia?
For many years, like many young adults, I lived with the fear of contracting HIV. Not simply through sexual intercourse but also thought other ways that I now know are not a factor in the transmission of the virus. I was worried if my partner or I would use public toilets, worried about the blood I saw if someone would kill a mosquito, I was disinfecting public showers if I had to use them, and many others. I was aware that this fear was compromising the quality of my life, not making me enjoy it as I wished. I knew I wanted to solve the problem but did not know how.
This year I met a girl that introduced me to the volunteering experience with the European Solidarity Corps, an initiative launched by the EU with the aim of creating new volunteering and employment/traineeship opportunities for young people. I found volunteering regarding sexually transmitted diseases, with focus on HIV. The hosting organization was the Thess Checkpoint, in Thessaloniki, Greece. So I have decided to fly to Greece, hoping to solve my problem and be able to help others with my same fear.
With eight other volunteers, we spent one month and a half collaborating with the Checkpoint of Thessaloniki after receiving much training on the topic. I found out that if I had been better informed, I would have known that my fears had no basis. At the very first training, we were explained how you can get HIV and how you cannot.
Only certain body fluids from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV. These fluids include
- semen (cum),
- pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum),
- rectal fluids,
- vaginal fluids, and
- breast milk.
These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur. Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, vagina, penis, and mouth.
HIV does not survive long outside the human body (such as on surfaces) and cannot reproduce outside a human host. It is not transmitted
- By mosquitoes, ticks, or other insects.
- Through saliva, tears, or sweat.
- By hugging, shaking hands, sharing toilets, sharing dishes, or closed-mouth or “social” kissing with someone who has HIV.
- Through other sexual activities that don’t involve the exchange of body fluids (for example, touching).
- Through the air.
After listening to this explanation, during our training, from a professional, I immediately felt a sense of relief. All the thoughts that had been in my head for years were just the cause of my misinformation. Unfortunately, in many countries, sex education is still not taught in school. For this reason, we should inform ourselves through professional sources not to live in fear caused by ignorance.
There are many centres as Checkpoint, that can help you understand how sexually transmitted diseases really work and make your sexual and everyday life more enjoyable.
After my experience in Thessaloniki, I overcame my fear through better education, and I hope this article also helps those reading about overcoming a similar or different fear.
Credits: Checkpoint Volunteers Group