HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus transmitted by some bodily fluids such as blood, breast milk, and genital fluids. HIV attacks the cells that protect our body, making us more vulnerable to other infections. This is why some symptoms of HIV include fever, sore throat, or fatigue. If not treated correctly, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.
Nowadays, there is no cure for HIV. However, we have an effective treatment that, if taken as prescribed, will reduce the viral load in the body until undetectable. When the viral load is undetectable, the infected person will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners.
In addition to this HIV treatment, we have PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), used for people who are at risk of getting HIV; and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), used within 72 hours of possible HIV exposure to prevent HIV from taking hold.
Unfortunately, nowadays, people still have prejudices against people with HIV. In our project, PHD (prevention, health, destigmatization), we have tried to bring awareness to this and other STDs by doing different projects and promoting checkpoint’s free HIV tests around Thessaloniki.
Our last activity consisted of creating a questionnaire and giving it to people around the city to have a more detailed view of the sexual health knowledge of people in Thessaloniki. This questionnaire mentioned basic data (age group, gender, level of education…), questions about sexual habits(how many partners the person has, if they use protection regularly, etc.), and questions about general knowledge of HIV and sexual health.
Analyzing this data, we have discovered that 57.27% of the people who took our questionnaire were in the 17-22 age group, 33.77% of which declared they are religious, and 81.40% declared they have higher education.
But do things like religion, age, economic status or level of education really affect how people see sex and how much acknowledgement people have about topics such as HIV and other STDs?
According to the data, we have collected, 3.52% of the people who declared being religious also declared never using protection. Although this number is small, it could be a problem considering 25% of religious people have never been tested for HIV.
But not only religion, economic status and level of education can also play a role in the way people see sex and sexual health 20.51% of people who have a high school or lower level of education don’t use protection, and 66.67% have never taken an HIV test.
So we have seen that religion and education play an important role in sexual health issues, but what about gender and sexuality? Could the identity of people affect how they see sexual health?
Well, according to our research, from the people who took our questionnaire, 66.96% said they were heterosexual, 15.86% said they were bisexual, and 7.49% said they were homosexual. The rest of the people that took our questionnaire clicked the other/unspecified option.
From the first group, the heterosexual people, our data says 12.50% never used protections, only 34.87% have been tested for HIV, and just 14.47% say they do STD tests at least once a year.
For the second group, 16.67% of bisexuals said they do not use protection, and 36.11% said they had been tested for STDs at least once.
For the last group, homosexual people, 21.41% say they always use protection, and 52.94% of them have been tested for HIV, 29.41% of them test at least once a year.
When HIV appeared for the first time, people thought that only homosexual men could get infected. Nowadays, this myth has been proven wrong, but there are still people who believe it. Maybe this is why heterosexual people are less likely to get tested.
After collecting and analyzing this data, we can conclude that there’s still a long way to go, and people still need to learn more about these topics.
Sexual education and sex in general, is still a very taboo topic, not only in Thessaloniki but in many parts of the world. If we start talking about sex and implementing sexual education in schools we could improve these statistics in the long-term and eventually decrease the number of people who catch STDs annually.
You, reading this article, can contribute to this change in your close circle by just talking about it with your friends. Share your acknowledgement with them, and tell them that if they catch an STD, they shouldn’t be ashamed to tell you. If you’re a parent, don’t be afraid to discuss these topics with your kids. Remember, all big things start with small changes.
Credits: Checkpoint Volunteers Group