AIDS Care Watch

Monday, March 24, 2008

Masturbation the solution to HIV crisis

By, Bridget Tapuwa, Nehanda Radio, March 24, 2008

Are you also shocked by the statistics given about Zimbabwe? Are we not marching right into a wall, with the HIV/AIDS pandemic blighting a country already grappling with many other problems?

In Zimbabwe the pandemic is reported to be causing the deaths of more than 5000 people each week. A significantly large part of the population is infected; reports say 1 in every 5.

The enormity of the pandemic has among many other effects, fuelled a rapid growth in the number of orphans which has swelled to well over 2 million making ours the country with the highest number of orphans per capita in the world.

Since the 1990s, the HIV/AIDS virus has slashed the average life expectancy from 61 to about 28 years. It is reported that only about 40 000 people are on anti-retroviral drugs out of a possible 180 000.

And more than 2 000 people are reported to be getting infected every month. The health delivery system is almost dysfunctional to an extent that most sick people do not seek treatment. The news we then hear of Zimbabwe’s declining HIV prevalence should therefore be met not only with scepticism but also confusion in view of the country’s volatile political and economic climate.

The statistics so presented could be seriously skewed. What do the true statistics reveal about the Zimbabwean scenario? These statistics provide an insight into what is happening in Zimbabwe. Most people are still taking a very casual approach to the HIV/AIDS issue despite the devastating impact it has had on the country. Multiple sexual relationships are still so much in practise, with most using them as a strategy to temporarily evade the stress brought about by the economic and social hardships they are subjected to.

And most people believe that they are just too smart to be at risk. Most marriages in Zimbabwe still come about as a result of pregnancy, thus clearly indicating that premarital unprotected sex is still so much in practise, for most without prior HIV testing, which is in most cases still much resented. In any case the issue of HIV testing looses its intended purpose if partners will still engage in multiple unprotected sexual relationships after the testing. Zimbabwe’s escalating HIV/AIDS statistics only but reveal that a lot is happening behind the scenes, which people deny; a lot of cheating in relations.

For Zimbabweans most of the HIV infections are a result of multiple sexual relationships.
In cases where people are aware that they are HIV positive, most do not disclose to their partners and instead choose to infect them. It then becomes imperative that every one question themselves about the issue of trust; how much trust should we vest in our partners, if any trust at all, or should we not only but trust God? More so given that the HIV virus is notorious for its capability to ‘hide’ in the blood stream for the longest time without having any of its symptoms showing up.

It appears most Zimbabweans so often a time unnecessarily discard their entire thought systems, thought systems on issues which affect them, about one’s tomorrow, about the importance of health and many other pertinent issues; there is inherent in most, an unwillingness to use their powers of observation and reasoning. There is slowness to react to changing situations in one’s environment and there is also some form of passivity; an attitude which also raises its ugly head through the lack of mass public action over the turmoil bedevilling the country, politically, socially and economically.

Where then are we heading as a nation? Are we not facing a bleak future? In 5 to 10 years time, are we not likely to have ¾ of the population infected with HIV or wiped away by AIDS? Unless of cause if people are going to take very urgent drastic shifts in behaviour. What we observe should not however be a source of despair and discouragement. Instead we should exploit these observations to our advantage; use them as a source of encouragement- as a fuel that will drive the engine of change- change in the ways we have been running our lives, change in our focus in life, change in our perception of issues.

Because we are the change agents, we are the ones who can and will make a difference, the ones who can shape our own destiny. We need to have a sense of responsibility through taking ownership of our own destiny. What weapon and shield then can we use for survival as a nation? Does not the solution lie in us rediscovering ourselves, re-identifying ourselves, getting to know ourselves better, revisiting our choices in line with the changing environment that we are surviving in and are exposed to? And it is all about really revisiting our choices when it comes to the subject of sex; each one asking themselves whether there is anything to lose through revisiting their route to sexual appeasement.

Should not then the solution lie in protected sex for all those engaging in sex, married and unmarried; total abstinence for others and/or masturbation? For Zimbabwe at least, it downs to me that we adopt these options. We have certainly reached this last resort. This now stands as our only last option on our set of cards, our one and only hope for survival.
Masturbation remains the only safe and healthy sexual outlet other than abstinence. Furthermore it is argued that the self-stimuli derived from masturbation are equally self- comforting and sexual arousing.

So there is nothing really to lose, should one resort to this option. If anything they have a better guarantee of a long life. In the light of the frightening HIV/AIDS scenario, we are strongly advocating masturbation for Zimbabweans; masturbation, the only clean way to sexual appeasement. Whilst the condom has generally been promoted as clean, there is always room for some exchange of dirt between partners. In any case; there are always some people, Zimbabweans too who need no partners in life, those who are happier alone. And yet they may have never heard about masturbation.

So, with the elections coming up in a couple of days to come; the new Government in waiting should in addition to the female and male condom, also avail affordable or free vibrators and promote masturbation for the Zimbabweans who want to remain clean, and yet also get sexual appeasement. Whilst some may argue that it is not in line with our African culture, yet still, we are here looking at the devastating effects that sex has brought unto the African and how we can deal with it.

In as much as we, Africans do not like talking about such issues as sex, yet still the truth remains, we have it behind the scenes, in hiding, and we are contracting the deadly virus. That reminds me how often some of us in open claim not to be indulging, yet we get the evidence through pregnancy. Should we not revisit and adjust our culture so as to live? The new Zimbabwean Minister had better look into this if she wants us to live longer.
For the married who desire to have children, unprotected sex could only be practised immediately upon undergoing HIV testing.

Why rule out this option, when we are responsible for reducing the matrimonial bed to a mere venue for receiving the HIV virus? In as much as these solutions may sound extreme, we find it imperative to highlight that as a nation, Zimbabwe is now at a Choice Point. We have reached that critical juncture where we now have to make that crucial choice; that choice which will determine one’s span of life.

Desired now are solutions which suit our nation well, a peculiar nation whose statistics have reached extreme levels; a nation worst hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a nation ranking last in almost all developmental issues. So it is up to you, the ball is in your court really to make your choice this very day before it is too late.

The writer is based in Belgium and she can be reached at


Thursday, March 20, 2008

HIV/Aids cases on rise अगं: Unprotected, casual sex to blame

By, Apiradee Treerutkuarkul, Bangkok Post, March 20, 2008

Casual and unprotected sex is being blamed for the high number of new HIV/Aids cases _ with at least 40 people a day being infected. The number was released in a survey by the national sub-committee on Aids prevention.

The survey results have prompted health authorities to dust off a campaign to encourage the use of condoms.

Mechai Veravaidya, chairman of the sub-committee on Aids prevention, said new cases were mostly found among teenagers aged between 15 and 19. This group was sexually active and tended not to use condoms while having casual sex with multiple partners.

According to the survey only 13% of students in Mathayom Suksa and university level who had sex used condoms. Moreover, only 9% of office employees used condoms with their partners.

These groups were at high risk of contracting HIV/Aids as they had multiple partners without using protection. A lack of campaigning for condom use had made the HIV/Aids problem become very serious again, Mr Mechai, who was once known as 'Mr Condom' for his relentless condom campaign, said.

Mr Mechai said the country desperately needed to renew the condom campaign in a bid to reduce the number of new infections. Otherwise the disease would affect the national healthcare system.

An estimated 500,000 Thais are living with HIV/Aids. More than 80% of people living with HIV/Aids are in need of antiretroviral drugs.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation reported that 700,000 people living with HIV/Aids worldwide had tuberculosis-related problems.

In 2006, around 200,000 HIV-positive people died of TB-associated causes.

At the same time, doctors are studying three professions at risk of TB infection as Thailand ranks 18th out of 22 countries with the highest number of TB cases.

Praparn Youngchaiyud, president of the Thai Chest Association, said a team of researchers was studying TB infections among taxi drivers, food vendors and nurses because their closed working environments could make them more easily susceptible to the disease.

It would take another two years to conclude the study.

However, Dr Praparn believed the TB infection rate among these professions was no higher than others such as labourers.

Paijit Warachit, deputy permanent health secretary, said there were 91,000 new TB cases each year. A high number of TB infections and multiple drug resistance also prompted health authorities to promote screening tests and expand coverage of Directly Observed Treatment, short-course (DOTs), the WHO-recommended strategy for TB control.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

HIV epidemic driven by clusters of sex

By, United Press International, March 19, 2008

The rapid growth of HIV/AIDS cases in London during the late 1990s was driven, in part, by transmission of the deadly virus within clusters of sexual contacts.

Study leader Andrew Leigh Brown and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh and London's Chelsea and Westminster Hospital said people frequently passed the HIV virus to others within months after becoming infected themselves.

The study, published in PLoS Medicine, found the growth of HIV among men who have sex with men in London was not a slow and steady process, but episodic. With multiple clusters of transmission occurring within a few years during the late 1990s, the number of HIV infections in this population doubled.

Genetic data on HIV is routinely obtained to best determine HIV medications, therefore Leigh Brown and colleagues were able to compare the sequences of HIV genes from more than 2,000 patients, mainly who attended a large London HIV clinic from 1997 to 2003.

Of the sequences analyzed, 402 closely matched at least one other viral sequence. Further analysis showed the patients whose viruses showed matches with others formed six clusters of 10 or more, as well as many smaller clusters.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Talking Sex: Keeping it safe in the era of HIV

By, Dr Alverston Bailey, The Jamaica Gleaner, March 8, 2008

Safe sex (also called safer sex or protected sex) is a set of practices that are designed to reduce the risk of infection during sexual intercourse to avoid developing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). On the other hand, unsafe sex refers to engaging in sexual intercourse without the use of any barrier contraception or other preventive measures against STDs.

Safe sex practices became a buzz word in the late 1980s as a result of the AIDS epidemic. Promoting safe sex is now a critical component of sex education. Safe sex should be regarded as a harm reduction strategy. Please note that safe sex is about risk reduction, not risk elimination.

Sexual contact is the most common route of HIV transmission. By December 2001, 51 per cent of all HIV infections among adolescents and adults reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were sexually transmitted. Worldwide and in Jamaica, heterosexual transmission is the most common route of HIV infection.

Researchers consistently detect HIV in blood, semen and cervical secretions of infected persons. Infectious HIV exists in saliva, tears and urine. However, it has only been recovered from these fluids at extremely low titers, therefore, saliva, tears, and urine are unlikely sources of HIV transmission.

Infectious HIV has also been isolated in breast milk, and transmission from HIV-infected mothers to nursing infants is well documented. Breast milk is not commonly encountered during sexual intercourse. However, should you accidentally or intentionally come in contact with HIV-infected breast milk during sex, care should be taken to avoid contact with your eyes and mouth.

Let us now describe various sexual practices and the associated risks of HIV infection:

No-risk practices. These sexual activities cannot transmit HIV:


Touching, massaging, hugging, caressing

Social (dry) kissing

Any type of sexual intercourse between partners who are certain that they are uninfected.

Extremely low-risk practices. These activities carry a small (based on case reports) or theoretical risk of HIV transmission between partners of unlike or unknown HIV serostatus:

French (wet) kissing

Mutual masturbation (if no cuts on hands, and no ulcers or lesions on genitals of either partner)

Vaginal sex with a male or female condom (with proper use, including putting latex or polyurethane condom in place before any penetration)

Fellatio with condom (with latex condom placed on penis before oral contact)

Cunnilingus with dental dam (with latex dam placed over vaginal area before oral contact)

Contact with urine (only with intact skin, avoiding contact with mouth)

Using one's own sex toys (without sharing of any toys that contact body fluids)

Low-risk practices. Epidemiological studies have found these sexual activities to have a low probability of HIV transmission between partners of unlike or unknown HIV serostatus:

Fellatio without condom (Risk of HIV infection to insertive partner is extremely low, risk to receptive partner is increased if ejaculation occurs in mouth.)

High-risk practices

These sexual activities carry the highest risk, based on epidemiological studies of transmitting HIV between partners of unlike or unknown HIV serostatus:

Vaginal intercourse without a male or female condom

Anal intercourse

Anal penetration with the hand (fisting) or other rectal trauma

To minimise the risk of STDs and HIV, I will now describe a variety of safe sex techniques:


The only effective way to avoid the risks associated with sexual contact is to abstain from sexual activity entirely; this will eliminate the chances of contracting STDs and HIV.


Monogamy practice faithfully is very safe (as far as STDs and HIV are concerned) when your partner is uninfected.

Sex by yourself

Known as autoeroticism, solitary sexual activity (including 'phone sex' - mutual masturbation at a distance with the aid of technology and 'cybersex') is relatively safe. However, some practices, such as self-bondage and autoerotic asphyxia, are made considerably more dangerous by the absence of people who can intervene if something goes wrong. Masturbation is safe, so long as contact is not made with other people's discharged body fluids.

Non-penetrative Sex

A range of sex acts, sometimes called outercourse can be enjoyed by lovers with significantly reduced risks of infection and no risk of pregnancy. Non-penetrative sex (also known as outercourse) is sexual activity without vaginal and possibly oral penetration, as opposed to intercourse. No bodily fluids should be exchanged,

There are many options for non- penetrative sex as outlined below:

Axillary intercourse: where a man rubs his penis in his partner's armpit, also known as bagpiping.

Frottage: any form of consensual sexual rubbing, whether naked or clothed

Handsex: stimulating genitals with the hand

Foot sex: stimulating genitals with the feet

Limiting fluid exchange

Various devices are used to avoid contact with blood, vaginal fluid, and semen during sexual activity:

Male condoms: Condoms cover the penis during sexual activity. They are most frequently made of latex, but can also be made out of polyurethane. Polyurethane is thought to be a safe material for use in condoms, since it is nonporous and viruses cannot pass through it.

Female condoms: are inserted into the vagina prior to intercourse

Dental dam: (originally used in dentistry) is a sheet of latex used for protection when engaging in oral sex. It is typically used as a barrier between the mouth and the vulva during cunnilingus.

Medical gloves: may be used as a dental dam during oral sex, or to protect the hands during mutual masturbation. Hands may have invisible cuts on them that may admit pathogens that are found in the semen or the vaginal fluids of STD infectees.

In the absence of a vaccine, practising safe sex is the only effective means we have at our disposal to halt the spread of HIV and STDs. The options I have described are many and varied; discuss them with your partner and have a safe and satisfying sex life.

Dr Alverston Bailey is a medical doctor and is also the immediate past president of the Medical Association of Jamaica. Send comments to or Fax: 922-6223.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Americans and the Caribbean HIV explosion

By, Masimba Biriwasha, RH Reality Check, March 3, 2008

For both self-protection and for humanitarian reasons, Americans should be seriously concerned about the explosion of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean.

The Caribbean region is the second worst HIV/AIDS affected regions in the world, after sub Saharan Africa. Poverty, gender inequalities and a high degree of HIV-related stigma have caused a festering of the epidemic in the region.

Human mobility throughout the Caribbean, between the region and other geographic areas including migration and tourism which brings more than 20 million visitors each year has also been singled out as a major driver of the epidemic.

According to UNAIDS, AIDS remains one of the leading causes of death among people aged 25 to 44 years in the region, and the adult HIV prevalence is estimated at 2.3%.

The main mode of HIV transmission in this region is unprotected heterosexual intercourse; unprotected sex between sex workers and clients is a key factor in the spread of HIV, reports UNAIDS.

UNAIDS estimates that 330,000 HIV-positive people live in the Caribbean, about 22,000 of whom are children, with 51 percent of people living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, being women.

Against this background, there is massive human interaction between the US and the Caribbean, with many Americans attracted to visit the idyllic, sandy and sunny spots in the region.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce show that 14 percent of the 27,351,000 US travelers in 2004 went to the Caribbean.

While bringing much needed revenue to the region, the impact of tourism has seen a rise in sex work, with poor women and men aged between 18 to 44 selling their bodies as a means of survival throughout the Caribbean.

Many American tourists both male and female perceive the Caribbean region as sexually exotic and free-going. So it's common that when Americans visit the Caribbean, many end up engaging in sexual activity, in a high HIV risk environment.

According to Avert, an international AIDS charity, the Caribbean's thriving sex industry, which serves both local clients and many tourists, features prominently in the AIDS epidemics of certain countries, such as the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

Americans, particularly tourists to the Caribbean region, should therefore be concerned that they can easily contract HIV if they do not utilize protective measures. It is imperative for Americans who engage in sexual unionships in the region to be concerned about the consistent use of protection to avoid HIV and STI infection.

Given the high rates of American visitors to the region, it is conceivable that the epidemic can rebound in the US, if they do not apply protective measures during sexual contact.

More importantly, if the AIDS problem in the Caribbean continues to grow unabated, there is no doubt that it will spiral into the US. The non-availability of AIDS drugs and treatment in the region may force Caribbean people to illegally migrate to the US where the treatment options are many.

In fact, migration between the islands and to the United States is prevalent in the Caribbean region and plays a key factor in the spread of the disease. In that sense, Americans need to be seriously concerned because they are vulnerable to both HIV and secondary diseases such as TB that immigrants may bring with them.

Having said that, the decimation of entire populations within the Caribbean can destabilize many of the countries, thereby posing a security risk right in front of the US's doorstep.

Americans also have a responsibility to ensure that the tools and methodologies that have worked in their country can be exported to the Caribbean region, albeit, in a culturally sensitive manner.

"The epidemic's full extent is obscured by fear, denial, limited treatment and a lack of public health resources," the New York Times reported on the impact of HIV/AIDS in the region, "What is certain, however, is that a social and economic catastrophe is imperiling many countries as infections steadily climb and AIDS spreads in the general population."

For the ordinary American traveler, this could potentially mean that traveling to the sunny and sandy beaches of the Caribbean may be rendered impossible.

It is incumbent upon the Americans to intensify calls for non-judgmental, humanitarian efforts targeted at the region. The Global Gag Rule which restricts funding for family planning reinstated in 2001 by President George Bush has been a major factor blamed for the restriction of women's access to contraceptives in the region.

The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, precludes anyone who does not condemn sex work from getting the money, thereby dampening efforts to fight the epidemic among the most affected women and girls of the region. Evidence already shows that restricting access to contraceptives and promoting abstinence only approaches does not work.

Therefore Americans must demand that the US government show leadership through revoking the Global Gag rule which only serves to worsen the situation of already marginalized women in the Caribbean region and other poorer parts of the world.

And, for purely humanitarian reasons, Americans should be concerned about the suffering of fellow human beings infected or affected by HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean region.

US citizens should alleviate the suffering of these people, unconditionally and without any ulterior motive through provision of material support for purchasing medicine and supplies.

Humanitarian aid can go a long way to save lives and support orphaned children in the region, thereby averting full-scale destabilization of the region due to the epidemic.